The recent summer spending by Swansea, Southampton, and Sunderland has seen a glut of commentators queuing up to marvel at how the middle-men of English football now seem to have made moves of real intent by flashing the cash in their preparations for next season.
All three have recently made 'big-money' signings, with Swansea sealing a move for Wilfried Bony, Southampton signing Victor Wanyama, and Sunderland managing to snag Emanuele Giaccherini and Jozy Altidore.
Many have made their opinion known that all these signings represent brilliant transfer coups for the clubs involved, and that we may finally see a more equally-matched Premier League, wherein smaller clubs can flex significant financial muscle and even outfox the big guns to secure signings. After all, Wanyama was apparently targeted by Manchester United and Arsenal at one point, while Brendan Rodgers seemed to show interest in Bony to remedy his Luis Suarez crisis.
As romantic and welcome as this notion is, it seems somewhat forced.
Yes, there is no doubt that the three clubs have spent a significant amount of money to get their men (Swansea's club-record £12m fee for Bony nearly matches Arsenal's second highest transfer fee, £13m for Sylvain Wiltord. Sacré bleu!) but when viewed within the wider context that is the Premier League summer transfer window, their spending is minimal.
Chelsea and Manchester City have already spent £30m and £50m respectively on only two players each, while rumours abound that Manchester United and Arsenal are about to smash their club-record transfer fees to sign their targets. Compared with these amounts, £12m begins to look like a pittance.
The relative quality of the players seems to dispel this idea as well. Of the four signings (Bony, Wanyama, Giaccherini and Altidore) only Giaccherini seems to have the international and title winning experience that would represent a 'major' coup for any of the three clubs. He is a back-to-back Scudetto winner, and was recently one of Italy's stand-out players at the 2013 Confederations Cup. Bizarrely, he was also the least expensive player of the quartet.
Bony and Altidore meanwhile, both had incredibly impressive goalscoring seasons, but both were playing in the Eredivisie, a league that has declined noticeably in quality over the last 15-20 years. Neither was part of a title winning team, although Altidore did manage to win the Dutch Cup with AZ Alkmaar.
Finally, Wanyama has spent his career in Belgium and Scotland, and although he performed extremely well in Celtic's Champions League campaign last term, he is still comparatively untested as a footballer compared to the Top Four's transfer targets.
This is not to say that these signings do not represent very good pieces of business for their managers. All four are young, obviously talented footballers, who should improve as they get older and will possibly attract the attention of 'bigger clubs'.
What is not true however, is that the acquisition of the players signals 'intent'.
Their transfer fees (£12m for Bony, £12.5m for Wanyama, £8.8m for Altidore and £6.6m for Giaccherini) are, with the possible exception of Giaccherini, an indication of the inflation that the transfer market has suffered in recent years.
£12m used to get you a European Championship winner, World Cup finalist, and French Footballer of the Year.
Not any more.