Premier League clubs paid a record-breaking pounds 129.9 million in agents' fees in the past 12 months, it was -revealed yesterday (Monday).
Figures released by the league showed that payments to middlemen soared nearly 13 per cent year on year, with Liverpool (pounds 14.3?million) spending the most of the 20 teams. Manchester United were in second place on almost pounds 13.9?million, with Manches-ter City third on pounds 12.4 million.
However, the biggest increase in spending was witnessed at Arsenal, whose agents' fees rocketed from pounds 4.3?million to pounds 11.9?million.
With Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's manager, making virtually no signings in that time, most of the extra money appears to have been spent by the north London club on renegotiating player contracts.
United's spending on agents surged by pounds 5.9?million during a period in which Louis van Gaal bought the likes of Anthony Martial and Memphis Depay.
Liverpool's fees remained nigh?on constant from 12 months earlier, highlighting the botched -attempts of Brendan Rodgers to fill the void left by Luis Suarez.
There were dramatic cuts in spending by Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, down from pounds 16.8?million and pounds 11?million respectively to pounds 12?million and pounds 6?million. City's fell marginally, despite them spending more than pounds 150?million on the likes of Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne this summer.
Inevitably, the three promoted teams in the Premier League were the lowest spenders, with Norwich City and Bournemouth paying only pounds 2.4?million and pounds 2.3?million respectively, ahead of Watford on just pounds 1.6 million.
Overall, during the past 12 months there were 172 inbound transfers and loans to the Premier League, with clubs spending pounds 1?billion on players in a calendar year for the first time.
There were also 573 outbound transfers and loans and 542 new or updated contracts. The total outlay on agents' fees was up from pounds 115?million a year earlier and pounds 96?million 12 months before that.
However, it is likely that a smaller percentage of the total money -generated by the 20 teams in the past year went to middlemen, with turnover expected to have grown by more than 13 per cent over the same period.
The ratio of agents' fees to turn-over will not have reduced at all clubs - particularly Arsenal - but an overall downward trend would demonstrate that the amount agents take out of the game is no longer out of control.
That follows the introduction almost three years ago of the Premier League's version of Financial Fair Play, which was partly designed to curb the amount of money going to third parties.
The figures released yesterday did not silence fans who want to see clubs' latest worldwide television rights bonanza - which is on course to exceed pounds 8?billion - channelled into reducing ticket prices.
Reacting to the agents' fees -numbers, Kevin Miles, the chief -executive of the Football Sup-porters' Federation, told The Daily Telegraph: "It's another clear illustration of the amount of money in the game and underlines the fact that so many stakeholders seem to benefit. Surely, the time has now come for pressing the case for fans who continue to pay through the nose for the privilege for their 'stakeholder status'."