Europe’s five biggest selling clubs have turned themselves into prodigious ‘talent factories’ and earned a staggering £1.4billion in net income from transfer dealings in the last five years.

These treasure troves of skill and artistry are supplying the continent’s biggest spenders with exciting players, like Matthijs de Ligt, Ederson, Joao Felix, Axel Witsel, Fabio Silva, Alex Telles and Rodrigo.

Famous clubs with proud traditions of youth development, Benfica, Ajax, Porto and Sporting Lisbon are at the top of the money tree, but they are joined by Austrian upstart Red Bull Salzburg, which has been powered up the rankings by technology that has clubs from across the continent visiting their state-of-the-art facility. 

These are the clubs that honed the skills of the finest players, before placing them on the world’s biggest stages. Their recent graduates include Hakim Ziyech, Donny van de Beek, Danilo and Ruben Dias.

When judging a ‘talent factory’ the key figure is net income – the amount of money made by selling players minus the sum spent on replacement players. 

The total fees these five clubs have earned selling their players in the last five years is £2.4bn, while they have only spent just under £1bn in transfer fees to bring in new players, hence a net income of £1.4bn.

In contrast, Manchester City and Manchester United have made a combined net loss on transfers of just under £1.4bn, according to

The concept of the selling club is not new, but these sides have made it an art form and turned themselves into finishing schools for Europe’s high rollers.

The key is to make sure they make much more than they spend in the market, while maintaining a credible challenge in the domestic league and European cups.

These clubs have tweaked football’s traditional business model, which typically targets three sources of revenue: ticket sales, sponsorship/commercial income and TV rights. Continue reading

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