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SOCCER

European clubs spend $2.3B on players, although even Blatter doubts Bale worth record fee

The world's richest soccer league is getting even richer even as the wealth of English clubs also benefits teams overseas.

In less than three months during the European transfer window, more than $2.3 billion was spent by clubs in the continent's top five leagues — with a third of that shipped by Premier League sides overseas, according to an analysis by accounting firm Deloitte.

Such spending might seem at odds with the economic hardships being experienced by many fans, but the transfer window splurges are not slowing down.

Even though there are relatively new Financial Fair Play regulations in European soccer, the days of the big-money moves are not over.

"If a price of a player is high or not high, I think this is the market and we cannot intervene in this market," FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Tuesday. "It is definitely a European market."

In less than three months, $760 million of the $980 million paid out by English sides landed in bank accounts abroad — up 60 percent from the previous year.

The record spending spree, though, was in part the result of Tottenham generating $132 million by selling Gareth Bale to Real Madrid in a world-record deal.

Even though Spaniards have been in recession for much of the past four years, they turned out in their thousands on Monday to laud the arrival of a player reportedly being paid around $461,000 a week.

The head of world soccer can see how incongruous that looks.

"You say the country is a poor country or indebted, but in football you always find money," Blatter said.

Spanish topflight clubs, however, did make an overall transfer profit in the summer of $145 million and Italian sides had a $16-million surplus.

Financial planning wasn't so astute elsewhere.

Net spending by Premier League clubs was $622 million, while the figure was $198 million in France, and $79 million in Germany

The spending power of England's topflight clubs has been strengthened by new television deals that are generating more than $8.5 billion over the next three years.

"Testament to the impact (the TV revenue) is having is in the scale of Premier League gross spending, as well as the gulf in net spending between the Premier League and other European leagues," said Alex Thorpe from Deloitte's sports division.

"Whereas many clubs around Europe have been reliant on selling players in order to spend, the financial advantages Premier League clubs enjoy have enabled net spending of 400 million pounds ($620 million) across the league."

Around $218 million was shelled out by Premier League clubs on the frantic final day on the transfer window, with Arsenal scrambling to break its transfer record to bring Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for a club record $66 million.

Deadline-day can create a frenzy, with champion Manchester United managing to squeeze just one notable deal over the line — Marouane Fellaini joined from Everton for $43 million — despite months pursuing talent across Europe.

Despite calls to close the transfer window before the season starts, finding an agreeable date across Europe is tough.

"I agree it is too long but the whole world is involved and don't play at the same time as we do," UEFA President Michel Platini said. "The clubs also want to have transfers finished before the start of their competition.

"The strategic committee includes the clubs and leagues and we will ask FIFA to have a look into what we propose and for all European leagues to start at the same time."

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AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Zurich contributed to this report.