Football transfer fees are always the subject of heated debate. Is a club spending too much? Are they spending too little? Is any player really worth more than £100 million?
In an era where broadcast and sponsorship revenues have transformed football’s finances, it is now the norm to see transfer fees that resemble telephone numbers.
The current record fee paid is the £198 million Paris Saint-Germain shelled out in 2017 to secure the services of Neymar from Barcelona.
Contrast that to the summer of 2009, when you could have signed Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for just slightly more.
Top 20 Most Expensive Transfers
Ronaldo’s £84.6m move from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009 beat the previous transfer record set by Zinedine Zidane (£69.75m) when he left Juventus for Madrid eight years earlier.
With fees moving on significantly since then, here’s the current top 20 list of most expensive transfers.
1. Neymar – Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain – £199.8m in 2019
2. Kylian Mbappe – Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain – £130.5m in 2018
3. Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool to Barcelona – £130.5m in 2018
4. Joao Felix – Benfica to Atletico Madrid – £113.4m in 2019
5. Ousmane Dembele – Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona – £112.5m in 2017
6. Antoine Griezmann – Atletico Madrid to Barcelona – £108m in 2019
7. Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid to Juventus – £105.30m in 2018
8. Paul Pogba – Juventus to Manchester United – £94.5m in 2016
9. Gareth Bale – Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid – £90.9m in 2013
10. Eden Hazard – Chelsea to Real Madrid – £90m in 2019
11. Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United to Real Madrid – £84.6m in 2009
12. Gonzalo Higuain – Napoli to Juventus – £81m in 2016
13. Neymar – Santos to Barcelona – £79.38m in 2013
14. Harry Maguire – Leicester City to Manchester United- £78.3m in 2019
15. Matthis de Ligt – Ajax to Juventus – £76.95m in 2019
16. Romelu Lukaku – Everton to Manchester United – £76.23m in 2017
17. Virgil van Dijk – Southampton to Liverpool – £76.19m in 2018
18. Luis Suarez – Liverpool to Barcelona – £73.55m in 2014
19. Lucas Hernandez – Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich – £72m in 2019
20. Nicolas Pepe – Lille to Arsenal – £72m in 2019
Football Transfer Records
If someone had told Willie Groves back in 1893 that transfer fees would eventually top £100m he would probably have laughed them out of town.
Groves was the first ever player to be sold for a three-figure fee when he joined Aston Villa from West Bromwich Albion for £100.
It took another 12 years for the first £1,000 transfer to be completed, with Alf Common’s move from Sunderland to Middlesbrough sparking a national outrage.
Fees continued to rise thereafter, although it wasn’t until the 1960s that things really started to gather pace.
Luis Suarez (not that one) became the world’s most expensive player in 1961 when he moved from Barcelona to Inter Milan.
Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona and Ruud Gullit were amongst the players to top the transfer standings over the next couple decades, before fees began to get silly from the 1990s onwards.
The list of major transfers from that point read like a who’s who of football superstars, with Alan Shearer, Ronaldo (the original one), Luis Figo and Zidane all moving for big money.
When Ronaldo (the Cristiano version) took the record up to £84.6m in 2009 it seemed like it would be just a matter of time before the £100m barrier was broke.
However, only seven players have moved for a nine-figure fee since then, with Neymar’s £198m switch to PSG in 2019 still topping the list.
It is unlikely that figure will be beaten any time soon, although it would be no surprise to see more players join the £100m club over the next couple of years.
This page was last updated on June 13, 2020.