Most Expensive Football Transfers Of All Time
Increased revenues from sponsorship and broadcast deals have sent transfer fees through the roof in recent years.
Quite how long the financial gravy train will last is anyone’s guess, but it is showing little sign of slowing down at the moment.
Every passing transfer window provides several eye-watering moves by clubs desperate to boost their chances of winning silverware.
With that in mind, we look at the 50 most expensive transfers of all time and some of the big stories from those moves.
The 50 most expensive football transfers of all-time
1. Neymar (Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2017) – €222m
2. Kylian Mbappe (Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain, 2017) – €180m
3. Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona, 2017) – €140m
4. Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool to Barcelona, 2018) – €135m
5. Joao Felix (Benfica to Atletico Madrid, 2019) – €127.2m
6. Enzo Fernandez (Benfica to Chelsea, 2023) – €121m
7. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid to Barcelona, 2019) – €120m
8. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa to Manchester City, 2021) – €117.5m
9. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid to Juventus, 2018) – €117m
10. Eden Hazard (Chelsea to Real Madrid, 2019) – €115m
11. Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan to Chelsea, 2021) – €113m
12. Paul Pogba (Juventus to Manchester United, 2016) – €105m
13. Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid, 2013) – €101m
14. Antony (Ajax to Manchester United, 2022) – €95m
15. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United to Real Madrid, 2009) – €94m
16. Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli to Juventus, 2016) – €90m
17. Neymar (Santos to Barcelona, 2013) – €88m
18. Harry Maguire (Leicester City to Manchester United, 2019) – €87m
19. Frenkie de Jong (Ajax to Barcelona, 2019) – €86m
20. Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax to Juventus, 2019) – €85.5m
21. Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United, 2021) – €85m
22. Romelu Lukaku (Everton to Manchester Utd, 2017) – €84.7m
23. Virgil van Dijk (Southampton to Liverpool, 2018) – €84.65m
24. Luis Suarez (Liverpool to Barcelona, 2014) – €81.72m
25. Dusan Vlahovic (Fiorentina to Juventus, 2022) – €81.6m
26. Wesley Fofana (Leicester City to Chelsea, 2022) – €80.4m
=27. Aurelien Tchouameni (Monaco to Real Madrid) – €80m
=27. Darwin Nunez (Benfica to Liverpool) – €80m
=27. Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen to Chelsea, 2020) – €80m
=27. Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich, 2019) – €80m
=27. Nicolas Pepe (Lille to Arsenal, 2019) – €80m
=27. Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao to Chelsea, 2018) – €80m
33. Zinedine Zidane (Juventus to Real Madrid, 2001) – €77.5m
=34. Arthur Melo (Barcelona to Juventus, 2020) – €76m
=34. Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg to Manchester City, 2015) – €76m
=36. Victor Osimhen (Lille to Napoli, 2020) – €75m
=36. James Rodriguez (Monaco to Real Madrid, 2014) – €75m
=36. Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid to Manchester United, 2014) – €75m
39. Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United to Inter Milan, 2019) – €74m
40. Thomas Lemar (Monaco to Atletico Madrid, 2018) – €72m
41. Ruben Dias (Benfica to Manchester City, 2020) – €71.6m
42. Casemiro (Real Madrid to Manchester United, 2022) – €70.65m
=43. Mykhaylo Mudryk (Shakhtar Donetsk to Chelsea, 2023) – €70m
=43. Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad to Newcastle United, 2022) €70m
45. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter Milan to Barcelona, 2009) – €69.5m
46. Achraf Hakimi (Inter Milan to Paris Saint-Germain, 2021) – €68m
47. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City to Manchester City, 2018) – €67.8m
48. Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus to Bayern Munich, 2022) – €67m
49. Kaka (AC Milan to Real Madrid, 2009) – €67m
50. Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid to Chelsea, 2017) – €66m
The biggest football transfer fees in history
Paris Saint-Germain’s massive wealth has allowed them to shell out the two biggest transfer fees in football history.
They spent a combined €402m to sign Neymar from Barcelona and Kylian Mbappe from Monaco in 2017.
However, you would be hard-pushed to argue that PSG have got value for money given the pair were signed to help the club win the Champions League.
Neymar is likely to remain at the top of the pile for the foreseeable future after more than doubling the previous transfer fee record.
That honour was previously held by Paul Pogba for his move from Juventus to Manchester United in 2016.
Other holders of the record this century include Gareth Bale (2013), Cristiano Ronaldo (2009), Kaka (2009), Zinedine Zidane (2001), Luis Figo (2000) and Hernan Crespo (2000).
The most expensive goalkeeper of all-time
Delving deeper into the list of most expensive transfer fees of all-time highlights that splashing the cash does not always equate to success.
That is certainly the case where Chelsea’s acquisition of Kepa Arrizabalaga is concerned, with the goalkeeper failing to live up to his lofty price tag.
A series of high-profile errors meant that within two years Chelsea had signed Edouard Mendy to replace him as their number one.
However, previous record holder Alisson has undoubtedly been a superb buy for Liverpool, helping the club win the Champions League and Premier League in successive seasons.
The most expensive defender of all-time
Manchester United’s decision to splash the cash on Harry Maguire in 2019 smacked of desperation, and it is safe to say the move has not worked out.
The ex-Leicester City defender has not been helped by comparisons with former record holder Virgil van Dijk, who has been a fantastic buy for Liverpool.
The Netherlands international’s arrival has transformed Liverpool’s fortunes, while United have been left trailing in their wake.
Maguire has struggled for consistency with the Red Devils and his fortunes did not improve when Erik ten Hag was appointed as the club’s manager.
The most expensive midfielder of all-time
The trend of big fees weighing heavily on some players continues in the midfield category, with Philippe Coutinho failing to shine after joining Barcelona in 2018.
Coutinho became the most expensive January signing during that transfer window after pushing hard to secure his exit from Liverpool.
The Brazilian was viewed as the natural successor to Neymar, but the move did not work out as Coutinho failed to live up to expectations.
He has since had spells at Bayern Munich and Aston Villa but has been unable to hit the same heights he reached with Liverpool.
The most expensive forward of all-time
As mentioned earlier, Neymar’s move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 makes him the most expensive player of all time ahead of Mbappe.
Ousmane Dembele is third on the list of forwards following his big-money transfer from Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona in 2017.
This is another move that has failed to pay dividends, with injuries and attitude problems making Dembele another questionable purchase.
Joao Felix’s move from Benfica to Atletico Madrid puts him fourth on the forwards’ list, and he also found it tough to live up to his price tag.
The most expensive teenager of all-time
Mbappe became the most expensive teenage transfer ever when he joined PSG, smashing the previous record held by Anthony Martial when he joined Man United from Monaco in 2015.
While Champions League glory has eluded Mbappe, he has largely enhanced his reputation since leaving Monaco to join PSG.
He has scored goals at a phenomenal rate for PSG and played a key role in France’s success at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Three goals against Barcelona in the 2020/21 Champions League and excellent performances at the 2022 World Cup cemented his status as a global superstar.
The most expensive English player of all-time
Grealish overtook Maguire as the most expensive Englishman in history when he joined Man City from Villa in 2021.
He also overtook Gareth Bale as the biggest British transfer ever, eclipsing the Welshman’s transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid in 2013.
However, things have not gone to plan for Grealish, with the playmaker failing to adapt to Pep Guardiola’s style of play.
Despite his struggles, Grealish has won silverware with City – something he would never likely have achieved with Villa.
Arsenal’s most expensive signings
Barcelona’s most expensive signings
Bayern Munich’s most expensive signings
Chelsea’s most expensive signings
Liverpool’s most expensive signings
Man City’s most expensive signings
Man United’s most expensive signings
Paris Saint-Germain’s most expensive signings
Real Madrid’s most expensive signings
Tottenham Hotspur’s most expensive signings
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