Premier League clubs spend a lot of money in the transfer market. So who end up as the most expensive Premier League transfers ever?
Premier League is the most competitive league in Europe so as a result, EPL clubs seem to spend more money on transfers every year, just to retain that competitive edge. Last year it was reported by the Skysports that the Premier League clubs had spent a whopping amount of near £1.4 billion in the transfer market of 2019-20 EPL season. It was an £158 million increase in comparison to its previous Summer transfer window as well as being the 4th year in a row that the EPL clubs had broken the £1 billion barrier in the transfer market.
Interestingly even though there are vast amount of money spent on players who are the most expensive Premier League transfers ever, Premier League clubs often focus on paying high amount of weekly wages which at times can rival the initial transfer fees. We have previously highlighted this here, when we talked about how David de Gea earns £117 million in wages in a 5-year period. But for now let’s see who is actually among the biggest Premier League transfers of all time.
bearing in mind that we have tried to include only the base transfer fees on this list, without any inflation. Let us now take a look at some of the most expensive transfers in EPL history:
There is just certain type of players that Pep Guardiola loves to bring to his teams and Rodri is one of those. Rodri is a commanding distributor of the ball not unlike Bosquets, who Guardiola admired and relied on heavily when he was the manager of Barcelona, and like Bosquets he was brought in to do a similar job. As Guardiola felt that his team were lacking in ball distribution in the middle of the pitch and the position needed strengthening, and when Guardiola wants a player, he usually gets that player in Man City.
Rodri started his senior career in Villareal, where he came through the youth system, and after 2 successful seasons there he got a transfer to a bigger club, Atletico Madrid. A season in Atletico was enough to convince Manchester City to go after him. As Atletico was not keen on negotiating a deal with Manchester City because they didn’t want to lose Rodri, City had to activate his release clause which was €70 million. And that amount makes his transfer one of the most expensive premier league transfers ever.
Rodri has fit in really well at Man City, he even scored a winner in a League Cup final last season, but his impact at City and whether he is fully worth the money that City paid for him, should be judged after a few seasons. But for now he is one of the most important players in Man City squad.
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One of the worst transfers on this list, was the transfer of Angel di Maria from Real Madrid to Manchester United back in 2014. At the time it was the biggest transfer in Premier League history but as you can see it has been overtaken since and it’s a good thing too as both United and Di Maria are keen to forget this ever happened.
At the time of the transfer, Di Maria, who is one of the best attackers of his generation, was on the best form of his career and he was fresh off a Champions League win with Real Madrid and a World Cup final appearance. Manchester United were trying to find their identity again after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson and they had just appointed Louis van Gaal as their manager.
Everything looked set to be perfect for United, but all seemed to go the wrong way for United and especially for Di Maria, who despite early signs of brilliance ultimately flopped hard at United and was deemed by many pundits and fans alike to be the worst transfer of the season. Scoring 4 goals in 32 matches is not a good record for any attacker, especially for someone who has a price tag of €75 million. Di Maria is the proof that most expensive Premier League transfers ever don’t always work out and he set the trend for many other Manchester United signings after him.
Kevin De Bruyne is currently valued by the Transfermarkt to be worth somewhere around €120 million and it’s doubtful that anyone would argue with that assessment. In fact, many would argue that he is worth much more than that and it just tells you how much of a brilliant player he is. He has been absolutely instrumental in Manchester City’s recent success as he has been their beating heart, providing players like Aguero with plenty of chances as well as putting on incredible solo performances from now and then.
Once a Chelsea reject, De Bruyne was adamant to prove them wrong, so when he joined Wolfsburg he stepped up and took Bundesliga by storm and it wasn’t long that Manchester City came looking for his signature. He agreed to join City, on one of the biggest Premier League transfers of all time, for a fee of around €76 million, which judging by his performances seems like a total steal for Man City. Even though he had a great first season under Pellegrini, it wasn’t until a year later and the appointment of Guardiola as the manager of City that he became the player he is today.
Under the guidance of Guardiola, De Bruyne has become the lynchpin of Manchester City’s midfield and has helped them win 2 Premier League titles as well as several cup trophies. In the 2019-20 season he scored 13 goals and assisted 20 times, equaling Thierry Henry’s record set in 2002-03 season, which earned him the Best Midfielder in Europe award just recently. He has proven time and time again that he is totally deserving of being one of the most expensive Premier League transfers ever and you could find no City fan arguing with that point.
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Kepa Arrizabalaga is undoubtedly the worst transfer ever in the history of Chelsea. It’s not that we think he is hopeless as a player, because he is not and he is still very young, considering goalkeepers usually have long careers, he could very well develop into a fine keeper in time but he was never the right choice for Chelsea and most certainly, he was not worth the money they paid.
Chelsea paid €80 million to Athletic Bilbao to bring Kepa to the Stamford Bridge, making this one of the most expensive Premier League transfers ever and it could be argued that there are no goalkeepers in the world worth that price, let alone a fairly untested one, like Kepa. As it stands he is the most expensive goal keeper in the world and that has proven to be a heavy title to bear as he hasn’t lived up to that title.
His career at Chelsea didn’t start that badly, as he started most of the league matches in his first season and made appearances in the cup competitions as well as the Europa League. The warning signs were there, as he showed not to be a strong shot-stopper but fans and pundits chalked it up to him adjusting to the life in England. When Lampard took over as manager of Chelsea things began to go on a downward spiral for Kepa.
His performances under were not good enough and he was actually one of the worst shot-stoppers in the league. Add to that the fact that Lampard didn’t really believe in him and you end up with an unhappy player who has no desire to improve in his current club. As of now, Chelsea are aggressively looking to sell or loan Kepa this season but they haven’t been successful yet. One thing is for certain though, despite being one of the biggest Premier League transfers of all time, Kepa hasn’t lived up to the hype at all.
The Ivorian winger is one of the most technically gifted players in the Premier League and he has proven that he also has a keen eye for goal, especially when he was playing for Lille in France, and so when Arsenal went in to buy him they knew that they had to pay obscene amount of money to bring the player to Emirates. So when they succeeded, Pepe became Arsenal’s record transfer and one of the most expensive transfers in EPL history.
In his last season with Lille in France, Pepe scored 22 goals and provided 11 assists, taking the 2nd spot in most goals scored and most assists created, above the likes of Neymar, Di Maria and Cavani and that was proof enough for Arsenal hierarchy to break the bank for the Ivorian and pay Lille €80 million. That makes Pepe the most expensive African player, on par with Napoli’s Oshiman, and also one of the most expensive Premier League transfers ever.
Although Pepe has not exactly set the Premier League afire, his performances has shown a lot of promise as he has provided 18 goals and assists in his first season at Arsenal as well as playing a big role in their FA Cup victory over Chelsea. There were glimpses of brilliance but as Arsenal were struggling with form and consistency under 3 different managers last season, so was Pepe. He along most of the Arsenal squad have become much better players under their coach Arteta and he hopes to continue that rise and show everyone he was worth the money Arsenal paid for his services.
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It’s early days to deliver any sort of judgment about the transfer of Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen to Chelsea, which was the 5th most expensive Premier League transfers ever. But the fact that Chelsea were so adamant in bringing him to Stamford Bridge, even in a post-COVID market where clubs were having financial problems, just tells you how much they believe in Havertz. This may be a huge boost to his confidence but it’s also a huge burden on his shoulders. We have to wait and see how he deals with that.
Havertz is one of the greatest talents of his generation and despite being only 21, he had nearly 4 full seasons of playing in the Bundesliga. Despite reaching several milestones for being the youngest ever player in Bundesliga, it was in the last two Bundesliga seasons that he truly shone, scoring 20 and 18 goals respectively in all competitions for Bayer Leverkusen. There was interest from Premier League clubs in Havertz as early as his first season in Leverkusen but because of his high price tag nothing materialized as Leverkusen were insistent of not reducing their evaluation of the player.
Everything led to this current transfer window where Chelsea, after weeks of negotiating, were able to reduce the price tag a bit and make Havertz' transfer official by agreeing to pay a sum of €80 million to Leverkusen. A hefty sum of money to pay for a 21 year-old but that’s how the transfer market goes these days. As mentioned before, Chelsea took a big risk on Havertz and they will be hoping that one of the most expensive transfers in EPL history pays off and he brings some glory to the Bridge.
The transfer of van Dijk from Southampton to Liverpool is possibly one of the best transfer on this list, if not the best. Despite being one of the most expensive Premier League transfers ever, it bore fruit for both the player and the club and it has propelled both to unimaginable success. It’s this sort of outcome that clubs hope for when they make big signings, but as we have seen in the Premier League biggest transfers ever, we know it doesn’t happen all the time.
Van Dijk’s transfer to Liverpool was a lengthy saga, as the Reds tried to sign him in the Summer of 2017 but couldn’t match the fee that Southampton demanded for the player, but as their defensive woes continued Liverpool were convinced that van Dijk is the man the man to help them get rid of that. So van Dijk joined Liverpool in the January of 2018 for a fee of around €84.65 million, in one of the biggest transfers in Premier League history and as the most expensive center back ever.
He immediately proved his worth as he galvanized Liverpool’s woeful defense and led them to their first Champions League final in years. They lost that final but their hunger was not satiated as they did the same again in the following year and this time they won. van Dijk and Liverpool went on to win the Premier League in the 2019-20 campaign ending the club’s 30-year wait for the domestic league title.
van Dijk's transfer to Liverpool was really the turning point that made all of these happen, without van Dijk they were really poor defensively and couldn’t have ever achieved this amount of success. There is no doubt that he was worth every penny Liverpool paid and he would be looking to continue his success by retaining the Premier League in this ongoing season.
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Romelu Lukaku is a player who gets undermined a lot. It may be because of his style of playing which is akin to center forwards of the 90s and early 2000s and isn’t very common these days or it may be that Manchester United was never a good destination for him and he didn’t naturally fit in their tactics. Nonetheless his particular move to Manchester couldn’t be called successful but he has since recovered and has jump started his career by going to Internazionale where he scored 34 goals in all competitions in his debut season.
Lukaku’s story in the Premier League though, is a story of resilience, as he was never appreciated by the club that brought him to the EPL, Chelsea, as he was loaned out couple times and was never given a chance and after impressing in both his loan spells, he joined Everton and there he honed his skills even more. After hitting the net 25 times in the 2016-17 season, it was time for a big move and it was the Red Devils that secured his signature by paying Everton €84.7 million, which at the time was the 2nd biggest transfers in Premier League history.
Despite scoring 27 goals in all competition for United in his first season, his goals dropped significantly in the following season and that was the last straw in his Manchester career, as it was paired with the fact that the new manager really didn’t believe in him and he ended up moving to Inter.
Despite all this, he always showed a winner’s mentality in his time at United, this was most apparent in their comeback against PSG in the Champions League, where Lukaku single-handedly took United to the next stage. It’s a mentality that he has shown at Inter too and he hopes to continue that in this season by winning the Serie A with Inter.
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We arrive at the second spot on our list and that is the most expensive defender of all time as well as being one of the most expensive Premier League transfers ever and he is Harry Maguire. The 27 year-old made a name for himself in Hull City and ended up joining Leicester City in 2017-18 season, following Hull City’s relegation.
He then had two excellent seasons in Leicester where he showed to be a capable and commanding center back, just the sort that so many elite clubs were looking for, and ended up attracting the attention of some of those elite clubs. But Manchester United got their player as they paid Leicester an eye-watering amount of €87 million. So Maguire became the most expensive defender ever, breaking Virgil van Dijk’s record and thus was set up with a huge expectation of living up to that fee.
Maguire’s time at United hasn’t been all that smooth, as he has struggled quite a bit to find his form and consistency throughout the season, performing well only in patches and without any continuity or consistency. And consistency is the number 1 thing anyone expects from a defender. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that he hasn’t had a decent center back pairing as his partners, Bailly and Lindelof, are average at best.
All this plus the disciplinary issues he had in the summer of 2020 means that Maguire must give it all in the upcoming season and perform to his best, lest he will be another expensive Manchester United flop, despite being one of the Premier League biggest transfers ever.
Ah, Paul Pogba, the ever present factor in any Manchester United discussion in the past four years. The academy product that went away to Juventus for free and came back to United for what was at the time the most expensive transfer in the history of football. Manchester United was hoping that his transfer was the key in them winning the Premier League again or at least it was a big step towards reaching that goal but it hasn’t happened yet and it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.
As we take another look at the biggest transfers in Premier League history we can see that almost half the list is comprised of United players, and as we have reported before, almost half of the EPL top earners are United players too, but there seems to be something missing at the club. That drive to win things. It’s most apparent when Pogba plays for his national team France where he led them to Euro and World Cup finals and became a world champion. He seems like an entirely different player when he represents his country.
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Pogba is 27 and in the prime of his career, whether he chooses to go somewhere else, as he has been linked to a move to Real Madrid numerous times, or stay at United, he has to improve his own game at club-level because right now he just seems uninterested which doesn’t bode well for either him or United. His success with the Red Devils have been mostly in the cup competitions as he has won both the FA Cup and the Europa League with the club but he alongside every United Supporter hopes that it doesn’t end there and further success is down the road.
But for now the heaviest title he bears at United is being the most expensive Premier League transfers ever.