Transfer fees appear to be spiralling ever upwards, fuelled by wealthy owners, TV revenues and fierce competition for the best players. The first million pound transfer was paid in 1975 when Giuseppi Savoldi was sold by Bologna to Napoli; the £10 million transfer limit was breached seventeen years later when Jean-Pierre Papin moved from Marseilles to AC Milan; and, 5 years later, Real Betis signed Denilson in the first £20 million transfer,
In the past 20 years, the amounts paid have continued to rise, and Neymar’s move to PSG has now set a new benchmark. How long before we see the first £200 million transfer?
However, not all the biggest transfers have occurred this season. If inflation is taken into account, some older deals are as expensive, in real terms, as some of the most high profile deals from this summer.
Here is the all-time top 10 list of world record transfers since 1992, inflation-adjusted.
- Neymar – Barcelona – PSG
2017 Value £195 million; 2017 Value adjusted for inflation 195 million.
The arguments and the justifications for Neymar’s record-breaking transfer from Barcelona to PSG have been endlessly debated.
However, from a PSG angle, they believe he is worth the money. Signing Neymar is not about securing success in France; in most years they can expect to dominate domestically, and when a team like Monaco is successful, as they were last season, that is an exception not the rule.
For PSG the main focus is the Champions League, a competition in which the club has never got beyond the Quarter-Final, and where the team crashed out at the last sixteen stage last season, despite holding a 4 goal advantage over Barcelona from the first leg.
PSG have done the maths, and believe that the capture of Neymar will not only bring the club worldwide attention, but also significantly greater additional revenues in the form of sponsorship deals, sponsorship and shirt sales. This, in turn, will attract better players to the club – Kylian Mbappe has already joined – which, in turn, will make the club more successful, and, therefore, wealthier, in a continual virtuous circle.
The early omens look good, PSG not only lead Ligue 1, but also sit on top of their Champions League Group, having thrashed Celtic away, and then dispatched Bayern Munich at home in the Champions League group stage game.
Neymar has already got 6 goals and 6 assists in only 7 games for his new club, which suggests that, despite the staggering transfer fee, he will prove to be a very canny investment for the French side.
- Kyllian Mbappe – AS Monaco – PSG
2017 Value £158 million; 2017 Value adjusted for inflation 158 million
Kyllian Mbappe is still only 18, yet is regarded as one of the hottest properties in world football. The teenage forward broke into the first team at Monaco last season, and became one of an exciting group of young players that helped the club storm to the French title, and reach the Champions League Quarter-Final.
He already has 6 senior French caps to his name and looks certain to go to the World Cup in Russia next year.
Despite his youth, he was coveted by every club in the world during the last transfer window, but chose to sign on a season-long loan with Paris Saint-Germain, with an option to buy, for a reported fee which makes him the second-most expensive player in the world after his new teammate Neymar.
Mbappe has enjoyed a fine start to his PSG career, and was named man-of-the-match for his performance as the French club comprehensively beat Bayern Munich 3 – 0 in the Group phase of the Champions League this week.
- Ousmane Dembele – Borussia Dortmund – Barcelona
2017 Value £132 million; 2017 Value adjusted for inflation £132 million.
Ousmane Dembele became the third-most expensive footballer in history when he was signed by Barcelona as a replacement for Neymar in August.
Still only 20 years old, Dembele made his debut for French side Rennes, scoring 12 goals in 26 games, before transferring to Borussia Dortmund in May 2016.
In his only season with the German club, Dembele scored six goals, helped his team win the German Cup, was named in the Bundesliga Team of the Season and won the Rookie of the Season award.
His transfer to Barcelona was initially mired in controversy when Dortmund refused to negotiate with the Spanish club, prompting Dembele to boycott training in protest; however, it was finally resolved allowing the French international to join the Catalan side.
Unfortunately for Dembele, having made his Barcelona debut as a substitute in a Spanish cup game, his first league start against Getafe saw him pick up a hamstring injury, and he is now set to miss four months of the season.
- Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United – Real Madrid
2016 Value £80million; 2017 Value adjusted for inflation £98 million.
When adjusted for inflation, Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid is the fourth-most expensive of all time; arguably, in terms of outcome, it can be said to be the most valuable of all the mega-transfers.
Ronaldo was already a Ballon d’Or winner with United, having helped them to a Champions League crown, three Premierships, one FA Cup and two EFL Cups during his time in England, as well as victory in the FIFA Club World Cup.
In his 8 years at the Bernabeu, Ronaldo has cemented his reputation as a global superstar, both on and off the field, and vies with Messi for the title “best player in the world”.
During his time at the club Real have won three Champions Leagues, two La Liga and two Copa del Rey titles, as well as adding a couple of FIFA World Club Cups to their trophy cabinet. In addition, he has won the Ballon d’Or three times, and has become the top scorer of all time in the Champions League.
- Gareth Bale – Tottenham Hotspur – Real Madrid
2013 Value £; 2017 Value adjusted for inflation
Gareth Bale began life as a left-back and initially struggled when transferred from Southampton to Spurs, before a tactical switch saw him move forward to a more advanced role. The transformation was instant, and Bale would go on to win both the PFA Player and Young Player of the Year award in the 2012-2013 season before his switch to the Bernabeu.
In his first season with Real Madrid, he scored a stunning winner in the Copa Del Rey final against Barcelona, and was also on the scoresheet as the Spanish giants won the Champions League for the 10th time. The Welsh international has since added another 2 Champions League, a La Liga and a FIFA World Club Cup to his collection of medals; despite recent injury problems and persistent rumours linking him with a move back to England, he continues to be highly valued by his Real manager Zidane.
- Paul Pogba – Juventus – Manchester United
2016 Value £89 million; 2017 Value adjusted for inflation £91 million.
When Paul Pogba re-signed for Manchester United in 2016, it completed a remarkable journey for a player who had left the team 4 years earlier in controversial circumstances, with United’s manager at the time, Sir Alex Ferguson, accusing him of disrespecting the club by the way in which he had engineered his transfer to Juventus.
The French international subsequently blossomed at Juventus, becoming one of the best midfield players in Europe, winning 4 Serie A and 2 Coppa Italia titles with the Italian club before Jose Mourinho persuaded him to move back to England.
His first season back at Manchester United was not spectacular – he made headlines as much for his hairstyles and Twitter emoji as he did for his exploits on the field – but he did help his team win both the Europa League and the EFL Cup.
This season, playing further forward, he started well, scoring a couple of games in his first few games, although he is currently injured.
- Gonzalo Higuain – Napoli – Juventus
2016 Value £77 million; 2017 Value adjusted for inflation £81 million,
When the former River Plate and Real Madrid striker moved from Napoli to Juventus for a record fee involving Italian clubs, eyebrows were raised. Although an excellent striker – his 36 goals in a single season for Napoli before his move equaled the Serie A record – he had never been rated as a truly elite player, and failed, the previous year, even to make the 23-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or. He was also relatively old at 29 which meant he would have little subsequent resale value to Juventus.
Since his transfer, Higuain has helped his new club to a domestic league and cup double, and was also part of the side which reached the final of the Champions’ League against Real Madrid in Cardiff, where he disappointed, along with many of his team-mates.
This season he has struggled for fitness and form, leading Juventus manager Max Allegri to bench him for some recent games, although he did come on as a substitute this week and score for the Old Lady against Olympiakos.
8. Neymar – Santos – Barcelona
2013 Value £73 million; 2017 Value adjusted for inflation £78 million.
Neymar is the only player to make this list twice, but, whilst his record-breaking move to PSG this year has made headlines around the world, his original transfer from Santos to Barcelona remains shrouded in mystery and dogged by controversy.
Initially Barcelona claimed that they had paid Santos €57.1 million (XXX) for the player. However, DIS, a Brazilian investment company, which owned 40% of the image rights of Neymar at the time of his transfer, raised a complaint alleging that there was a conspiracy between the two clubs and the Neymar family to conceal the true cost of the deal and thus deny them their real share of the proceeds.
This prompted an investigation by the Spanish prosecutor, which has revealed that the true cost of the deal was closer to €86.2m (£78 million), of which at least €40m was paid to Neymar’s father, much more than Santos got (originally this was said to be as low as €17.1 million, although this has now been disputed).
The case rumbles on, with both clubs, Neymar and his father, and Barcelona’s former president and vice-president, all facing corruption charges in Spain. Meanwhile, separate proceedings are underway in Brazil against the Neymar family.
- Romelu Lukaku – Everton -Manchester United
2017 Value £74 million; 2017 Value adjusted for inflation £74 million.
Romelu Lukaku joined the all-time transfer list this summer when Manchester United paid Everton £74 million for his services.
The Belgian international first came to the Premier League with Chelsea after a successful early career with Anderlecht in his native country; however, he was unable to permanently break into the first team at Stamford Bridge and went on loan, first to West Brom and then Everton, where he established a reputation as a powerful and prolific centre-forward.
His spell at Goodison Park then became a permanent deal, and he went on to score 87 goals in 166 games for The Toffees before his move to United.
Lukaku has had a storming start to his United career, scoring 10 goals in just 9 appearances, including 3 in the Champions League. Manager Jose Mourinho hopes that his goals will enable United to mount a serious challenge in the Premier League this time round, turning last season’s draws into wins.
- Zinedine Zidane – Juventus – Real Madrid
2001 Value £47 million; 2017 Value adjusted for inflation £72 million.
When “Zizou” moved from Juventus to Real Madrid in the summer of 2001, he was already a World Cup winner and had twice been crowned FIFA World Player of the Year. He made an immediate impact for his new club, scoring a brilliant volleyed winner in the following year’s Champions League final in Glasgow, and helping them to a La Liga title in 2003, the same year that he picked up another World Player of the Year award.
Famously, he chose to retire after the World Cup Final of 2006, where his head butt on Italian defender made global headlines and earned him a temporary ban from football.
Zidane is now the successful manager of Real Madrid, enjoying back-to-back Champions League successes, as well as securing the La Liga title last year.
So, here’s the complete list
|Rank||Player||From||To||Year||Original Fee £m||Inflation Adjusted|
|3||Ousman Dembele||Borussia Dortmund||Barcelona||2017||132||132|
|4||Cristiano Ronaldo||Man Utd||Real Madrid||2009||80||98|
|5||Gareth Bale||Spurs||Real Madrid||2013||86||93|
|6||Paul Pogba||Juventus||Man Utd||2016||89||91|
|9||Romalu Lokaku||Everton||Man Utd||2017||74||74|
|10||Zinedine Zidane||Juventus||Real Madrid||2001||47||72|
Andy is an exiled English football fan living in Cyprus. He loves all sports but football is his abiding passion, and he still has dreams every now and then about scoring the winning goal in a Wembley Cup Final, even though his playing days are long gone. He follows most major leagues, across Europe at least, and has a favoured team in each. When he’s not watching, listening, reading or downloading podcasts about football, he spend his time worrying about his beloved Arsenal.