The Most Expensive Football Transfers Ever
For a record transfer fee of €222 million in August 2017, the Brazilian international, Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, simply known as Neymar, moved from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, becoming the most expensive player ever in the history of football up until now.
Prior to that, Neymar had moved from the Brazilian club, Santos, to Barcelona for a transfer fee of €86.2 million of which €40 million had been received by the professional footballer’s parents. One interesting fact about Neymar’s transfer fee is that no other footballer before him had moved for over €105 million, let alone twice that amount! The highest transfer fee before Neymar was €105 million paid by Manchester United to Juventus for Pual Pogba’s move to the club.
For a transfer fee of €135 million - €87 million less than Neymar, Monaco’s 19-year-old defender, Kylian Mbappe, moved from Monaco to PSG in July 2018, and by doing so he also made a record: the most expensive teenage footballer and the most expensive transfer ever within a domestic league at the time (2018).
Prior to his switch to Paris Saint-Germain, Mbappe was signed as a loanee by the Ligue 1 side. Rumor had it at the time that a transfer fee of €145 million was required from PSG for the teenage full transfer.
The highest amount Benfica had ever received as transfer fee and also the highest amount Atletico had ever paid for a signee, €126 million is the third record high transfer fee ever in the history of football set for the 19-year-old forward, Joao Felix.
Felix moved from Benfica to Atletico Madrid for the above-mentioned amount. One interesting fact about Felix’s transfer is that the destination club, Atletico, paid only €30 million in cash for his transfer and the rest €96 million was paid via installments, thus going beyond Felix’s release clause of €120 million.
12 July 2019, Barcelona confirmed the purchase of Antoine Griezmann through paying his release clause: €120 million. The player moved from Atletico Madrid to Barcelona, although later his former club claimed that the release clause had been €200 million. Atletico submitted a complaint to LaLiga but the professional league’s president, Javier Tebas, later stated that it was possible to block the transfer but LaLiga had to decide about the matter.
However, that didn’t lead to anything, with the player making his debut in a friendly match against Chelsea in Japan. Before moving to Barcelona, Antoine Griezmann had switched from Real Sociedad to Atletico Madrid for a transfer fee of €30 million.
For a transfer fee of €120 million, the Brazilian forward, Philippe Coutinho, moved from Barcelona to the Bundesliga giant, Bayern Munich on August 19, 2019. The player, before being bought, had moved to the Bayern on a loan contract, with the club accepting to pay his full salary.
“We've been working on bringing in Philippe Coutinho for quite some time and we're very happy that we’ve been able to complete this transfer. Our thanks go to FC Barcelona for agreeing to the transfer. With his creativity and outstanding skills, Philippe is a player who will immediately strengthen our attack,” said Bayern’s CEO, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge about Coutinho’s transfer.
Ousmane Dembélé moved from Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona on August 25, 2017, for a transfer fee of €105 million. Dembélé made his debut for the LaLiga giants in September that year in a home win against Espanyol. He had made his previous move from Rennes to Borussia Dortmund for an undisclosed transfer fee.
Dembélé’s performance at Borussia Dortmund was quite good with 8 goals he scored and 18 assists that he provided. Maybe that was what actually attracted Barca’s attention. The LaLiga giants were actually looking for a replacement for Neymar who had moved recently for a world record transfer fee of €222 million to Paris Saint-Germain.
Pogba’s return to his former club, Manchester United, (from Juventus) actually costed the club €105 million which was the highest transfer fee at its own time (2016), making the French midfielder the most expensive footballer in the world at that time. Pogba had previously moved from Manchester United to Juventus on free transfer.
Manchester United’s manager at that time (2012) confirmed that Pogba had not signed a new contract with the club. Apparently disappointed, the former Man Utd manager said: “I don't think he showed us any respect at all, to be honest. I'm quite happy that if they [footballers] carry on that way, they're probably better doing it away from us."
From Chelsea to Real Madrid; Eden Hazard’s move to the LaLiga giants actually costed them €100 million. Hazard signed a five-year contract with Real Madrid for the above-mentioned transfer fee which may increase to €146 million due to additional fees. The Belgium international had moved previously from the Ligue 1 side, Lille, to Chelsea for a transfer fee of around €36 million in June 2012.
Also Hazard’s €100-million move to Real Madrid made him Real’s most expensive player after Gareth Bale who moved to the club for a transfer fee of €101 million in 2013. Should Hazard’s transfer fee increase to €146 million, he will become the Real’s most expensive player ever.
Although Cristiano Ronaldo is not the most expensive player in the world, his move to Juventus for a transfer fee of €100 million, made him the most expensive over-30 footballer in the world plus that the transfer amount itself was the highest ever paid by an Italian club.
Also Ronaldo’s move from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009-10 season for a transfer fee of €94 million was a world record at its own time. He actually signed a five-year contract with Real Madrid with a €1 billion release clause. Yet another record: At least 80,000 supporters attended Ronaldo’s presentation at Real’s stadium, Santiago Bernabéu; this actually broke the 25-year record of Diego Maradona whose presentation at Napoli was attended by 75,000 fans.
September 2013, Real Madrid signs Gareth Bale on a six-year contract for a transfer fee of €100 million which was at that time (2013) a world record, breaking Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of €94 million in 2010 and making Gareth Bale the most expensive football player in the world at the time. However, this record was later broken by Paul Pogba’s transfer fee of €105 million.
One interesting fact about Bale’s transfer is that the Spanish press reported it to be €91 million at the time, while British press claimed that it was €100 million. Later it was proved that the British press were right.
Gonzalo Higuaín moved from Napoli to Juventus in July 2016 for a transfer fee of €90 million which was paid in two installments. The transfer fee was not only a record in Italian football but also made Higuaín one of the most expensive players in the world at the time.
Higuaín had previously moved from Real Madrid to Napoli for a transfer fee of €40 million, namely in 2013 on a five-year deal, and before that Real Madrid had signed the Argentinian international for a transfer fee of €12 million from the Argentinian club, River Plate.
Valued only €3 million less than Gonzalo Higuaín, English midfielder, Harry Maguire, was transferred from Leicester City to Manchester United for a transfer fee of €87 million in August 2019. Although Maguire is not the world’s most expensive football player, the transfer fee actually made him the most expensive defender in the world, even more expensive than Virgil van Dijk who moved from Southampton to Liverpool for a transfer fee of around €83.6 million.
Maguire had previously moved from Hull City to Leicester City in 2017 for a much less transfer fee of €12 million. The English international was named the Player of the Season in 2017-18 season and also won Leicester City’s Player of the Season award in the same season. Maybe that attracted Man Utd’s attention and persuaded them to bring in the player.
From Manchester United to Inter Milan, Romelu Lukaku is among the top 20 most expensive football players in the world who made his move for a transfer fee of €80 million in August 2019 that was a record at least at Inter Milan. Lukaku is a Belgium international and had previously moved from Everton to Manchester United in 2017 for a transfer fee of around €31.2 million.
Lukaku could score in his first appearance for Inter Milan, actually in a 4-0 home win against Lecce. One Interesting fact about Lukaku is that he has scored in his debut for five of the six clubs he has presented so far.
Virgil van Dijk
The second most expensive defender in the world after Harry Maguire, the Netherlands international and current defender of Liverpool, Virgil van Dijk moved from Southampton to Liverpool for a transfer fee of around €83.6 million. Virgil had previously moved from Celtic to Southampton for a transfer fee of around €14.5 million in September 2015.
10% of the Virgil van Dijk’s transfer fee was transferred to his former club, Celtic, due to a sell-on clause in his Southampton contract. Van Dijk’s first appearance for Liverpool was in January 5, 2019 in a match against Everton where he could score the winning goal in a 2-1 victory.
Luis Suárez’s transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona for a transfer fee of €82.3 million in 2014 made the Uruguayan international the most expensive footballer player in the world in the same year. The transfer fee at the time was undisclosed but later it was revealed through a document by Football Leaks.
Suárez’s previous move from Ajax to Liverpool in 2011 had costed the destination club €25.4 million. The Uruguayan forward would remain Liverpool’s most expensive signee if Andy Carroll had not signed for a transfer fee of €39 million just a few hours later!
Nicolas Pépé, an Ivorian international and the current Arsenal forward, actually made his move for the Premier League club in 2019 for a transfer fee of €79 million and broke the previous €62-million record of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Pépé’s previous transfer fee was only €10 million when he moved from Angers to Lille on a five-year contract.
Pépé’s first appearance for Arsenal was in August 11, 2019 in a match against Newcastle United that ended in Arsenal’s 1-0 win. Pépé came as a substitute for Reiss Nelson in this game. Pépé’s complete first-time appearance for Arsenal was in a match against Liverpool where the Gunners lost the game 3-1.
A goalkeeper that paid his own €80-million release clause and became the most expensive goalkeeper in the world in 2018 by breaking the record €72.5-million transfer fee of Alisson Becker that was actually paid by Liverpool to sign the goalkeeper from Roma. After paying for his own release club, Kepa Arrizabalaga signed a seven-year contract with Chelsea.
Before moving to Chelsea, Arrizabalaga had served Atletico Bilbao for two years, namely from 2016 to 2018. His debut for Chelsea was only 3 days after his arrival at the Premier League club in a match against Huddersfield Town that ended in Chelsea’s 3-0 win. Arrizabalaga had by then 6 clean sheets and Chelsea were unbeaten for 12 matches.
In March 2019 after a five-year spell at Atletico Madrid, Lucas Hernandez joined Bayern Munich for a transfer fee of €80 million which was not only a record at Bayern but also a record in Bundesliga. So, he actually became the most expensive player in the German professional league at the time.
Lucas Hernandez is a defender and France international since 2018. The above-mentioned fee is actually his first record, and if it rises over time, it means that he can even reach the top of the list of the most expensive players in the world.
The current manager of Real Madrid who also served the same team during his club career and the France national team from 1994 to 2006, Zinedine Zidane set a world record by moving from Juventus to Real Madrid in 2001 for a transfer fee of €77.5 million which was paid in installments by the LaLiga giants.
You will be probably surprised if you know that Zidane moved from G. Bordeaux to Juventus in 1996 for a transfer fee of around €3.5 million which in value is more than 20 times less than his next move to Real Madrid. Zidane has been the manager of Real Madrid since 2016 and currently receives €12 million as his annual salary.
In July 2014, James Rodríguez moved from Monaco to Real Madrid for a transfer fee that was not revealed at first but later was reported to be something around €76 million. This meant that Rodríguez had become the fourth most expensive player in the world and the third most expensive player in Real Madrid history in the same year (2014).
Also the Columbia international had become the most expensive Columbian footballer in history - of course until that time, breaking the €60-million transfer record of Radamel Falcao, his fellow Columbian who plays currently for the Turkish club, Galatasaray.
Ángel Di María
Di María’s move from Manchester United to Paris Saint-Germain was undisclosed first but later was reported to be something around €75.6 million. Di María’s previous transfer was from Real Madrid to Manchester United in 2014 for a transfer fee of €66.6 million which is not far behind his current value, meaning that he’s been an expensive player at least since 2014.
Di María netted his first goal for PSG in the UEFA Champions League in a match against Malmö FF that ended in a 2-0 win for PSG. The Argentina international has also set a new record in Ligue 1 2015-16 season for the number of assists he provided then (total 18).
Matthijs de Ligt
In july 2019, Matthijs de Ligt moved from Ajax to Juventus for a transfer fee of €75 million which was paid in five installments - €15 million for each year. De ligt is a defender and a product of Ajax FC. When at Ajax, namely in 2018, he won the Golden Boy Award - an award given by sports journalists to a footballer under 21 that has performed the best during a season - and became the first defender to have won the award.
De ligt made his appearance for Juventus in a match against Napoli that ended in a 4-3 home victory for Juventus. The defender has also played for the Netherlands national team since 2017.
Frenkie de Jong
For the same amount as Matthijs de Ligt, namely €75 million, Frenkie de Jong moved from Ajax to Barcelona in 2019. Other clubs like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain had also showed interest in the Dutch midfielder, but he actually chose Barcelona over them.
De Jong is actually the product of the Dutch club, Willem and has mostly played as a central midfielder. After signing for Barcelona, he could score in all his 12 first appearances for the LaLiga giants. He has also played for the Netherlands national team since 2018.