Most Expensive Midfielders of All Time
It is time to take a look at some of the most expensive midfielders of all time to find out who they are:
Tasked with linking the defense and attack, midfielders are perhaps the most important players in modern football. versatile footballers capable of doing a little bit of everything, midfielders are the ones that actually make things happen on the pitch, whether it is in creating goal scoring chances or stopping them. They also set the tempo of the game and control much of what happens during a match. Essentially the game of football is won by midfielders nowadays.
With some of the best teams around Europe, like the current Manchester City and Del Bosque’s Spain of the past decade literally having no forwards and as much as 6 midfielders in the starting lineup, the midfielders have become essentially the most important players in football today. And with that comes the astronomical sums that competitive clubs are willing to pay to lure certain midfielders. So with the January transfer window open, we thought we should take a look at some of the
most expensive midfielders of all time
to find out who they are:
Most Expensive Football Players
As we take a closer look at the finances in the deals below, let us also examine and judge how these transfers have fared in hindsight. Were all these most expensive football players as successful as their destination clubs wanted them to be or have these players flopped. Let’s find out:
10. Kaka (AC Milan to Real Madrid)
You know you are in for a treat when you start your list of
most expensive football players
with a Ballon d’Or winner. One of only 8 players who have won the World Cup, Champions League and a Ballon d’Or, Kaka was certainly one of the best players of his time as well as one of the greatest midfielders ever. After finding success with Sao Paulo and winning the 2002 World Cup with Brazil, Kaka joined AC Milan in 2003 and formed one of the best Milan squads in recent memory leading them to a Serie A title in his debut season.
The Brazilian was a maestro in midfield, incredibly quick with outstanding dribbling skills but also a force when it came to playmaking and goalscoring. At his best there are hardly any footballer in the history of football who could match him. During the 2006-07 season, Kaka led AC Milan to their 3rd Champions League final in the 21st century and played a crucial part in Milan’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool by providing and assist for the second goal. For his performances that year he was awarded the Ballon d’Or.
Already at that point every club in the world wanted the Brazilian but there was only one club so obsessed with superstars that could afford Kaka and that was Real Madrid. Which is exactly why the Spanish giants went and paid AC Milan a sum of €67m to make Kaka the 2nd most expensive player in the world at the time. As is often the case with these huge transfers though, the move didn’t really pan out for either parties as Kaka suffered 4 injury-ridden seasons at Bernabeu without ever achieving his best form.
Kaka’s first season at Madrid was not bad by any means with him scoring 9 and assisting 8 goals overall but multiple injuriescost him some of his pace and physicality. Which made him coming back to the team each time that much harder. Eventually, he lost his place to Mesut Ozil entirely and was forced to leave Real Madrid in 2013 to go back to AC Milan. He never reached the soaring heights he experienced at AC Milan after transferring to Real Madrid and becoming one of the most expensive midfielders of all time but he will always be remembered for his excellent performances both for Brazil and AC Milan
9. Thomas Lemar (AS Monaco to Atletico Madrid)
Perhaps the least well-known player amongst the most expensive midfielders of all time isAtletico Madrid
’s Thomas Lemar. Once talked about as being one of the best players of his generation, the now 26-year-old Lemar is seemingly content with being a squad player at Atletico Madrid. Lemar who was alongside the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Bernardo Silva when Monaco surprised everyone by reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League in the 2016-17 season, garnered a lot of interest from big clubs that summer.
While Arsenal were said to be huge admirers of the Frenchman, their insane submitted offer of €100m was ultimately rejected by the player since it was in the last hours of the transfer window. But Arsenal seems to have dodged a bullet there since the 14 goals and almost as many assists of Lemar from the 2016-17 season was never repeated by the player in the following seasons. Although, Atletico Madrid who are always interested in the player went back in for him after he helped France win the 2018 World Cup.
And so on 18 June 2018, Thomas Lemar joined Atletico Madrid from AS Monaco in a deal roughly worth €72m in a 5-year contract that saw him paid £110k in weekly wages. He has since scored 7 and assisted 12 in 117 matches that he has appeared in for Atletico which is a sorry stat for a player that is considered to be most expensive football players ever, especially one that had so much potential.
However, since he is still relatively young and could bounce back from a couple of disappointing seasons at Atletico, although his contract is due to expire in the summer and there doesn’t seem to be much interest from Atletico to offer him a new one!
8. James Rodriguez (AS Monaco to Real Madrid)
We’ll continue with the pattern of transfer flops that this list has already set to find the Columbian James Rodrigues whose transfer fromAS Monaco
to Real Madrid still marks him as one of the
most expensive player in the world in 2021
. The Columbian playmaker found his way to European football through Argentinian side Banfield where Porto signed him from in 2010. He then went on to have an excellent 3 seasons with Portuguese side before moving to AS Monaco where he spent a season before the 2014 World Cup.
At the 2014 World Cup, James became the architect of Columbia’s success as they reached the quarter-final stages only to be narrowly defeated by hosts Brazil. James managed an impressive 6 goals and 2 assists tally in the tournament and won the Golden Boot of the 2014 World Cup, instantly making him one of the most sought after players in Europe. Following the World Cup and after a lengthy transfer saga, Real Madrid managed to sign the Colombian for €75m which made him one of the most expensive midfielders of all time (2nd in 2014).
James’ first season at Real Madrid was a hit as the Columbian managed to score 14 goals and 15 assists in all competition, however his numbers and involvement in the team dipped as his injuries started piling up and Zinedine Zidane became Real Madrid’s manager. Zidane simply didn’t believe in him as much as Ancelotti did and so James left Real to joinBayern Munich
on loan despite doing exceptionally well in the games that he was involved in for Real Madrid. His time at Bayern was also good with him winning 2 Bundesliga titles and a DFB-Pokal but he had to once again return to Real Madrid only to spend another season mostly on the bench.
James finally left Real Madrid after a forgettable 2019-20 season at the club and joined Everton to reunite with Carlo Ancelotti and he managed to have a decent season with the Toffees, scoring 6 and assisting 4 goals. he has since left them to join Al-Rayyan in Qatar which seems to signal that he is gone there to retire from football. James is the perfect example of an immensely talented player that was at the wrong club or maybe a right club at the wrong time. Despite him winning many things with Madrid, he was simply not appreciated well enough and eventually felt burnt out by the negative pressure that is on players in European football, which is truly a shame!
7. Kevin De Bruyne (Vfl Wolfsburg to Manchester City)
Ok so the first transfer amongst the most expensive midfielders of all time that is a genuine hit and is arguably a steal is the transfer of Kevin De Bruyne to Manchester City. The midfielder’s current value by the Transfermarkt is somewhere around €90 million and that is after years and years of performing excellently for the Cityzens. There is no denying that, KDB has been absolutely instrumental to Manchester City’s recent success as he has been their beating heart, their playmaker and all around leader who both creates chances as well as score them from time to time.
After being rejected by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, De Bruyne was adamant to prove his worth which ultimately led him to joinVfl Wolfsburg
. The Belgian stepped up his game and took Bundesliga by storm and it wasn’t long before Manchester City came looking for his signature. He agreed to join City and became one of the most expensive football players of all time for a fee of around €76 million, which judging by his performances seems like a total steal forMan City
Even though he had a great first season under Pellegrini, it wasn’t until the appointment of Guardiola as the manager of City that he became the player he is today. Under the tactics of Guardiola, De Bruyne has become the lynchpin of Manchester City’s midfield and has helped them win 3 Premier League titles, 5 League Cups, an FA Cup trophy as well as a Champions League runner-up place.
The Belgian maestro scored 13 goals and assisted 20 times during the 2019-20 season, equalingThierry Henry
’s record set in 2002-03 season, which earned him the Best Midfielder in Europe award in 2021 and despite his injuries he followed that season with another great one in 2020-21, proving time and time again that he is totally deserving of being one of the
most expensive Premier League transfers ever
6. Arthur Melo (Barcelona to Juventus)
The fact that the Brazilian Arthur is even amongst the most expensive midfielders of all time is quite shocking because for the most part no one seems to even remember that Arthur was once so highly rated to garner such a hefty transfer fee. But getting into his transfer is quite tricky since Arthur’s transfer to Juventus included a strange swap deal that saw Miralem Pjanic go the other way in a complex attempt to balance the Barcelona’s financial books by the club’s management. But let’s see what was it all about.
After impressing withGremio
in his homeland of Brazil and winning the Copa do Brasil as well as Copa Libertadores, then 22-year-old Arthur Melo joined Barcelona in the spring of 2018 for the price of €31m. he then went on to become an important player in Barcelona’s midfield adding a lot of creativity, something which was missing from their midfield line since the departure of Xavi and Iniesta.
Melo attracted a lot of interest from clubs abroad and in 2020 Barcelona’s then president, Bartameu, decided to sell the player toJuventus
while his value was high and to bring in Miralem Pjanic from Juventus to Barcelona.
However, the deal wasn’t a straight swap since Juventus ended up paying €76m for Arthur Melo and Barcelona €60 for Pjanic. Since the deal happened in 2020, neither players have seen a good day in their new clubs as this could be one of the worst swap deals that ever happened. Both players didn’t fit their new club’s style of play and weren’t favored by their managers and Arthur in particular has had to deal with long-term injuries as well, which is quite a shame since he was and is a quite talented player.
5. Zinedine Zidane (Juventus to Real Madrid)
The next person on our list needs no introduction as he is considered to be one of the greatest footballers of all time so it is of no surprise that his transfer from Juventus to Real Madrid still makes him one of the most expensive player in the world in 2021. In fact, Zidane was for the longest time the
most expensive player in the world
from 2001 till 2009 long after he was retired from football. nowadays a lot of transfers are in the same bracket as that of Zidane but even back then no one could argue that Real Madrid paid too much for Zizou since they got the world’s best player and he delivered for Real Madrid on all levels.
One of the smartest football players ever,Zidane
has always chosen his footballing path with care, making sure that each of his steps is one that takes him closer to his targets, even in his managerial days. His breakthrough at Caen, his subsequent transfer to the more successfulBordeaux
which ultimately led to European Giants Juventus is a testament of his smart strategy. During his time at Juventus Zidane won the Ballon d’Or, FIFA Player of the Year award, the World Cup and the Euros with only one thing remaining on his bucket list to win: The Champions League.
While he got close to winning it with Juve it was never meant to be so the smartest choice was to go to the team that had won it most, Real Madrid. So after some lengthy negotiations, Juventus agreed to sell Zidane to Real Madrid for €77.5m which broke the world record and made Zidane the most expensive player in the world. He went on to become a part of Galacticos, delivering the Champions League title on his debut season with a spectacular volley that became one of the most beautiful goals the competition has ever seen.
Zinedine Zidane won a La Liga title and took his country to the World Cup final for the second time in 2006 before retiring a few months later. He then became the manager of Real Madrid in 2016, helping the club win 3 consecutive Champions League titles, being the first ever manager to do so, as well as two La Liga tirles. It is safe to say that Zinedine Zidane totally justified his mantle of being one of the most expensive midfielders of all time as there are simply no better midfielders than him in football history!
4. Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen to Chelsea)
It has been a year and a half since Kai Havertz transferred to Chelsea and became one of the most expensive football players ever. Even though the world was hit by Covid in 2020, Chelsea went out of its way to pay truckloads of money to Bayer Leverkusen to ensure they get their star, which just tells you how much they believed in his potential. This may be a huge boost to his confidence but it’s also a huge burden on his shoulders. The German hasn’t set the world afire since he signed on with the Blues but the signs of his greatness still shine through from time to time.
Considered to be one of thegreatest talents of his generation
, the 22-year-old Havertz had already plenty of top-tier experience before he joined Chelsea as 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 twoBundesliga
seasons that he truly shone, scoring 20 and 18 respectively in all competitions for Bayer Leverkusen.
This all made Chelsea amongst several clubs interested in Havertz and after weeks of negotiating, it wasChelsea
that was able to reduce the 120 million price tag a bit to 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. He has since appeared in 67 games, scoring 14 times for the Blues, helping them win the prestigious Champions League title by scoring in the final. If you ask any Chelsea fan, that goal alone would make his price tag as one of the most expensive football transfers in 2021 justified.
3. Frankie de Jong (Ajax to Barcelona)
Next up as one of the most expensive midfielders of all time is Barcelona’s Frankie de Jong who joined the Blaugrana from Ajax. His appearance on this list is not a surprise since de Jong was the subject of a bidding war between various wealthy European clubs. The Dutch playmaker established himself as one of Europe’s top talents by being a part of the Ajax team that reached Europa League final and Champions League semi-final in consecutive season. a team that had the likes of Hakim Zyiech and Mathijs de Ligt.
Due to his performances in those two seasons, de Jong was insanely praised and was even likened to the greatFranz Beckenbauer
or Barca legend Andres Iniesta, for his ability to progress the ball forward into the attack. Such praise is always bound to get into a young player’s head and it seems that it was also the case with de Jong since he has never been able to reach the heights he achieved at Ajax since he joined Barcelona in 2019.
The bidding war that involved financial heavyweights like PSG and Manchester City, resulted in Barcelona paying Ajax a fee that could rise up to €86 million for acquiring Frankie de Jong, which makes his transfer one of
most expensive football transfers in 2021
. He has since won a Copa del Rey with Barcelona but for the most part hasn’t really justified his price tag as well as his €21 million per-year salary which is why Barcelona are desperately looking to ship him to another club to somewhat recover from the financial mess they are in now since de Jong is still one of their most valuable players.
2. Paul Pogba (Juventus to Manchester United)
Paul Pogba has been the ever present factor in any Manchester United discussion in the past five 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. Pogba was to be the key in helping Manchester United win the Premier League again but more and more it seems like that his transfer has been a complete disaster both for United and Poba’s career.
Since the day Sir Alex Fergusen left the club, Manchester United has been spending crazy amount of money on both transfer fees and player wages 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 teamFrance
where he led them to Euro and World Cup finals and became a world champion. He rarely, if ever, shows that level of passion and performance in a Manchester United shirt.
Pogba is 28 and in the prime of his career and it seems likely that he will leave the club in the summer, once again for free as €105m move from Juventus to Manchester United didn’t pan out at all, at least the way the club wanted it to. 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 for now the heaviest title he bears at United is being one of the
most expensive midfielders of all time
1. Philip Coutinho (Liverpool to Barcelona)
The top spot amongst the
most expensive midfielders of all time
goes to Aston Villa’s new midfielder, Philippe Coutinho, whose transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona in the January of 2018 broke all kinds of records. The transfer was an oddity, not only because Barcelona seemingly overpaid, but also because Liverpool was a team on the rise with them playing in a Champions League final a few months prior as well as them later winning a Champions League and a Premier League, all of which Coutinho could have been a part of.
Nonetheless, Coutinho’s first 6 months at Barcelona came with a La Liga and Copa del Rey Double but in his second season there were growing criticism towards him, as fans thought that he didn’t push himself hard enough. Regardless he won his second La Liga title with the club but the club decided to offload him in the summer.
They ended up loaning to Bayern Munich for a year with an option to buy. And Coutinho, in a surprising turn of events, came back to Nou Camp to face Barcelona in the Champions League and embarrassing them by scoring 2 goals and providing an assist in what was an 8-2 victory for the Germans, he then went on to complete a Treble with Bayern Munich.
He then returned to Barcelona but didn’t fare any better under Ronald Koeman or even Xavi as they took on the managerial role at Barcelona, leading him to be loaned out to Aston Villa last week in an attempt to get his hefty wages off the bill. Whether it was his wages, his €145 million price tag or poor performances at Barcelona, there is no doubt that even with Coutinho still being one of the most expensive player in the world in 2021, his transfer to Barcelona was a complete and utter flop.
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