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Most expensive center-backs ever

Sun 07 November 2021 | 7:00

Who are the most expensive center-backs of all time? Which clubs have spent the most money on signing world-class defenders? Follow us below as we delve deeper into the careers of those center-backs who have cost their respective clubs significant amounts of money.

Some might think that it is mostly strikers and midfielders who get all the praise and attention in football. But they couldn’t be any more wrong as there are some incredible defenders and especially center-backs who hog most of the attention at their respective clubs. Some get even more attention when they transfer to a new club all thanks to their gargantuan transfer fees.

With the highly inflated market of the modern days and with how big clubs are spending their resources nowadays, the price for players in any position just keeps rising, which is why there have been many new additions to the list of

most expensive center-backs ever

in recent years.

Some of the top clubs in Europe have spent ludicrous amounts of money to sign those who they believe are going to be the next big thing and have the potential to boost their defensive stats. If you too are eager to know more about some of the most expensive center-backs in history, then read on as we dive deeper into the careers of these truly costly defenders.

Most expensive center-backs of all time

From Harry Maguire and Virgil van Dijk making the headlines in the same season of the Premier League, to Matthijs de Ligt joining Juventus after proving himself to be one of the best young defenders in the world, there are some big names on this list, most of whom have made the list in recent years. Here are 10 of the most expensive center-backs ever.

David Luiz

  • Transfer: Chelsea – PSG

  • Transfer fee: €49.5M

David Luiz might be playing the last seasons of his career at Flamengo right now, but there was certainly a time when the Brazilian was considered to be one of the best defenders in the world and everyone recognized his class as an elite center-back. Luiz has been around quite a lot as he has played for top clubs such as Benfica, Chelsea,

Paris Saint-Germain

and Arsenal over the years before joining Flamengo in 2021.

Chelsea actually paid €25 million to Benfica way back in 2011 to acquire the Brazil international’s services. But this transfer fee is not the reason why David Luiz is on the list of

most expensive center-backs ever

as it was actually his second transfer fee that helped him make it into the list. Luiz spent three years at Chelsea during his first spell and convinced PSG to pay a whopping €49.5 million to sign him in 2014.

Having joined the Parisians with such an eye-watering transfer fee, everyone expected the former

Chelsea

man to succeed at his new club and go on to win numerous trophies with them. Even though Luiz’s performance was fine enough, the relationship between the player and the club did not last as the Parisians decided to let go of their expensive defender after only two seasons.

Luiz had only made three appearances in Ligue 1 in the 2016-17 season when the news of his transfer was posted on headlines. Having made a total of 89 appearances at Paris Saint-Germain, the Brazilian center-back returned to his former club Chelsea and joined the Blues for €35 million in 2016.

Eder Militao

  • Transfer: FC Porto – Real Madrid

  • Transfer fee: €50M

Real Madrid

have usually lacked the defensive depth that a club of their caliber must possess and they have suffered dearly for this lack of depth over the years. But it seems that they insist on keeping their number of defenders to a bare minimum as we saw how they handled the 2021 summer transfer window by letting go of their two main center-backs to bring in only one replacement instead.

Of course they had previously signed Eder Militao, who joined Los Blancos from

FC Porto

for a massive €50 million in 2019 and earned his place amongst the

most expensive center-backs in history

. Even though Militao was initially deployed as a right-back at Porto and many knew him as a proper defensive right-back, his versatility has allowed him to shift to a more central role at Real Madrid, which has helped him to become one of the main parts of the club’s squad.

The 23-year-old is one of Brazil’s finer defensive talents and has already made 18 international appearances since being called up for international duty in 2018. The former Porto man has made more than 50 appearances for Real Madrid throughout the years and has now turned into the club’s main defender with Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane’s departure in the summer.

As one of the most expensive center-backs ever, Militao has managed to win the La Liga and the Supercopa de Espana with Los Blancos and has also helped his nation win the 2018-19 Copa America.

John Stones

  • Transfer: Everton – Manchester City

  • Transfer fee: €56M

Manchester City

just have a habit of spending ridiculous amounts of money on signing whomever they want and we are not even mad about it. Even though this transfer policy has inflated the market in an extreme rate, City simply don’t care as they have the resources and the funding to acquire the services of anyone they require. That is why Pep Guardiola was able to spend a whopping €56 million to sign John Stones from Everton in 2016.

Stones was a vital part of Everton’s squad during the three seasons he spent at the club, who had initially paid €3.5 million to sign him on a permanent contract. Having joined the Cityzens in the summer of 2016, it didn’t take long for the Englishman to prove his worth and get his own place amongst the starting-XI.

But constant injuries and fitness issues have forced the Englishman to take on a rotation role at the club rather than being the go-to-guy at the back. Nevertheless, he has made over 165 appearances for Manchester City and has even managed to score 10 goals in the process, which is quite impressive for a defender.

The former Everton man’s transfer fee surely put him on the list of

most expensive center-backs of all time

, but his overall market value has dropped drastically from the day he joined City. Stones’ current market value stands at around €30 million, which is almost half the initial price that the Sky-Blues paid for the England international. Perhaps joining such a top club was not a bad idea after all, as the now 27-year-old has managed to win three Premier League titles, the FA Cup, four League Cups and two Community Shields.

Ben White

  • Transfer: Brighton – Arsenal

  • Transfer fee: €58.5M

Few on the list of most expensive center-backs in history have managed to cause as much stir and controversy as Ben White, who joined

Arsenal

from

Brighton

for a whopping fee of €58.5 million in the 2021 summer transfer window. Almost everyone on Arsenal’s side was mad about the transfer as they believed White was simply not worth all that money and that almost half of the transfer fee was because of the famed “English Tax”.

English Tax is the additional amount of money that clubs pay to sign English players as the media tends to exaggerate what these players have accomplished in their careers, which results in a bloated market price. Perhaps Arsenal fans are right to be furious as the Englishman’s market price was around €5 million when the Gunners decided to sign him for an eye-watering fee of €58.5 million, which in turn made him one of the most expensive center-backs ever.

Of course the criticism over Ben White might be a little too harsh as he has not played that bad at all. Considering the fact that he has made only 6 appearances for Arsenal and has managed to keep a clean sheet in most of his appearances so far, perhaps there is potential in the 24-year-old after all.

Arsenal have only lost once when White was in the starting line-up. They also lost the two league games in which Mikel Arteta decided to bench White, with the club losing 2-0 to Chelsea and being humiliated 5-0 by Manchester City six days later. At least the former Everton man has managed to keep most of his market value after joining the Gunners, which leaves room for improvement in the coming months.

Aymeric Laporte

  • Transfer: Athletic Bilbao – Manchester City

  • Transfer fee: €65M

It seems that signing John Stones for more than €58 million was in no way enough for Manchester City as they went on to pay an incredible €65 million to sign Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao. Laporte made the headlines not only as one of the most expensive center-backs ever but also as one of the highest paid center-backs of all time since he currently earns more than €140,000 each week.

Laporte was the main choice at

Athletic Bilbao

as he went on to make a total of 222 appearances for the La Liga side and even managed to score 10 goals and provide 6 assists in the process. Laporte is versatile enough to be deployed on the left as well, which gives City more squad depth. The France-born Spain international has made more than 110 appearances for his current club and helps keep things fresh as Pep Guardiola switches between using him and John Stones.

Aymeric Laporte has managed to conquer the English football with Manchester City as he has helped his club win three Premier League titles, the FA Cup, four League Cups and two Community Shields. Even though Aymeric Laporte is one of the most expensive center-backs ever, he has seen a dip in his market value as it currently stands at €45 million. The 27-year-old is at the peak of his career and has only just begun his journey towards success as a Spain international.

Ruben Dias

  • Transfer: Benfica – Manchester City

  • Transfer fee: €68M

Manchester City just can’t be stopped at this rate as Pep Guardiola has already spent more than an eye-watering one billion Euros to sign players over the years. Even though the Spaniard has spent such a ridiculous amount of money throughout his career at City, he is yet to win the Champions League for the Premier League side.

But that certainly doesn’t stop him from signing more and more world-class players each season and that is why he went on to spend a whopping €68 million to sign Ruben Dias, yet another center-back, in 2020. Dias arrived from Benfica with much expectation as he was the golden boy at his former club. The Portuguese defender rose up the ranks at

Benfica

’s youth academy before being called up to the senior side, for whom he made a total of 137 appearances in four seasons and even managed to bag himself more than 10 goals in the process.

Dias’ incredible form helped Benfica win the league in the 2018-19 season, which was followed by winning the Super Cup in 2020. He also helped his nation win the UEFA Nations League in 2019 before joining Manchester City to become not only one of the most expensive defenders in Premier League history, but also one of the most expensive center-backs ever. The 24-year-old’s arrival at City has significantly improved the club’s defense as he is now the main man at the back.

He has played in almost every game since joining the Cityzens in 2020, which means that he has made more than 60 appearances for the club. The Portugal international’s phenomenal run of form helped his current club win the double last season as he was named Manchester City’s 2020-21 Player of the Season as well.

Lucas Hernandez

  • Transfer: Atletico Madrid – Bayern Munich

  • Transfer fee: €80M

While most of the hype is currently around Theo Hernandez, there was a time not long ago when all the talk was about his brother Lucas, who had just switched clubs by joining

Bayern Munich

from

Atletico Madrid

for a staggering fee of €80 million in 2019. Even though he was brought into the Bundesliga side initially as a left-back, Bayern’s lack of center-backs forced Lucas’ hand to switch to a more central role at the German club.

Of course his versatility more than allowed him to do so as he is currently one of the most effective defenders in the world at the age of 25 years old. Lucas Hernandez would never gotten on the list of most expensive center-backs ever if it weren’t for his incredible performances at Atletico Madrid, for whom he made more than 100 appearances and earned himself a spot amongst the regular starting-XI.

Perhaps if it weren’t for the constant injuries and fitness issues, Hernandez could have repeated the same form at Bayern Munich as well. But these injuries have caused him to fall behind in the race to become the main man at the Bavarian club. The 2018 World Cup winner has gotten himself quite a full trophy cabinet thanks to his years at Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich.

He has simply won it all as his trophy cabinet includes the Champions League, the Bundesliga title, the German Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, the UEFA Nations League, the Europa League, the UEFA Super Cup, the German Super Cup and of course the World Cup. Lucas Hernandez is also one of the

highest paid center-backs of all time

thanks to his staggering weekly wage of €250k.

Virgil van Dijk

  • Transfer: Southampton – Liverpool

  • Transfer fee: €85M

It is definitely not easy when everyone expects you to be the savior of your club and you have a reputation to keep in the highly volatile world of football, in which anything and everything can happen. Few center-backs have managed to win the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award as nine of the winners from the 2010-11 season to the 2019-20 season were all either forwards or midfielders.

That is why it shows the level of class that Virgil van Dijk has as one of the most expensive center-backs ever, since he is that one exception on the list of UEFA Men’s Player the Year Award winners. The Dutchman was so brilliant during the 2018-19 season that he somehow got to overtake the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi to win the prestigious award. Of course none of this would have been possible if he hadn’t joined

Liverpool

from

Southampton

for an eye-watering fee of €85 million in 2018.

Having risen up the ranks at Celtic to introduce himself to the world of football as a strong defender, van Dijk joined Southampton for €15 million in 2015. He then went on to make a total of 80 appearances for the Saints before Liverpool were convinced that he was a quality center-back worth investing in. Many mocked the Reds for their decision as they believed van Dijk was simply not worth all that money.

But the Netherlands international silenced his doubters by becoming one of the most vital parts of Jurgen Klopp’s squad in a matter of weeks as he created an impenetrable wall in Liverpool’s defense. He is currently by far one of the best center-backs in the world and there is no doubt about it.

Matthijs de Ligt

  • Transfer: Ajax – Juventus

  • Transfer fee: €85.5M

Ajax

need no introduction when we talk about the clubs who are adept in producing world-class talents every season. That is exactly why almost half of their squad was sold to other big clubs in Europe back in 2018 when their young prospects managed to shock the world with their level of sophistication and class. One of the most exciting prospects of that same squad was none other than Dutch center-back Matthijs de Ligt, who had wowed everyone with his sheer defensive ability.

Having gained prominence after graduating from Ajax’s youth academy and joining the club’s senior side in 2017, de Ligt quickly made a name for himself as one of the most talented center-backs in the world, which resulted in many top clubs knocking on Ajax’s door to sign the young defender. De Ligt went on to win the 2018 Golden Boy award before making his big-money move to

Juventus

by joining the Serie A side for an astounding fee of €85.5 million in 2019.

He has since become the club’s main center-back and has established himself a nice and strong fan-base playing for the Bianconeri. With Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure and with the club losing their grasp on the Serie A title, perhaps it is not the best time to be playing for Juventus after all. But de Ligt has certainly got what it takes to help his club bounce back and challenge for the title once again.

Harry Maguire

  • Transfer: Leicester City – Manchester United

  • Transfer fee: €87M

It is outright hilarious how even being at the very top of the list of highest paid center-backs of all time can’t shield a player from becoming a meme on social media. It all began as

Manchester United

fans believed paying a whopping €87 million to sign Harry Maguire was simply outrageous. This fan-base fury quickly evolved into mockery and trolling as people used to take every chance they could to troll both Manchester United and their newly-acquired center-back.

Maguire caused a lot of controversy during his first season with the Red Devils as he donned the captain’s armband during the very same season and left United fans absolutely fuming with rage. Maguire joined Leicester City from Hull City for €13 million in 2017 and somehow managed to convince the Red Devils that he was worth paying such a ridiculous amount of money two years later.

Having joined United in 2019, the 28-year-old is now the club’s main captain and has made more than 100 appearances for the Premier League side as well. Even though Maguire has rarely disappointed at his current club so far, there are still many pundits, fans and media outlets that tend to constantly criticize the Englishman simply because he is the most expensive center-back not only in Premier League history but also in the whole world.

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