The Biggest Football Transfers Ever: From The Big-Money Moves To The Money-Wasting Flops

£198M – Neymar, 29 – PSG (Barcelona)

Modern soccer may have been invented in rainy England, but it was in sunny Brazil that it transformed into an art form. From the great Pelé to the skillful Ronaldinho, Brazil is accustomed to producing the world’s most creative and talented players, and Neymar certainly fits the part.

After making his debut at the age of 17, playing for Santos, Neymar made a big-money move to Barcelona, where he shared the protagonism with Lionel Messi. But the Brazilian wanted to be the main star, so he agreed on a record £198-million move to PSG, the perennial French Ligue 1 champions. In four years, he scored 87 goals for the club.


£154M – Kylian Mbappé, 22 – PSG (AS Monaco)

The French whiz and World Cup winner Kylian Mbappé has been around for so long that it’s hard to believe he’s only 22! He made an impression as a teenager, playing for an ambitious AS Monaco side that reached the semis of the Champions League and managed to beat the rivals of PSG to land a surprising Ligue 1 title in the 2016/17 season.


The unexpected success came at a cost for AS Monaco, as the club was forced to sell most of their superstar players. Headlining the list was, of course, the furiously fast Mbappé, who joined the millionaires of PSG for a fee of roughly £154 million.

£137M – Philippe Coutinho, 29 – Barcelona (Liverpool FC)

After making a couple of brilliant seasons playing for Liverpool FC, the Brazilian attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho became the world’s second-most-expensive soccer player ever (at the time) when he completed a £137-million transfer move to Barcelona.


He was supposed to make a big impact in Catalunya. Still, he ended up struggling due to a series of injuries and ended up being loaned to Bayern Munich before making an unimpressive return to Barcelona. To this day, the 29-year-old Brazilian international’s still not been able to reprise his Anfield success, but all English soccer fans know just how talented and skillful he is.

£97M – João Félix, 21 – Atlético Madrid (Benfica)

The Portuguese side Benfica has made a habit of selling young players for astronomical fees. Still, nobody in the world of soccer was expecting Atlético Madrid to pay roughly £97 million for the young forward João Félix right after his first senior season.


Atlético Madrid’s bet on Félix was as risky as it gets, but there’s no doubt this young Portuguese superstar is one for the future. He still has to work hard to become the marquee player Diego Simeone wants him to be, but he’s already scored 19 goals during his first two seasons in La Liga.

£103M – Antoine Griezmann, 30 – Barcelona (Atlético Madrid)

The French World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann is not the world’s most flamboyant player. However, this often-discreet striker is a goal machine and one of the smartest center-forwards who has ever graced the game. After years of being Atlético Madrid’s superstar player, Griezmann agreed on a big-money move to the Spanish rivals of Barcelona, who bought him for roughly £103 million.


Even though he’s scored 35 goals in his first two seasons at Catalunya, Barcelona fans expected much more from this La Liga legend. Now that Lionel Messi’s out of the picture, maybe it’s time for Griezmann to finally show his real value at his new club.

£100M – Jack Grealish, 25 – Manchester City (Aston Villa)

If you were born in Birmingham and you don’t know who Jack Grealish is, can you really call yourself a local? This genius English midfielder developed his game at home, playing and captioning his beloved childhood club Aston Villa. However, after an impressive performance at the 2020 Euro, Grealish became an all-around English icon and got himself a dreamy move to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.


Transferred in the summer of 2021, Grealish is still getting accustomed to his new teammates and Guardiola’s style of play. But this Birmingham lad is so good that there’s no doubt he’ll be making that £100 million look like change anytime soon.

£97.5M – Romelu Lukaku, 28 – Chelsea (Inter Milan)

Lead by the German coach Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea already had a powerful, Champions League-winning side. But this summer, the London Blues splashed £97.5 million to get themselves the final piece of their puzzle: a superstar striker. Making a comeback to Chelsea after a forgettable first spell, the Belgian goalscorer Romelu Lukaku signed a £212K-per-week deal and already scored on his debut!


Far from being a transfer-market rookie, this is not the first time Lukaku’s been at the center of a big-money move. This time, though, it looks like he’s come to stay, joining the club who first signed him when he was a youngster playing for the Belgian side Anderlecht.

£76M – Ousmane Dembélé, 24 – Barcelona (Dortmund)

At the end of the 2016/17 season, was there a more promising winger in the world than Ousmane Dembélé? Playing for the German side Dortmund, the French prodigy scored ten goals and landed 20 assists in a single season! His pace, skill, and creativity got him a transfer move to Barcelona, with the Catalunya side paying £76 million for his services.


While at Barcelona, Dembélé became a World Cup winner and scored over 25 goals. Still, his time in Spain has been marked by many inconsistent performances and many unlucky injuries. Only 24, he’s still got more than enough time to get back to his A-game.

£89.3M – Paul Pogba, 28 – Manchester United (Juventus)

Another French World Cup winner to make it to the list, Paul Pogba, is a midfielder unlike any other and one of the great characters of the world of soccer. A superstar in and off the pitch, Pogba is known for his extremely precise long-range passes, for his impressive assist stats, and for spotting the plays others would simply miss.


Starting his sixth season at Manchester United, Pogba was signed from the Italian side Juventus at the start of the 2016/17 season. The transfer fee doesn’t look like much in this day and age, but it made for a mind-blowing fee at the time: £89.3 million!

£103.5M – Eden Hazard, 30 – Real Madrid (Chelsea)

When the Belgian superstar Eden Hazard left Chelsea in 2018/19, he was probably one of the world’s best attacking midfielders. But a series of injuries and a seeming lack of motivation ended up depriving soccer fans of watching the best Hazard ever since he signed a big-money deal with Spanish giants Real Madrid.


Hazard’s time in Spain has been majorly underwhelming, with the former Chelsea marquee player scoring only five goals in his first two seasons! Hired to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s successor at Madrid, the “Spanish” Hazard is still very far from the dazzling player who used to impress Premier League fans week-in and week-out.

£86M – Cristiano Ronaldo, 36 – Juventus (Real Madrid)

Since Cristiano Ronaldo recently left Juventus to make a surprising comeback to Manchester United, his transfer from Real Madrid to the Serie A may look like old news. But in 2018, the bombastic £86 million move away from Spain made major headlines, especially considering Ronaldo was a four-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid.


Often deemed to be soccer’s all-time greatest, Ronaldo is at the very least the world’s most popular athlete. He has over 308 million Instagram followers and a big, big influence outside the pitch: two hours after joining United in 2021, Ronaldo caused the club’s stock value to rocket by £212 million!

£77M – Gareth Bale, 32 – Real Madrid (Tottenham Hotspur)

A former Southampton youngster who played as a left-back, the Welsh superstar Gareth Bale was incredible as a Tottenham Hotspur winger, performing with unmatchable pace and effectiveness. He peaked in the 2012/13 season, scoring 26 goals and landing 11 assists, and his incredible form earned him a £77 million move to Real Madrid.


At Madrid, Bale formed a dreamy attacking trio with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, winning four Champions League titles under coaches Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane. His game’s lost a big of its edge since, but Bale has recently made a return to Madrid after a one-year loan spell back at Tottenham.

£77M – Gonzalo Higuaín, 33 – Juventus (Napoli)

Now 33, the Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuaín is one of the top superstars of the MLS, who’s currently playing for David Beckham’s side Inter Miami. But in 2016, the South-American goalscorer was at the center of one of those classical Seria A transfers involving rivals clubs and… lots of money!


After scoring 38 goals for title-contenders Napoli, Higuaín made a controversial £77-million move to Juventus, where he also managed to go over the 30-goal mark. His spell at Turin lasted for only two seasons, but he did get a Juventus comeback after spending one year on loan at Milan and Chelsea.

£80M – Harry Maguire, 28 – Manchester United (Leicester City)

Ten years ago, nobody could’ve imagined that a center-back could be worth an unbelievable £80 million. But while defenders don’t have the flair and charisma of their attacking counterparts, they play a pivotal role in the game and can make a real difference in a team’s success.


After proving to be a consistent performer for both England and Leicester City, Harry Maguire got himself a place in the Manchester United side. He was almost immediately picked up to become the team’s captain. He’s been an indispensable part of United’s starting eleven since.

£72.6M – Jadon Sancho, 21 – Manchester United (Dortmund)

The English winger Jadon Sancho started a new trend: young British soccer players who move away from the Premier League to get more opportunities and make a name for themselves. Sancho, a former Manchester City youngster, signed for the German side Dortmund to become a first-team player, and the risky bet has proven to be wise.


Even though he’s just 21 years old, Sancho has already become an important England squad player and is now getting accustomed to his new team, Manchester United. A fan-favorite, Sancho, cost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team an impressive £72.6 million.

£75M – Virgil van Dijk, 30 – Liverpool FC (Southampton)

Before winning the Champions League in 2018, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side looked like they were almost there. Only one thing was missing: a big defensive leader who managed to get them some clean sheets. Luckily, Klopp found the answer to all of Liverpool’s problems in Virgil van Dijk, a Dutch center-back who revolutionized Liverpool’s defensive game overnight.

Liverpool went from being a super-attacking side with some crucial defensive flaws to become a near-perfect team that hardly conceded a goal. The result? A historic Champions League win followed by an even more memorable Premier League victory, the first in roughly 30 years!

£65M – Luis Suárez, 34 – Barcelona (Liverpool FC)

It’s not easy to become a consistent top striker in the Premier League. But Liverpool’s Luis Suárez was so good during his final two years at Anfield that the fans still think of him dearly today. After scoring 61 goals in just two seasons, the Uruguayan superstar completed a £65-million move to Barcelona, where he made a dreadful attacking partnership with Lionel Messi and Neymar.


If you think his Liverpool numbers were good, what to say about his Spanish stats? In the 2015/16 season alone, he scored an unbelievable 59 goals in 53 games! Now 34, Suárez is currently playing for the Spanish champions Atlético Madrid.

£72M – Nicolas Pépé, 26 – Arsenal (Lille OSC)

In the “good old days” of Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, Arsenal was one of the Premier League’s top sides. Nowadays, they’re working hard to go back to their prime, but the task is proving to be harder (and lengthier) than most fans expected. The skillful Ivorian forward Nicolas Pépé was bought to become Arsenal’s new marquee player, but he’s still not quite there just yet…


The talent is there, but Pépé seems to struggle with the very same issues that have haunted Arsenal’s side in recent years: a lack of consistency and effectiveness.

£71M – Kepa Arrizabalaga, 26 – Chelsea (Athletic Bilbao)

As a modern soccer club that only uses local players, the basque side of Athletic Bilbao will only sell for a massive profit. The Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga makes a perfect example: in 2018, he became the world’s most expensive-ever goalkeeper after making a £71-million move to Chelsea.


You’d expect the world’s most expensive keeper to be number 1 in any team. Still, Kepa’s career at Chelsea was marked by one or two crass mistakes, a famous on-pitch misunderstanding (in which he refused to be substituted), and one season of watching the Senegalese signing Edouard Mendy shine in the club’s goal. As of 2021, Kepa’s been a £71-million bench-warmer…

£68.6M – Lucas Hernández, 25 – Bayern Munique (Atlético Madrid)

The son of a former French center-back and the older brother of the equally talented Theo Hernández, Lucas Hernández is one of soccer’s best left-backs and one of Bayern Munique’s riskiest, most expensive signings. At the age of 25, Hernández has already won three of soccer’s most reputable international titles: a World Cup, a Champions League, and a Europa League.


Add a La Liga title and a Bundesliga win to the mix, and you get why Bayern signed him for over £68 million. Besides being a reliable and versatile defensive player, Hernández is a natural winner who seems to be chased by success.

£70M – Kai Havertz, 22 – Chelsea (Bayer Leverkusen)

Before going to the Premier League, the German forward Kai Havertz was one of the top superstars of the Bundesliga, playing for the competitive side of Bayer Leverkusen. Fans loved when Chelsea signed him for £70 million, but his initial performances inspired a lot of criticism, as his stats were hardly impressive.


But soccer is a game made for the big moments. In the Champions League final, Havertz redeemed himself by scoring the goal that allowed Chelsea to beat rivals Manchester City and win soccer’s most prestigious club competition. Funnily enough, Havertz’s unforgettable goal in the final was his first-ever in the Champions League!

£46.6M – Zinedine Zidane, 49 – Real Madrid (Juventus)

There’s some subjectivity to soccer. But if you don’t think the French whiz Zinedine Zidane is one of the greatest athletes to have ever graced the game, you should probably go and watch some of his videos! Younger fans will recognize Zidane as the man who coached Real Madrid to win an unprecedented three consecutive Champions League titles. But in his days as a player, the Algerian-born French international was known for inventive passes, supernatural first-touch ability, and leadership capabilities.


In 2001, Zidane left Juventus to play for Real Madrid, becoming one of the symbols of the Galácticos era. He cost £46.6 million, a head-twisting fortune at the time.

£59.7M – Ángel Di María, 33 – Manchester United (Real Madrid)

To this day, it’s impossible to know why the talented Ángel Di María flopped during his short spell at Manchester United. The Argentinian winger excelled anywhere else, but he didn’t convince the Premier League fans after completing a £59.7-million transfer from Real Madrid to Old Trafford.


One year after joining Manchester United, Di María left to play for PSG, where he refound his form. Known by the flattering nickname of Di Magía (a wordplay referencing his “magic” soccer skills), the 33-year-old Argentinian superstar has recently won the America Cup alongside his new PSG teammate Lionel Messi.

£67.8M – Matthijs de Ligt, 22 – Juventus (Ajax)

The Dutch side Ajax is known for its promotion of ‘total football’ and its star-producing academy. One of the latest idols to come out of Amsterdam’s historical club is the center-back Matthijs de Ligt, who impressed sports fans everywhere with his precocious maturity, unbelievable strength, and well-timed tackles.


After helping Ajax make a stunning Champions League campaign (reaching the semi-finals), de Ligt completed a dreamy move to Juventus, where he gets to share the locker room with some of the best defenders in the game, including the experienced Euro 2020 winners Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

£64M – Frenkie de Jong, 24 – Barcelona (Ajax)

Speaking of Ajax’s terrific Champions League campaign, it’s impossible not to reference the tireless midfielder, Frenkie de Jong. Just like his teammate Matthijs de Ligt, de Jong was simply too good to stay at Amsterdam and was quickly hired by Barcelona. They paid a hefty £64 million for his services.


Sadly, de Jong arrived at Catalunya in a moment of transition, and the pressure for him to perform has been huge. But while Barcelona’s present isn’t as glorious as its recent past, one thing’s for sure: at the young age of 24, de Jong continues to be one of the biggest names to watch for in soccer’s future.

£71M – James Rodríguez, 30 – Real Madrid (AS Monaco)

During the 2014 World Cup, Colombia’s stand-out player, James Rodríguez, caught Real Madrid’s eye and was at the center of a £71-million transfer. He left the French side of AS Monaco to join the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, but injuries and inconsistency marked his time in Spain.


He was loaned to Bayern Munich for two years before making an underwhelming Real Madrid comeback in 2019. As of 2021, Rodríguez plays for the English side Everton and, while he’s still immensely talented, he’s no longer the quick-thinking magician who stunned the crowds at the 2014 World Cup.

£55M – Kevin De Bruyne, 30 – Manchester City (Wolfsburg)

Believe it or not, Chelsea once decided to let go of the genius Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, and we’re pretty sure they’ve already regretted the decision! After leaving Stamford Bridge, De Bruyne showed all of his talent playing for the German side Wolfsburg and managed to get back to the Premier League to join the millionaires of Manchester City.


Now a Manchester City reference, De Bruyne is deemed one of the world’s best soccer players, and he’s just a joy to watch! Tremendously competitive, De Bruyne boasts a winning attitude, a fierce cannon-like shot, and some of the most precise long passes you’ll ever see.

£61.7M – Arthur, 25 – Juventus (Barcelona)

People tend to associate Brazilian soccer with skills, tricks, and little moments of genius. But Brazil can also produce quality, hardworking holding midfielders of the likes of Gilberto Silva, Casemiro, or Fernandinho. The latest to fit the description is Arthur, a 25-year-old who joined Juventus for roughly £61.7 million in 2020.


Arthur may not be the most exuberant player on the pitch, but he will contribute to the balance of the team by holding possession and putting in the much-needed defensive work. Before joining Juventus, Arthur played for Barcelona and the Brazilian side of Grêmio.

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