The 20 most expensive signings of all time – Ranked by Success


Did you know that Kai Havertz is the 21st most expensive footballer ever? Yeah, wild. But as 90min supremo Scott Saunders and others have been quick to note, real hyper-expensive signings have actually been pretty hit and miss over the last 15 years.

Need convincing? Here are the 20 players more expensive than Havertz, ranked in order of how successful the transfers actually were.

20. Kepa Arrizabalaga to Chelsea

The Price: €80m

The Headline: Bad bad bad bad bad

The Lowdown: What is there to be said that hasn’t already? If Kepa had been good – which Chelsea, Real Madrid and others thought he could be – then this would’ve been a perfectly decent deal. As it is, he’s tied to the club for seven years and he isn’t good.

19. Eden Hazard to Real Madrid

The Price: €100m

The Headline: Too injured. Too…old?

The Lowdown: Starting your career at a new club with a hamstring injury isn’t great. Following it up with a broken foot isn’t either. Following that up with a fissure in your fibula? Bad. Only playing 70 minutes in the last six league games of the season because of another knock and related lack of match fitness? A nightmare. Oh, and only scoring one goal in the 22 games you do play is bad too.

Hazard turns 30 one week into 2021, and with Vinicius and a rejuvenated Marco Asensio breathing down his neck, he’s running out of time to—-what’s that? Oh, he’s started the season injured again.

18. Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona

The Price: €145m

The Headline: The worst transfer in football history

The Lowdown: That’s not hyperbole for the sake of hyperbole, this transfer could never, ever have been good. Even Kepa could’ve been good. Bought for miles over his market value to be Andres Iniesta’s replacement by people who, apparently, had never watched him play football, his first half-season was reasonably handy – if a little streaky. His first full season was awful, either getting in Lionel Messi’s way or playing badly to stay out of it.

His second season saw him farmed out on loan to start about half of Bayern Munich’s games and then score twice against Barcelona in the infamous 8-2.

Barcelona don’t want him. His massive wages and huge transfer fee – which the club want to recoup a decent chunk of – mean that nobody will even think about buying him. Just an absolute failure of thought at every single part of the process.

17. Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona

The Price: €120m

The Headline: Wrong place, wrong time

The Lowdown: Antoine Griezmann was signed because he was cheaper than he should’ve been. The fact that he was still really quite expensive and had no place in Barcelona’s system didn’t seem to matter.

The dressing room was biased against him from the start (his ‘La Decision’ video 12 months before the move helped) and he, like Coutinho, just couldn’t get out of Messi’s way.

Unlike Coutinho though, Griezmann could still pull it out of the bag. He’ll most likely play as Barcelona’s ‘striker’ next season, giving him a little more room to operate in. Beyond that, Messi looks certain to leave in 2021, which opens things up very nicely indeed.

16. Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal

The Price: €80m

The Headline: Buying unproven players is a crapshoot

The Lowdown: Ermm. Might be good? Smashing your transfer record for a forward who scores maybe one non-penalty goal every four or five games seems ill-advised though, especially when he doesn’t set many up.

His assist total was his saving grace last season, but the fact that he’s been instantly benched for a 32-year-old Willian seems…telling.

15. Lucas Hernandez to Bayern Munich

The Price: €80m

The Headline: Injuries.

The Lowdown: Lucas started 12 games in all competitions in his debut season. There’s no reason to expect he won’t turn out well once he’s fit, but…yeah, not great so far.

14. Ousmane Dembele to Barcelona

The Price: €105m

The Headline: Fitness. ‘Attitude’. Unfulfilled potential

The Lowdown: Dembele averages barely 55 minutes a game for Barcelona. And that’s the games that he’s played – he’s missed a full 80 games in just three seasons at Camp Nou.

When he’s played though, he’s been decisive at points. Of the goals he’s scored for the club, a number of them have been winners, real game-changers. He’s done really good things…when he’s been available. Maybe it’ll still happen?

13. Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United

The Price: €85m

The Headline: First season good. Second season bad.

The Lowdown: Y’know Romelu Lukaku scored more than a goal every other game in his first season at Old Trafford? That his 27 goals that season have been bettered only by Zlatan Ibrahimovic (28) in the eight seasons since Robin van Persie left?

His second season was…well, bad. But given that United sold him for almost the full €85m and got a good year out of him, this deal gets a bad rap.

12. Harry Maguire to Manchester United

The Price: €87m

The Headline: Looks average. Got arrested in Greece. Big head.

The Lowdown: United conceded their second-most league goals in the last five seasons with Maguire at the back. That’s bad. They did concede fewer goals than they did the season before they signed him, which is…good?

11. Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid

The Price: €126m

The Headline: Young. Exciting. As many injuries as assists in his debut season

The Lowdown: It’s hard to call Joao Felix a success on the limited evidence he’s provided so far, but he’s shown potential in flashes and is more than young enough to come through strong and provide a return on the club’s investment.

He’s just got to actually play.

10. Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus

The Price: €100m

The Headline: Brought in to win the Champions League. Hasn’t.

The Lowdown: 66 goals in 90 games, good. 23 of them being penalties takes a little of the lustre off. Most importantly, Juve spent €100m and a small fortune in wages to bring Ronaldo in with the express intention of winning the Champions League.

They’ve only made it to the quarter-finals once in his two seasons – and got knocked out by Ajax and Lyon. In the way that matters most, he’s been a failure.

9. Romelu Lukaku to Inter

The Price: €80m

The Headline: Europa League final, 34 goals in his first season

The Lowdown: Again, a small sample size, but Romelu Lukaku has been good at Inter. Did he help them to any trophies in his first season? No. But he scored 34 goals in his one season so far.

8. Gonzalo Higuain to Juventus

The Price: €90m

The Headline: Three Serie A titles, one Champions League final

The Lowdown: Scored eight league goals in 32 games last season. Leaving for free four years after he arrived – the biggest loss on a player the history of football, apparently.

32 goals in all competitions in his first season, mind, but he faded very fast.

7. Paul Pogba to Manchester United

The Price: €105m

The Headline: One Europa League?

The Lowdown: There have been injuries. There have been rumours about his standing at the club (some he’s been happy to stoke himself). Ultimately though, Pogba has consistently been one of Manchester United’s best players since he arrived four years ago. It’s not entirely his fault that the club’s been in shambles for most of that time.

6. Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain

The Price: €222m

The Headline: Three league titles, Champions League final

The Lowdown: Could repeat a lot of Paul Pogba’s section here. Neymar has had injuries, he’s had a lot of questions asked about his commitment, and he hasn’t won the things he arrived to win.

He has, however, been brilliant, scoring and assisting 182 goals in 186 games. Worth the money? Maybe not. One of the best players in the world, who’s played at that level since he moved there? Yes.

5. Gareth Bale to Real Madrid

The Price: €100m

The Headline: Two Champions League final winners, one Copa del Rey winner

The Lowdown: Of the five Copa del Rey and Champions League finals Real Madrid won in his time there, Bale scored the winner in three, assisted a crucial equaliser and scored in a penalty shootout. Bale might be the most clutch Real Madrid player in the 21st century and yes, including that one.

Who really cares if he loves golf, goes to bed early and no habla Español?

4. Kylian Mbappe to Paris Saint-Germain

The Price: €180m

The Headline: Three Ligue 1 titles, best young player in the world, 91 goals in 125 games…and still 21

The Lowdown: 91 goals in 125 games, pulls the team together when Neymar’s out, still by some distance the most valuable young player in the world. He’s been what he was bought for – and it might say more about the players listed above that that’s enough for him to be so highly ranked on this list.

3. Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool

The Price: €84.5m

The Headline: One Champions League, Liverpool’s first Premier League

The Lowdown: Virgil van Dijk arrived at Anfield to join a talented but fragile team, and turned them into European finalists within six months. 12 months later, they were European champions. Now, they’ve won the league for the first time in 30 years by a big margin.

Very rarely does a single man make so much of a difference.

2. Luis Suarez to Barcelona

The Price: €82.3m

The Headlines: Four league titles and a European Cup, 198 goals and 109 assists in 283 games

The Lowdown: The signing of Luis Suarez was a risk for Barcelona, on a handful of levels. The Uruguayan was mid-suspension for his third biting incident, and was going to turn 30 two and a half years into his contract. Turns out they needn’t have worried – Suarez was a model professional throughout his time in Catalonia and while he’s left for Atletico Madrid, he’s been the best centre-forward in the world for much of the last six years.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid

The Price: €94m

The Headlines: Four Champions Leagues, 450 goals in 438 games

The Lowdown: What? Obviously. Cristiano Ronaldo might border on insufferable at times – and he only won two league titles in nine years – but come on. Real Madrid bought one of the all-time greats and kept him for almost a decade.

They sold him for €100m, too. Imagine.

By 90min

Edited by Tiyani wa ka Mabasa

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