In 2013, Gareth Bale waited all summer to transfer from Tottenham to Real Madrid, while Cristiano Ronaldo made an astonishing move from England to Spain. Meanwhile, Neymar’s move to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 stunned the globe.
Spending that kind of money on a single player is a show of enormous faith, but it also comes with a responsibility as to whether the player will live up to the fans’ expectations. Other great players have crumbled under the weight of expectations, but many have lived up to their transfer costs. Here are the 50 most expensive football transfers of all time.
50. Kai Havertz
From: Bayer Leverkusen to Chelsea, 2020
Fee: €70m + €9m add-ons
Chelsea took advantage of the COVID-19 closure and pounced to sign German sensation Kai Havertz since they were among the few teams still in a strong financial position. Although his first season wasn’t the greatest, he did manage to score the game-winning goal in the Champions League final. After playing up front for a season, though, things never really got off the ground, and Havertz unexpectedly joined rivals Arsenal.
49. Victor Osimhen
From: Lille to Napoli, 2019
Fee: €70m + €10m add-ons
Many believe that Victor Osimhen is the next greatest African striker. He made a splash in 2019 when he joined Napoli after excelling in Ligue 1 with Lille. There, he has excelled, scoring often as I Partenopei keep hinting at a championship push.
48. Mykhailo Mudryk
From: Shakhtar Donetsk to Chelsea, 2023
Fee: €70m + €30m add-ons
Mykhailo Mudryk appeared to be heading to Premier League champions Arsenal at the start of the January transfer window in 2023. The Ukrainian had hinted at his presence on social media, while Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta smiled when questioned about Mudryk during a news conference, and the transaction was reportedly close to be finalised.
But Mudryk was signed in a flash in a deal valued initially at €70 million and maybe as much as €100 million, thanks to Todd Boehly and his massive Chelsea bank account.
From: Real Madrid to Manchester United, 2022
Fee: €71m + €11.8m add-ons
Some thought that it was a high price to pay for Casemiro, who has never been especially fast on the pitch. World-class defensive midfielder Casemiro, one of the most successful players of the modern era, moved from Real Madrid to Manchester United in the summer of 2022 for a little over €70 million. You get the impression that United’s midfield is secure for many years to come when you combine it with an amazing work ethic, superb passing skills, and an unexpected eye for goal.
46. Kai Havertz, 2nd Transfer Record
From: Chelsea to Arsenal, 2023
Fee: €72m + €3.5m in add-ons
After an exciting three years at Chelsea, it was somewhat of a surprise when Arsenal offered to pay €72 million to bring Kai Havertz to North London. When Mikel Arteta arrived and remarked, “He has excellent versatility and is an intelligent player,” it was a true leap of confidence on the part of the manager. He will greatly increase the strength and diversity of our play in our middle.
From: Barcelona to Juventus, 2020
Fee: €72m + €10m add-ons
When Juventus was allowed to trade an ageing Miralem Pjanic to Barcelona in return for Brazilian Arthur in a move that, although not strictly a swap, was nevertheless a transaction, they couldn’t believe their luck. Even with the best agreement in place possible, Juventus was unable to bring out the best in the Brazilian, to the point where in 2022 they loaned him to Liverpool in a desperate attempt to find midfield backup.
From: Roma to Liverpool, 2018
Due to Loris Karius’ awful performance in the 2018 Champions League final, Jurgen Klopp was compelled to swallow his pride and sign Alisson in the transfer window. Alisson swiftly cemented Liverpool’s defence together, excelling on route to higher league matches and Premier League victory, so it was money well spent.
43. Angel Di Maria
From: Real Madrid to Man Utd, 2014
It appeared as though Manchester United had finally found the man they were looking for when they broke their transfer record to sign the Argentine a few months later. Di Maria had been voted Man of the Match in the Champions League final when Real Madrid eventually won La Decima in 2014. Unfortunately, Di Maria’s form declined as a result of his inability to adjust to playing and living in England, and a year later, he was transferred over to PSG.
42. Dusan Vlahovic
From: Fiorentina to Juventus, 2022
Federico Bernardeschi, Federico Chiesa, and Juan Cuadrado are a few players who have recently made the transition from purple to black and white, but Vlahovic was the most recent, joining Juventus for a transfer fee of €75 million. Juventus is disliked by Fiorentina supporters mostly because their team often trades its top players to the big Italian teams. Vlahovic’s scoring exploits at I Viola were amazing, and he’s been off to a great start at Juventus as well.
41. Frenkie De Jong
From: Ajax to Barcelona, 2019
The transfer story surrounding Frenkie de Jong ultimately concluded in January 2019 when the Dutch midfielder decided to sign with Barcelona at the end of the season, capping months of speculation. After a dispute over pay and bonuses, De Jong appears to have ended the romance that was supposed to last ten years as Barca’s midfield tyrant.
40. Kevin De Bruyne
From: Wolfsburg to Man City, 2015
Ever since coming back to England in 2015, the Belgian maestro has been one of the greatest players in the world, and he has made Manchester City one of the most formidable teams in the league. Kevin De Bruyne returned to England under Manuel Pellegrini’s leadership, who paid a high price to recruit the Wolfsburg-born Belgian two years after Jose Mourinho deemed him unfit for a top spot in the Premier League.
39. Matthijs de Ligt
From: Ajax to Juventus, 2019
Fee: €75m + €10.5m add-ons
It was only six months after Matthijs de Ligt’s teammate De Jong announced his sensational departure from Ajax that the player created headlines of his own when he agreed to a possible €85 million transfer to Juventus. Gliding into the ideal environment to further his football career, De Ligt appeared to be picking up tips from Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
38. Darwin Nunez
From: Benfica to Liverpool, 2022
Fee: €75m + €25m add-ons
Although Liverpool hasn’t traditionally spent a ton of money on one player, they defied the pattern in 2022 when they signed Benfica sensation Darwin Nunez. In addition to having 34 club goals in all competitions at the end of the season, the Uruguayan made an impression on the Reds in Champions League matches in 2021–2022. Nunez’s debut season at Anfield wasn’t filled with goals, but time is definitely on his side.
37. Zinedine Zidane
From: Juventus to Real Madrid, 2001
Although the Spanish team felt a bit short-changed when he withdrew from playing after just five years at the club, that volley against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 Champions League final was nearly worth the full €77.5m in fees paid by Real for Zidane. He maintained a close relationship with Los Blancos and went on to lead the team twice successfully; the most recent of these stints ended in 2021.
36. Alvaro Morata
From: Real Madrid to Chelsea, 2017
When Antonio Conte selected Alvaro Morata over Diego Costa in the summer of 2017, that was the beginning of the end for Chelsea. Morata has never scored more than 15 goals in a league season, while Costa had only managed 20 goals to help Chelsea win the Premier League in 2016–17. Morata had a strong start to the season, but after just 18 months, his play deteriorated, and he was loaned out to Atletico Madrid. In 72 games with the Blues, he scored just 24 goals.
35. Nicolas Pepe
From: Lille to Arsenal, 2019
In 2019, Arsenal’s deficiency in transfer finances was ridiculed, until the team announced that they would spend €79 million for Nicolas Pepe, one of the most sought-after players. Sadly, the Ivorian was loaned back to Ligue 1 in 2022–2023 due to his, to put it mildly, inconsistent play.
34. Romelu Lukaku
From: Man Utd to Inter, 2019
After the 2018–19 season, Romelu Lukaku, who had just spent two seasons at Old Trafford, was having trouble making an impression on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad. This made him start to press for a way out. Inter signed him for €80 million, and the Serie A team soon discovered that his decline in performance in England was caused by an undetected stomach problem.
As soon as it was resolved, Lukaku resumed his career as one of the greatest strikers in the world, winning the Serie A championship in 2020–21. He returned to the club on loan only a season after leaving for Chelsea.
33. Lucas Hernandez
From: Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich, 2019
Following his impressive performance at the 2018 World Cup, Lucas Hernandez demonstrated his superiority as a defender over the following season, leading Bayern Munich to pay a whooping €80 million to sign him. Lucas’s injuries have kept him from reaching that level of performance in Germany, and it’s still unclear if this was a wise move overall.
32. Kepa Arrizabalaga
From: Athletic Club to Chelsea, 2018
In 2018, Chelsea’s desperate attempt to sign Thibaut Courtois resulted in Kepa Arrizabalaga’s exorbitant release clause being activated. Kepa’s form quickly collapsed after a strong initial season, even after Kepa broke the record and became the most expensive goalkeeper. Following some historically low numbers, Edouard Mendy benched the world’s most expensive goalkeeper in the Champions League and Premier League in 2020.
31. James Rodriguez
From: Monaco to Real Madrid, 2014
James Rodriguez reached the Santiago Bernabeu by riding the 2014 World Cup wave. Although Rodriguez was dominant in his first season, he was later plagued by injuries and lost his spot on the team. Before joining Everton in 2020, he was on loan at Bayern Munich for two years. He was stuck in football limbo after that, which didn’t go well.
30. Aurelien Tchouameni
From: Monaco to Real Madrid, 2022
Fee: €80m + €20m add-ons
On one particular day, Aurelien Tchouameni had to take the field in place of Real Madrid’s outstanding midfield trio of Casemiro, Toni Kroos, and Luka Modric. Leading international awards were won by the Frenchman during a breakthrough few years with Monaco, before his 2022 transfer to the Bernabeu. With so much potential and experience already under his belt, a six-year contract was signed, even though there was a lot of interest from other places.
29. Wesley Fofana
From: Leicester to Chelsea, 2022
Fee: €80.5m + €6m in add-ons
Wesley Fofana is one of Europe’s most promising young talents, and Chelsea’s notability for buying centre-backs finally paid off. He had quickly demonstrated his abilities at Leicester, despite a pair of devastating injuries that cut short his stay at the King Power. Chelsea had nonetheless seen enough to give up slightly more than €80 million to complete the transaction.
28. Luis Suarez
From: Liverpool to Barcelona, 2014
Luis Suarez would never have left Liverpool for any amount of money, but when the Catalans called in 2014, they were unable to prevent him from making his dream transfer to Barcelona. Suarez scored an incredible 195 goals in 283 games for Barcelona, who strangely decided he would be worthless in 2020–21 even though he had only managed 16 goals the season before. After being traded for pennies, he was sent to Atletico Madrid, where he went on to win the league title with 21 goals in 32 games.
27. Virgin Van Dijk
From: Southampton to Liverpool, 2018
Some people were sceptical and football news blew up when Liverpool smashed their record transfer fee, and defender Virgil van Dijk became the most expensive defensive player in football history in January 2018, but it quickly became apparent why they had done that. Van Dijk transformed Liverpool’s defence and led them to the Champions League final, and he went from strength to strength after that, winning both European and English titles soon after.
26. Jadon Sancho
From: Borussia Dortmund to Man Utd, 2021
In the summer of 2021, after much more than a year of searching, United eventually signed Jadon Sancho. If you overlook the circus that was this entire transfer story, things probably worked out okay for United. The €85.3 million sum was far cheaper than the €120 million asked by Dortmund 12 months previously.
From: Santos to Barcelona, 2013
After an inquiry into the sale, Barcelona realised that their first claim that Neymar was only worth €90 million was incorrect. The Brazilian turned out to be worth the €90 million the Blaugrana had paid to get him, more than repaying them in the end.
24. Harry Maguire
From: Leicester to Man Utd, 2019
Maguire broke the record and became the most expensive defender in history, and perhaps one of the most inconsistent performers in football history as well. Though the England star has received a lot of criticism, Harry Maguire has had difficult times at Old Trafford due to defensive instability and misfortune. At times, it may seem like he has done enough to persuade people of his skill.
23. Romelu Lukaku
From: Everton to Man Utd, 2017
Fee: €88m + €17.5m in add-ons
Once he joined United in 2017, Romelu Lukaku might consider himself unfortunate to have drawn this much criticism. Despite his impressive first-season average of almost one goal per game, he was criticised for his lack of mobility and for exclusively scoring against weaker teams. Lukaku’s first season was the most productive of his career up until 2019–20, with 27 goals across all competitions. He was eventually sold by United to Inter in the summer of 2019 since his form didn’t last.
22. Josko Gvardiol
From: RB Leipzig to Manchester City, 2023
Despite having to wait a long time to close in on a deal, Manchester City was able to sign Josko Gvardiol for a price that was somewhat less than the record for a defender because of fluctuations in foreign exchange rates. The Croat showed Pep Guardiola’s faith in his abilities and enormous skill when he made his first debut at the age of 21.
From: PSG to Al Hilal, 2023
When Romelu Lukaku’s tenure at Paris Saint-Germain ended in August 2023, Neymar overthrew him from his highest career transfer fees perch. After offering the Brazilian an enormous salary to join forces with players like Kalidou Koulibaly, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and Ruben Neves, Saudi Pro League team Al Hilal became the one to use his services.
20. Gonzalo Higuain
From: Napoli to Juventus, 2016
In pursuit of Gonzalo Higuain, Juventus attacked Serie A rivals Napoli in 2016 in an attempt to finally capture that elusive Champions League trophy. For a forward who scored 36 goals the season before, the most in Serie A since 1928–1929, it was a reasonable price. Despite scoring 40 goals in 73 league games before loan stints with Chelsea and AC Milan that resulted in his permanent departure in 2020, Higuain didn’t quite reach such heights in Turin.
19. Cristiano Ronaldo
From: Man Utd to Real Madrid, 2009
Although the transfer fee of €94 million makes it undoubtedly one of the most expensive current transfer records ever, it will be remembered as one of the best deals ever made. When he joined Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo was regarded as one of the greatest players in the world; when he left, he became the first player to have achieved legendary status, or so to say. Ronaldo won four Ballon d’Or awards, four Champions League championships, two MVP awards, and an astounding 450 goals in 438 games throughout his nine seasons at the Bernabeu.
From: Ajax to Man Utd, 2022
Fee: €95m + €5m add-ons
The Red Devils’ right flank position had long been problematic, as Jadon Sancho—who had been eyed for the position for almost two years—quickly established himself on the left upon his 2021 transfer. Negotiations took weeks and months, but Ten Hag soon determined that Antony—with whom he had worked at Ajax—was his top goal. In the end, a deal was reached in which United agreed to pay €95 million plus further add ons for the flashy Brazilian player.
17. Cristiano Ronaldo
From: Real Madrid to Juventus, 2018
Juventus was willing to shell out a lot of money to grab a piece of the Champions League action after they saw Real Madrid win three straight titles. At the expense of the squad, Ronaldo scored a ton of goals. The Portuguese icon returned to Manchester United in 2021 when a reconstruction in Turin was required. They discovered, however, that it’s not always as enjoyable to have Ronaldo in the lineup.
16. Harry Kane
From: Tottenham to Bayern Munich, 2023
Fee: €100m + €16m in add-ons
After more than a year of searching for a replacement for Robert Lewandowski, Munich became the new home of England’s captain. He scored in a decisive 4-0 victory over Werder Bremen in Bavaria right away. Many believed that Harry Kane would never, ever leave Tottenham. Those individuals were regrettably misled, as his extraordinary tenure in north London came to an end in August 2023.
15. Eden Hazard
From: Chelsea to Real Madrid, 2019
Fee: €100m + €45m add-ons
Instead of waiting another year to obtain Eden Hazard for free, Real Madrid decided to pay what may have been as much as €145 million for the Belgian winger. Unfortunately, Hazard was dogged by injuries from the start, making it impossible for him to reach the elite level of play that persuaded Madrid to acquire him. As a result, the deal will go down as one of the worst in history.
14. Gareth Bale
From: Tottenham to Real Madrid, 2013
Gareth Bale made appearances in several memorable moments and scored several incredible goals for Real Madrid, often in crucial finals. However, his tenure at the club ended quite badly as a result of injury issues and the media circus that surrounded him, making this one into a comedic sketch. In 2022, he departed to play Major League Soccer for LAFC.
13. Jude Bellingham
From: Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid, 2023
Fee: €103m + €31m in add-ons
Jude Bellingham was so successful and such an inspiration to others that Birmingham City retired the number 22 when he left for Borussia Dortmund at the age of 17. When Bellingham reached 20 three years later, he was prepared to advance to Real Madrid. In addition to paying a possible €30 million or more in add-ons, the 14-time European Cup and Champions League champion spent €103 million for the privilege at the time of his entrance.
12. Paul Pogba
From: Juventus to Man Utd, 2016
Fee: €105m + €5m in add-ons
Though he had a long and successful career, Sir Alex Ferguson may have made his worst error in 2012 when he let Paul Pogba leave United for free. Despite criticism of his attitude, Pogba seemed to be unaffected by it at Juventus, where he developed into one of the top midfield players in Serie A. United bought Pogba back to Old Trafford for a then-record amount, four years after allowing him to go. During a difficult period for the Red Devils, he was fantastic at times but never lived up to the hype.
11. Ousmane Dembele
From: Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona, 2017
Fee: €105m + €40m add-ons
In 2017, Barcelona made a risky move by paying more than €100 million to sign Ousmane Dembele from Dortmund. Even though the Frenchman had only played in one season in the Bundesliga, Barcelona scouts were confident that he had the potential to be among the top players in the world. Due to several injuries, things haven’t gone so smoothly overall. But in the second part of the 2021–2022 campaign, Dembele excelled and became a mainstay for Xavi; he also earned a spot in the France team that advanced to the World Cup final.
10. Romelu Lukaku
From: Inter to Chelsea, 2021
Romelu Lukaku cost Chelsea an incredible €115 million to sign with them after they decided they could no longer afford to struggle without their star striker. He came back as one of the most lethal attackers in the league, but during his first season back at Stamford Bridge, rumours about him being unhappy in England and wishing to go back to Italy were widely circulated.
Chelsea paid €115 million for the Belgian, although he only scored 15 goals in 44 games in the 2021–2022 season. Since then, he has returned on loan to Inter.
9. Jack Grealish
From: Aston Villa to Manchester City, 2021
In order to add even more talent to an already incredible senior team, Manchester City spent a huge sum of money in the summer of 2021 to buy England cult icon and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish. Although he had a successful first season with the Cityzens, he has bigger and greater things coming. He also won the treble with City.
8. Declan Rice
From: Arsenal to West Ham, 2023
Fee: €117m + €6m in add-ons
Declan Rice and his proposed destination following his Conference League title with West Ham dominated the transfer headlines throughout the first two months of the 2023 summer transfer window.
There was a bidding battle between the 2022–2023 Premier League championship contenders Arsenal and City, as well as interest from Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Manchester City at one point. Rice became the most expensive British player in history as a result of the successful negotiation.
7. Moises Caicedo
From: Brighton to Chelsea, 2023
Fee: €117m + €17.5m in add-ons
After the Rice scandal, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Moises Caicedo engaged in a fierce transfer battle. Brighton determined the price of the Ecuadorian based on what Arsenal had paid for Rice because, understandably, they didn’t want to part with their valued asset.
Caicedo joined Chelsea in mid-August on an eight-year contract with an astonishing option for a ninth, despite Liverpool making a British record transfer offer.
6. Antoine Griezmann
From: Atletico Madrid to Barcelona, 2019
Using a video from Gerard Pique’s firm, the Frenchman turned down Barcelona in 2018 but signed with the team a year later amid a tapping-up controversy that prompted Atletico to file a formal complaint.
5. Philippe Coutinho
From: Liverpool to Barcelona, 2018
Fee: €120m + €40m add-ons
After leaving Liverpool in January 2018, Philippe Coutinho moved to Barcelona in pursuit of recognition and awards. He succeeded in his goal of winning two straight league titles. He was only able to watch, though, as his old team Liverpool won the major one in 2019 by defeating Coutinho’s Barcelona on the way to the Champions League championship game.
It has been difficult for Coutinho. To the extent, that you would have to have a good argument to call this one of the worst transfers ever made. Liverpool is said to have received an initial payment of €120 million from Barcelona, with more payments to follow after the team qualified for the Champions League, won the competition, and made a certain number of appearances.
4. Enzo Fernandez
From: Benfica to Chelsea, 2023
After signing a €121 million contract with the Blues in January 2023, Enzo Fernandez became one of the numerous faces of Todd Boehly’s Chelsea transformation. After some initial talks, Chelsea returned at the end of January to push the transaction through. The midfielder had recently won the World Cup in Qatar with Argentina, which had increased his value at his previous club, Benfica. Fernandez has a lot of convincing to do since they’ve spent more than they should have for his potential.
3. Joao Felix
From: Benfica to Atletico Madrid, 2019
Despite being courted by nearly all of Europe’s best clubs in the months before the move became official, Joao Felix—one of the most intriguing talents in the world—sealed a move to Atletico in 2019.
Felix made a big impression at Benfica, and Atletico Madrid was so impressed with him that they paid his whole €126 million release clause to replace departing player Antoine Griezmann.
2. Kylian Mbappe
From: Monaco to PSG, 2018
Fee: €145m + €35m add-ons
Nobody can argue against Kylian Mbappe’s status as the world’s most formidable striker. Having already won one World Cup and being awarded the Golden Boot in another, the Frenchman is among the most well-known players in the league. With Mbappe’s potential to leave for Real Madrid, PSG paid a high price for him in 2018 expecting that he would be a great player.
From: Barcelona to PSG, 2017
Even if a record stood for a world record fee paid, or if there were expensive players, the world transfer record wasn’t so much broken as it was destroyed by Neymar’s 2017 transfer from Barcelona to PSG. With a £198 million cost, more than double the previous record held by Paul Pogba, he became the first player to fetch a nine-figure payment.