The amount of money washing around the upper echelons of professional football is nothing short of incredible.

Cristiano Ronaldo was THE summer signing of the 2018 summer transfer window, with the Portuguese opting to take on a fresh challenge with Juventus after nine fantastic years at Real Madrid.

The world transfer record, an estimated £198 million paid by Paris Saint-Germain for Neymar in 2017, remains intact but there were an incredible NINE transfer fees topping £50 million in the summer of 2018.

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Indeed, a football player trading clubs for a sum higher than £30 million is nothing new these days. However, it used to be a headline-grabbing sum of money.

These days, the likes of Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal), David Luiz (Chelsea), Sadio Mane (Liverpool), John Stones (Man City), Leroy Sane (Man City), Paul Pogba (Man United), Eric Bailly (Man United) and Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham) all moved for upwards of that amount.

This mega spending hasn't just applied to the English Premier League either.

Down in the Championship, vast sums of money have been traded in recent years; especially by teams dropping out of the Premier League as they bid desperately to secure promotion back to the promised land.

 

Nottingham Forest Ruthless In Summer Transfer Window

The two-time European champions went big in 2018, spending around £28 million on players in the summer alone. With outgoings totaling up to less than £1 million, Forest will expect a quick return on their investment - especially from £13 million man Joao Carvalho.

The 21-year-old has adjusted quickly to life in English football and, as expected, he is a regular in the Forest starting line-up. With three goals and six assists in his 21 appearances so far in 2018/19, Carvalho has started to pay back some of his hefty fee.

Forest weren't done there though. Lewis GrabbanEl Arbi Hillel Soudani and Tobias Figueiredo cost the Championship side in excess of £12 million. Grabban has been a standout player at the City Ground this season and Forest fans will be happy with his impact as we approach the busy festive period.

According to the latest 888sport Championship betting odds, Forest are 6/1 to secure promotion this campaign. A trip to Wembley for the playoff final could be on the cards and it would be foolish to back against Aitor Karanka's men with such a lucrative group of players in the squad.

 

Stoke City Paying Premier League Wages At Championship Level?

Paying the odd player a high wage isn't a problem but sticking the whole team on a lucrative contract can be costly in the long term. If you are targeting short term success, this probably isn't the best way to go about it.

According to reported figures, Stoke have nine players on their books who are earning £50,000 a week or higher. That figure is not sustainable in the Championship - it may be possible for a season or two but Stoke will begin to feel the bite financially if they fail to secure promotion back to the Premier League.

The ins and outs of Benik Abofe's contract are unknown but the former AFC Bournemouth striker must be on a decent salary. Signed by Stoke this summer for an estimated £13.5 million, he was supposed to be the man to lead the Potters back to the top flight at the first time of asking.

At the time of writing, Afobe has notched six goals in 22 Championship games this season. Not the worst scoring record but Stoke fans expected more after such a hefty investment. However, he has scored in two of his last three league games and he may be about to take the Championship by storm.

Defensive stalwart Ryan Shawcross has been an ever-present for Stoke since joining the club on a permanent deal back in 2008. Now club captain, Shawcross signed a contract extension to put him up there with Stoke's biggest earners at the start of the 2017/18 campaign.

Rather frustratingly, Stoke were relegated to the Championship less than a year later. According to figures reported online, Shawcross earns an estimated £55,000 per week. That kind of figure is worth around £8.5 million over three years - a huge sum of money for any second tier club.

 

Lucrative Leeds Destined For Premier League Return?

Cast your minds back to 2002. Leeds had just secured their fifth successive top five Premier League finish. Two years later, Leeds were relegated to the Championship. It just goes to show how quickly a club can fall from grace if mismanaged.

Leeds slipped into the third tier of English football for a brief spell but the Yorkshire outfit are now a consistent Championship side. The Whites invested heavily this summer to ensure that they remain competitive in the race to secure automatic promotion back to the Premier League.

Patrick Bamford and Barry Douglas are seasoned campaigners at Championship level - and both have made a positive impact for Leeds in 2018/19. Bamford, ruled out through injury for over three months after an impressive start, was pivotal for Middlesbrough and he could make the difference in the second half of the season.

The club paid £7 million to sign Bamford and Leeds fans believe that he can enjoy a successful long-term career at Elland Road. With an estimated weekly wage of £40,000, Bamford doesn't come cheap but that salary will be worth it if he can help Leeds get back to the summit of English football.

Meanwhile, Douglas played a key role for Wolves in their promotion push in 2017/18. He has featured in 19 Championship matches for Leeds this season, notching three assists for his teammates. Like Bamford, he is expected to be on a higher wage than many of his peers.

Don't say it too loudly but Leeds United are currently sitting pretty at the top of the Championship table. 888sport football odds have Leeds at 2/1 to go on and lift the title at the end of the season and Marcelo Bielsa deserves plaudits for his impact since taking over at Elland Road.

 

Still A BIG Gulf In Championship Spending At Top And Bottom

As is the norm these days, there was a huge difference between the biggest Championship spenders and the lowest Championship spenders in the 2018 summer transfer window.

Nottingham Forest forked out £28 million on players whilst Stoke City were the biggest spenders - the Potters were the only Championship team to top £30 million.

But does spending translate directly to results? Well, not exactly. Both clubs are in the top half of the table and involved in the playoff fight - spending huge sums of money is not always the way to go in the Championship.

Many believe that England's second tier is the toughest division in the Football League and you buying success is not an option.

Take Norwich City, Derby County and Middlesbrough for example. All three clubs made a solid profit after the 2018/19 summer transfer window yet all three currently occupy a playoff spot.

It isn't how much you invest, it is HOW you invest. Shrewd business is better than erratic financial spending.

Meanwhile, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United and Queens Park Rangers all had a total expenditure of £0.00 last summer. That isn't to say that these three clubs didn't do any business at all; loan deals can be quick effective, especially in England's second tier as fringe players for top flight teams look to impress.

It will come as no surprise to readers to hear that all three teams are in the bottom half of the table at the time of writing.

Spending doesn't correlate directly to on-field success but you do have to freshen things up and invest in new players to stay competitive. It would be fair to state that these three teams did not do that during the summer window.

 

Parachute Payments Make Championship Playing Field Unbalanced

A couple of years ago, the latest television deal was confirmed: Sky Sports and BT Sport were going to pay a combined £5 BILLION to broadcast Premier League football.

If anything, this financial incentive only enhanced the hunger for Championship clubs to put all of their efforts into securing promotion to the top flight.

However, parachute payments have existed for a number of years now. In a nutshell, this offers a safety net to Premier League clubs who are relegated to the Championship. When a club drops down to the second tier, they know that they will receive parachute payments totaling around £65 million.

That works out at just over £16 million PER season. Established Championship clubs, such as Birmingham City and Brentford, are already in a weaker position than those second tier sides relegated from the Premier League. And that's before you take any other financial indicators into account.

Swansea City, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion will have all benefited directly from this at the start of the 2018/19 campaign.

While the Welsh side may not have invested heavily, Stoke and West Brom were both active in the transfer window and they should continue to spend big in the coming years.

 

Should Championship Football Players Earn So Much?

The debate on footballer wages will never end. When it comes to the highest-paid earners at clubs such as Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa, salaries are sky high compared to some of their Championship rivals. When players are earning close to £80,000 per week, it makes you think...

The average YEARLY Championship wage back in 2006 was around £150,000. That works out at around £3,000 per week - still an extraordinary salary compared to your average Joe in the United Kingdom.

12 years on and the average wage has rocketed; players are averaging closer to £25,000 per week.

You can break the Championship down into tiers. There is a group of maybe four or five clubs in that top bracket; those clubs can afford to pay in excess of £10 million for transfers whilst covering £50,000 per week on wages.

Then you have the shrewd investors. Clubs that are willing to spend money but have a solid wage structure in place - more often than not these are the established Championship clubs. Clever investment will keep these teams in the second tier but promotion may be a stretch too far.

Parachute payments have contributed to the rise in Championship wages and some of the clubs may not be able to afford it in the long term. Whether that affects a significant proportion of England's second tier or not is yet to be seen...

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