Ahead of the new Premier League season and amid Britain's deep recession, most top clubs in England are holding back from spending vast sums on new players without first offloading some of their own.
Only Manchester City are proving the exception, freely splashing the cash on some of their Premier League rivals' biggest stars as they prepare for the start of the 2009-10 campaign on Saturday.
Bankrolled by wealthy Gulf-based owners, City have so far spent a combined 95 million pounds (110 million euros, 157 million dollars) on transfer fees for five big names.
It includes 25 million pounds for Argentina forward Carlos Tevez from last season's title winners and local rivals Manchester United.
The Eastlands outfit have also spent 40 million pounds to land Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure from Arsenal, 18 million pounds on Blackburn's Roque Santa Cruz and 12 million pounds on Gareth Barry from Aston Villa.
City boss Mark Hughes would like to spend even more and is reported to have had a 20 million pounds bid for Everton defender Joleon Lescott turned down.
United, looking to win their fourth successive Premier League title, were involved in the biggest transfer of the close-season, selling Cristiano Ronaldo for a world-record fee of 80 million pounds to Real Madrid.
But United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has spent only 17 million pounds, on Wigan winger Antonio Valencia, as he tries to cover for Ronaldo's departure.
"The net spend of Premier League clubs is looking like being significantly lower than in previous years," Alan Switzer, an analyst at Deloitte's Sports Business Group, told AFP.
England's leading clubs are increasingly struggling to cope with huge debts built up prior to the current economic downturn and credit crunch.
Manchester United's parent company, Red Football Joint Venture, suffered a pre-tax loss of 44.8 million pounds during the 2007-08 season, largely owing to interest payments on its debt.
According to latest accounts, Red Football's debt stands at just under 650 million pounds after US tycoon Malcolm Glazer borrowed heavily to buy Manchester United in 2005.
Liverpool, another club saddled with massive debt and who finished second in the Premier League last season, have spent 37 million pounds to acquire England defender Glen Johnson and Italy midfielder Alberto Aquilani.
However to help finance the deals, the Reds had to sell Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso to football's biggest pre-season spenders Real Madrid for 30 million euros (43 million dollars).
Chelsea, who last season finished third in the Premier League, and their London rivals Arsenal, who clinched the last Champions League spot by claiming fourth spot, have also shown reticence over purchasing new players.
Despite pocketing 40 million pounds for Adebayor and Toure, the Gunners' only major acquisition has been Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax for 10 million pounds.
Meanwhile, Chelsea's new manager Carlo Ancelotti has had to content himself with buying Russian international winger Yuri Zhirkov for 18 million pounds.