It is time to take a look at some of the most expensive defenders of all time and find out who they are:
The role of defenders has drastically changed over the decades. In fact, the role of each individual position in defense seems to constantly change every year as managers and tacticians come up with new tactics and strategies to defend or attack. This has resulted in demand for world-class defenders becoming increasingly higher and with that demand usually comes an increased price-tag. The transfer records, especially for defenders who for the longest time were cheaper compared to attackers, are being broken literally every transfer window, to the point that most of the transfers in this list have happened in the past few seasons.
Obviously, the Premier League leads the race when it comes to transfers as the competition, the income and the demand from clubs are a lot higher there compared to their rival leagues. This has resulted in 7 of the 10 transfers of
most expensive defenders of all time
happening in the Premier League. So, let’s take a closer look at these transfers and the numbers and situations associated with them below:
Strangely enough, almost half of the list of top 10 most expensive defenders in the world is comprised of Manchester City player which shows how much of an emphasis Guardiola has put on strengthening their defense. So, let’s see who are the rest of these players?!
Let’s kick of the list of
most expensive defender in 2022
with an English international, John Stones, who is by far the most decorated player on this list. A product of Barnsley youth academy, John Stones made his professional debut for them in 2012 and after a season with them, ended up transferring toEverton
on January of 2013 in a deal worth £3 million, an investment that paid in droves for Everton. Having been a part of England set-up since 2014, the 27-year-old Stones has already 55 caps to his name and is currently the best English defender.
As a defender, John Stones is the very image of a modern ball playing center back. Stones’ technical capabilities as well as his passing accuracy and range coupled with his composure on the ball make him the perfect center back to play for Pep Guardiola. Although he has been prone to making errors, his development and progress under Guardiola is apparent and he has gotten better season after season. He has been compared to great modern center backs like Gerrard Pique or Rio Ferdinand but Stones has a long way to reach those legends.
Stones’ time at Everton made him one of the most wanted defenders around Europe and he decided to joinManchester City
in 2016 for the price of €55.6m on a six-year contract which at the time made Stones the most expensive defenders of all time.
Ever since then he has helped Manchester City win 3 Premier League titles, 3 League Cups, an FA Cup and 2 Community Shields along with reaching the Champions League last season, which City lost toChelsea
. Stones, alongside a couple of players on this list, were named in last season’s Premier League Team of the Season which shows he has only gotten better since joining City.
Arsenal has been on a roller coaster in the last five years and Arteta’s time as Arsenal’s manager hasn’t been any different. The Spanish tacticians seemed to clash with high-profile players a lot and his team didn’t seem to have any distinct style of its own. But that all changed when this summer’s transfer window came around and perhaps the most important signing of Arteta’s era at Arsenal was the signing of Benjamin White fromBrighton
, a ball playing center back that would help Arteta implement his ideas and tactics a lot better.
A product of Brighton’s academy, Benjamin White didn’t get a lot of game time at Brighton following his debut for the club in 2016. Loans at Newport County and Peterborough United would follow for him to gain match experience but it wasn’t until he joined Leeds United, who at the time were in the Championship, that White started showing his true potential.
At Leeds and under the tutelage of Marcelo Bielsa, White became integral to the Argentine manager’s attacking style of play, where White would often venture into the midfield with the ball at his feet, dribbling past players to open up the space for the attackers in front. A quality that has entirely changed Arsenal’s stagnant midfield since White’s arrival in the summer of 2021.
didn’t exactly go wrong in any of their dealings this season, but it was clear from even before the last season ended that their number one priority to sign was Benjamin White. So, the Gunners didn’t spare any expenses as they paid Brighton the hefty sum of €58.5m to make White the most expensive defender in 2022. White has in turn played brilliantly this season and could go one to become a pillar of Arsenal’s success in the years to come.
The second Manchester City player to appear on our list of
top 10 most expensive defenders in the world
is the French/Spanish Aymeric Laporte who has been having a good time of it lately at Manchester City. A product ofAthletic Bilbao
’s youth academy, being only the 2nd player in the club’s history to be born in the areas of Basque country that is inFrance
, Laporte gained prominence after he made his debut for Bilbao in 2012.
Like almost all players at Guardiola’s Manchester City, Aymeric Laporte is adept at carrying the ball and taking part in the build-up play. He is quick to close down attackers but is also known to make an error or two here or there. What sets him apart from most defenders is his ability to score goals, mostly on set pieces as he is an aerial threat, which has resulted in him averaging a goal every 10 games in his Manchester City career, which are acceptable numbers from a defender.
However, Aymeric Laporte’s services didn’t come cheap at all as Manchester City had to pay a fee in the region of €65m to Athletic Bilbao in order to acquire his services. Sicne joining Manchester City though, Laporte has had quite a few successful partnerships with John Stones and Ruben Dias, helping the Cityzens win 3 Premier League titles, 3 League Cups, an FA Cup and 2 Community Shield all the while proving why he is one of the most expensive defenders of all time.
Whether you play him as a Left back, right back, a winger or a midfielder, it seems that Joao Cancelo is able to outperform any opponent that is in front of him recently. The Portuguese fullback has simply been outstanding ever since he joined Manchester City which made him one of the most expensive defenders of all time.
Despite him being 27, Joao Cancelo has already played for several big clubs starting with Benfica where he trained as a youth before making his senior debut in 2014. He then joined Valencia where he spent several seasons before joining the two Italian Giants, Inter Milan and Juventus in quick succession spending a season at each club. but it wasn’t until he joined Manchester City that he proved himself as one of the best in his position.
In Guardiola’s ever-flowing Manchester City side, Cancelo has already played various roles as a full back. He has played as an overlapping wing back and now as more of an underlapping full back who joins the midfield to use his considerable amount of technique and creativity to Manchester City’s attack, becoming one of the main playmakers of Manchester City, in a team that is full of creative players.
After spending a season on loan atInter Milan
acquired his services fromValencia
for the price of €40.4 million. Cancelo helped them win the Serie A in his solitary season at Turin and then joined Manchester City for the price of €65m immediately after. A price tag that made him one of the
most expensive defenders on transfermarkt
according to their report. Having helped them win the Premier League and League Cup already as well as being heavy favorites to win the league title again this year has proven that City was right to spend that much on him.
Achraf Hakimi is 23 years old and has already played for Real Madrid,Borussia Dortmund
, Inter Milan and Paris Saint Germain. Most players, even at the top level, would dream of playing for one of those teams during the entirety of their career, let alone 4 European giants, and Achraf Hakimi is just getting started. The Moroccan is so good that he could’ve signed for any team following his exploits at Borussia Dortmund and his time at Inter Milan proved that his time in the Bundesliga was no fluke and he is the real deal.
Born in Madrid to Moroccan parents, Achraf Hakimi joined Madrid’s youth setup at the age of 8. After successfully finding his place to the first team squad, Hakimi had to compete with the brilliant, 4-times Champions League winning right back, Dani Carvajal, for a place in Madrid’s starting 11 so he decided to join Dortmund on loan to gain more experience. His two seasons at Dortmund made him one of the most exciting young players in the world and upon his return to Madrid the club decided to sell him to Inter Milan for the price of €40m.
A right back, who usually plays as a wing back or even a right midfielder when his team has the possession of the ball, Achraf Hakimi is quite aggressively attack-minded. The Moroccan excels at forward runs and is often assisting goals or is himself scoring them, since he is quite good at long range efforts. His presence at Inter entirely changed their game and they ended up breaking a decade curse and finally won the Serie A last season.
But his time at Inter would be brief as he, alongsideRomelu Lukaku
, who were two of Inter Milan’s most important figures in winning the Serie A were sold last summer. In Hakimi’s case, he transferred to PSG for the price of €66.5m to not only become one of the
most expensive defenders of all time
but also play alongside the likes of Messi, Mbappe and Neymar. So far he as adapted perfectly and is enjoying a great partnership with Mbappe in particular.
The last Manchester City defender to appear on our list of most expensive defenders of all time is perhaps the club’s best defender, Ruben Dias who proved himself right out of the gate by winning the 2020-21Premier League Player of the Season
in his debut season for Manchester City. The Portuguese center back is simply one of the best if not the best center back in business right now and totally deserves all the acclaim he has gotten over the last few months. Manchester City is simply more intact and organized while Dias is in their side and that is exactly what Guardiola was looking for when he brought him in.
A reasonably tall defender whose good physique make him very tough to play against in one on one situations, Ruben Dias has the most important quality that Guardiola looks for in a player and that is his passing. A calm distributor of the ball, Ruben Dias is usually the start of Manchester City’s attacks as his passes tend to often cut through the lines and put city on the offensive. But perhaps it is his consistency that is his most important quality. Manchester City’s high defensive line is just safer with him in their side.
Along his impressive defensive contributions, Ruben Dias also tends to chip in some goals and assists, having 2 goals and 3 assists to his name this season already which usually comes from set pieces and aerial attacks, and this just adds to Manchester City’s terrifying attacking force. There are simply few defenders on the level of Ruben Dias which makes him one of EPL’s best.
But acquiring his services certainly didn’t come cheap for Manchester City and it is hard to argue that City buying him fromBenfica
for the price of €68m wasn’t worth it, since the Portuguese center back has completely changed Man City’s fortunes in defense and seems to be that final piece of the puzzle for Guardiola when it comes to defending!
Next up is the only entry on the most expensive defenders of all-time list from a Bundesliga side and that is Bayern Munich’s Lucas Hernandez. The World Cup winner carries the 4th most expensive defender of all time but Lucas Hernandez seems more than capable of handling it. Hernandez arrived at Bayern Munich in the summer of 2019, coming fromAtletico Madrid
in a deal that became Bundesliga’s most expensive transfer ever, a record he still holds today. Hernandez came with huge expectations but his first season was somewhat of a disappointment for him personally, though not for Bayern as they won the Treble!
So, you would think that being a World Cup winner and one of the most expensive defenders of all time gives someone a right to play in any team regularly. But here is where Alphonso Davies comes in, as the Canadian youngster stole the spotlight from Hernandez and most of his team-mates and became the breakout star of Bayern’s Treble winning season, therefore limiting Hernandez’ playing time significantly as the two vied for the same left back position. Hernandez did not get to play all that much in his first season, although he did miss almost half the season because of various injuries.
Capable of playing as a left-back, wing back or even as a center back role, Lucas Hernandez is extremely well-balanced in terms of juggling both defense and offense, unlike Alphonso Davies who is severly attack-minded. Hernandez is simply a great full-back that has proven himself on club and international level.
This all seems to justify his €80 million price tag which brought him from his beloved Atletico Madrid toBayern Munich
in the summer of 2019 and made him one of the most expensive defenders on transfermarkt.
The transfer of van Dijk from Southampton to Liverpool is possibly one of the best transfers on this list, if not the best, in terms of the massive impact it had on Liverpool. Despite being one of the most expensive defenders of all time, the transfer 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 it countless times before, 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 thatSouthampton
demanded for the player, but as their defensive woes continued Liverpool were convinced that van Dijk is 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 at the time.
He immediately proved his worth as he galvanizedLiverpool
’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.
His transfer to Liverpool was really the turning point that made all of these happen. He even won the UEFA’s Player of the Year and finished runner up in both the Ballon d’Or and FIFA Player of the Year, further proving why he is one of the
most expensive defenders of all time
. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Virgil van Dijk was worth every penny Liverpool paid.
Next up on the top 10 most expensive defenders in the world is another Dutchman, Matthijs de Ligt, who plays for Juventus in Serie A, having joined the Turin side from Ajax back in 2019, after a lengthy bidding war involving several European giants was finally won by Juventus. The 22-year-old de Ligt was brought to rejuvenate Juve’s aging backline and replace the likes of Bonucci and Chiellini but that is no small task, even for a player as talented as de Ligt.
Matthijs de Ligt has every attribute for being a top-level center back. He is good in the air and with his feet and also he has a tactical and intelligent way of defending that isn’t so easily found in defenders nowadays. But above all he is a natural leader that led Ajax as their captain to the semi-finals of the Champions League when he was only 20 years old. Which makes Juve’s fans really hopeful as they seem to have a real gem on their hands with de Ligt.
De Ligt’s transfer to Juventus, which puts him high amongst the most expensive defenders of all time, cost the Italian club a staggering amount of €85.5 million. The extremely high fee may be the result of that the bidding war that we talked about, but as was the case with someone like van Dijk, Juventus will be hoping to get their money’s worth in de Ligt’s performances over the years, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
The title of the least impressive defender on this list goes to none other than Manchester United’s captain, Harry Maguire, who is bafflingly the most expensive defender in history. The 28-year-old has been subject to many discussions and unfortunately some abuse from United fans since he joined the club in 2019, due to his overall poor performances in recent seasons.
A product of Sheffield United youth academy, Maguire 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 became a commanding center back, just the sort that a club like United was looking for. Manchester United finally got him as they paid Leicester City an eye-watering amount of €87 million, which made Maguire the most expensive defender ever, breaking Virgil van Dijk’s record.
But this record has perhaps been of the biggest factors in his downfall as pressure have been immense on him since he got to Old Trafford. The fact that he was made captain has doubled that expectation and pressure and his woeful performances has let to him not having the best time at United. although he has been good or even great at times in a United shirt, Maguire seems to lack 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 but even with Varane at his side, Maguire hasn’t been that excellent. Nonetheless, Manchester United always seemed reckless in how they spent their money, perhaps this transfer makes them think twice before spending such an high amount on a player that was hardly world-class before they signed him!
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