When Manchester United and Manchester City meet at Old Trafford on Sunday it will be a clash of the titans in many different respects.
It is, obviously, a huge local derby. It is also a meeting between two of the front-runners for this season’s Premier League title. But what should not be overlooked is that it is also a coming-together of two of the world’s biggest-spending clubs.
In fact, a combined total of £663 million has been spent by United and City on their likely 18-man squads for the fixture, making it the richest Manchester derby ever.
The notable additions of players such as Anthony Martial, Morgan Schneiderlin, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling have helped to increase the costs of the respective squads, leaving Louis van Gaal with a £351m panel at his disposal and opposite number Manuel Pellegrini choosing between players worth a combined £312.8m.
It is a staggering statistic considering the absences of another £115m worth of talent in Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Luke Shaw through a variety of injuries.
While Manchester City’s takeover in 2008 brought about a new era which was largely based around big-money signings, United too have delved deep into their pockets in recent years with around £300m spent in the market since Louis van Gaal’s arrival in the summer of 2014. Yet the Dutchman has made no apologies for his club breaking the bank to get the squad he wants.
“Players have to build up a structure in the dressing room and that’s really important,” explained Van Gaal recently. “They have to accept that structure. That is why I do that every season, and every season I shall do that, because I think we need that new stimulus.”
There have been most expensive line-ups matched up against each other on the continent before, with last season’s Clasico clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid featuring players valued at over €1 billion. That should come as little surprise given the presence of big-money signings such as Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Yet this Manchester derby is proof that English football is fast approaching the same sorts of levels. And with the new Premier League TV rights deal due to kick in soon enough, there is every chance that this incredible mark will be superseded before too long.
While our graphic above shows where the clubs have dished out over £500m on probable starters, perhaps the most startling fact comes in the combined cost of the likely substitutes’ benches.
With the likes of £28m Marouane Fellaini and £25m Memphis Depay on one side, and Aleksandar Kolarov and Fernando – who cost £28m between them – on the other, there could well be £163.3m of footballing stock sat waiting for their chance come kick-off time at Old Trafford.
As the Premier League grows in popularity and its players become more and more appealing as commercial entities, so too do clubs have more money to pump back into their squads with even greater supplies. And with United and City committed to throwing all of their financial muscle at their respective quests for success, this fixture could well become the byword for big-money clashes for some years to come.