Yes, I said two-and-a-half. Today, the Metro released the list of the top ten most-popular shirts in the Premier League last season. As you'd expect of the most-popular club in England, Manchester United sold the most shirts of anyone, with four -- really three-and-a-half -- players represented on the list. Robin van Persie retained his title as No. 1, with Wayne Rooney coming in at No. 6, Juan Mata at No. 8, and the biggest surprise, Shinji Kagawa, at No. 9. The first two are big names for United, while Mata was a new signing, which tends to lead to increased shirt sales. Kagawa, though, I can only guess was a kind of protest vote, given his lack of actual playing time. [Alternate theory: He's big in Japan.]
After van Persie, at Nos. 2 and 3, we find the Liverpool duo of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez. Again, neither of these is a surprise. Gerrard is the long-serving, home-grown captain, and Suarez was the talismanic, cannibalistic striker who led them to within a Steven Gerrard slip and a Selhurst Park capitulation of fulfilling their dream of winning the Premier League. Expect Daniel Sturridge to take over his place in the list of best-selling kindling in Liverpool.
Like Liverpool, Chelsea also have two players on the list, though we can probably claim some of Juan Mata's sales as our own, unless they're truly all his United sales. Again, like Liverpool, the two players are a combination of an inspirational No. 8 and a mercurial forward, one of whom has since left. Eden Hazard, English Young Player of the Year, pops up at No. 4, while Frank Lampard rounds out the list at No. 10.
Arsenal and Manchester City each managed a single player on the list, with record signing Mesut Özil claiming No. 5 on the list for the Gunners, and the champions have Sergio Agüero at No. 7. City have never been a shirt-selling powerhouse, so it's not so surprising to see them have just one representative here. Arsenal, though, fell from having three players on the list to just one.
The trends on this list aren't anything to read too much into, but it's worth noting that United traditionally clog up the the top of these lists. Their sojourn into mid-table seems to have hurt their overall sales, opening up space for others to move up. As for Arsenal, I'd guess that Özil simply cannibalised the previous year's sales, causing their existing top ten names to slip under the the threshold for this list.
With a number of high-profile signings this summer, I suspect something like this might happen to Chelsea this year. Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa will likely both sell a good number of shirts, as will our long-term stars. At the end of the day, though, collective sales are the really important metric. Looking year-on-year, the growth for any club in terms of shirt sales is usually pretty small, so any single player increase is likely at the expense of his team-mates. Rest assured, though, Chelsea are probably going to remain among the biggest sellers of shirts in world football. [Not that we'll actually make much money from them.]