THE coronavirus pandemic had an enormous impact on football's finances, with a number of clubs fighting just to survive in 2020.
But that hasn't necessarily stopped all clubs from splashing out to secure their key transfer targets.
While we have seen quiet summers for the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid – other clubs have still scrambled to improve their squads.
And in numbers from Transfermarkt, dug up by Football365, four Premier League clubs are among the ten biggest spenders in Europe – including a couple that you may not expect… or even have noticed.
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10. ASTON VILLA – £58m
In: Ollie Watkins, Brentford (£27.72m), Emi Martinez, Arsenal (£15.7m), Matty Cash, Nottingham Forest (£14.18m)
It's not quite last year's £143m haul that got sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch sacked – but Villa are throwing money at it again this season in order to try and avoid the final day drama needed to survive in the Premier League last time out.
Brentford's Ollie Watkins simultaneously became Aston Villa's and indeed the Championship's most expensive player ever – while Arsenal's FA Cup hero Emi Martinez has arrived for guaranteed first-team football.
Nottingham Forest's Matty Cash completes the haul and should fill the right-back position for Dean Smith.
9. LEEDS UNITED – £61m
In: Rodrigo, Valencia (£27m), Helder Costa, Wolves (£15.93m), Robin Koch, SC Freiburg (£11.7m), Illan Meslier, FC Lorient (£5.85m), Joe Gelhardt, Wigan (£900k)
Marcelo Bielsa has won plaudits from far and wide for his work improving what he inherited at Leeds, with players such as Kalvin Phillips and Mateusz Klich going to the next level under his tutelage.
But the Whites are going for it this summer having finally secured promotion to the Premier League – making Helder Costa and Illan Meslier's loans permanent in the process.
Unfortunately £38m-worth of new signings gave away penalties in their 4-3 opening day defeat to Liverpool – with Rodrigo and Robin Koch both penalised.
8. NAPOLI – £63m
In: Victor Osimhen, Lille (£63m)
Gennaro Gattuso's men have made just one signing this summer… but it's a big one.
Napoli shelled out an eyewatering £63m to land Victor Osimhen from Lille, smashing their transfer record in the process.
But having lost midfield general Allan to Everton, Gattuso may feel that his side need to spend even more to compete.
7. JUVENTUS – £69m
In: Arthur, Barcelona (£64.8m), Weston McKennie, Schalke (£4.05m loan)
Andrea Pirlo has taken the reins at Juventus, and he has begun his tenure by recruiting two fellow midfielders.
Juve chiefs are desperate to win the Champions League while in possession of Cristiano Ronaldo, and have splashed out on acquiring impressive Brazilian Arthur from Barcelona.
The £64.8m fee is largely offset by the money received for Miralem Pjanic (more on him later), but they have also recruited US national team star Weston McKennie from Schalke.
6. MANCHESTER CITY – £71m
In: Nathan Ake, AFC Bournemouth (£40.77m), Ferran Torres, Valencia (£20.7m), Yan Couto, Coritiba (£5.4m), Issa Kabore, KV Mechelen (£4.05m)
It's felt a relatively low-key window so far from City, although they are the sixth highest-spenders in Europe.
Nathan Ake has arrived from Bournemouth to provide left-footed competition for Aymeric Laporte, while Ferran Torres has joined from crisis-club Valencia.
Teenage duo Yan Couto and Issa Kabore are unlikely to feature for the first-team any time soon, with the latter having been loaned straight back to Mechelen in Belgium.
5. BENFICA – £72m
In: Darwin Nunez, Almeria (£21.6m), Everton, Gremio (£18m), Pedrinho, Corinthians (£16.2m), Luca Waldschmidt, Freiburg (£13.5m), Gilberto, Fluminense (£2.7m)
Benfica have smashed the Portuguese top flight's all-time transfer record… to sign little known Uruguayan forward Darwin Nunez from Almeria.
The 21-year-old scored 16 goals in Spain's second-tier last season, but only appeared from the bench as Benfica were booted out of the Champions League by PAOK this week.
The Portuguese giants have also gone big elsewhere, signing the Brazilian trio of Everton, Pedrinho and Gilberto for a combined £36.9m – while also recruiting Luca Waldschmidt for £13.5m and Jan Vertonghen on a free transfer from Spurs.
4. ATLETICO MADRID – £81m
In: Alvaro Morata, Chelsea (£50.4m), Yannick Carrasco, Dalian Pro (£24.3m), Ivo Grbic, NK Lokomotiva (£6.3m)
Atletico Madrid's business feels like it was already done… because it was – with Alvaro Morata and Yannick Carrasco formally arriving on permanent deals after loan spells.
Diego Simeone's side spent big last summer after Antoine Griezmann's departure, with the £114m capture of Benfica starlet Joao Felix having also fuelled the Portuguese club's subsequent business.
The one completely new arrival comes in the £6.3m form of goalkeeper Ivo Grbic – with the 24-year-old brought in to deputise for Jan Oblak.
3. INTER MILAN – £81.45m
In: Achraf Hakimi, Real Madrid (£36m), Nicolo Barella, Cagliari (£22.5m), Stefano Sensi, Sassuolo (£18m), Darian Males, FC Luzern (£3.6m), Aleksandar Kolarov, AS Roma (£1.35m)
If there's one thing that's certain, it's that Antonio Conte absolutely loves a dip into the transfer market.
Including loans, the ex-Chelsea boss made 15 signings in total last season.
And he has swiftly decided that they weren't enough by spending another £81.45m so far this summer – although around half of this figure was spent on making Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi's loans permanent – while Alexis Sanchez has also joined for good – albeit on a free.
2. BARCELONA – £92.7m
In: Miralem Pjanic, Juventus (£54m), Trincao, Braga (£27.9m), Matheus Fernandes, Palmeiras (£6.3m), Pedri, Las Palmas (£4.5m)
We keep hearing about how Barcelona are skint and have no money, but they seem to have gone and spent £92.7m anyway.
In fairness, the £54m spent on Miralem Pjanic was wedded to receiving more than that for Arthur – although flogging the Brazilian to sign the older Pjanic seems a strange call regardless.
Meanwhile, Trincao's formal unveiling last month was somewhat overshadowed by the riot sparked by Lionel Messi's declaration the night before that he intended to leave the club.
1. CHELSEA – £200.88m
In: Kai Havertz, Bayer Leverkusen (£72m), Timo Werner, RB Leipzig (£47.7m), Ben Chilwell, Leicester City (£45. 18m), Hakim Ziyech, Ajax (£36m)
Chelsea have truly blown everybody out of the water this summer, spending over double what next-placed Barcelona have.
The Blues tend to get good fees for players, proven by their £100m haul from Atletico Madrid for Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata over the last couple of years.
But having been banned last summer, this time out they've been back with a vengeance, securing huge deals for Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell and Hakim Ziyech – while the high-earning Thiago Silva has also joined the Blues on a free.
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