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What are the most expensive transfers of all time? Highest fees in history

Carlo Garganese
Jude Bellingham, Kai Havertz, Kylian Mbappe
© ProShots

The 2024 January transfer window is now open.

Big things are expected in the winter market just months after a summer transfer window in which there were a host of record-breaking moves, particularly when it came to done deals in the Premier League.

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So far in the January 2024 transfer window, there have been no deals that have made our list of the most expensive transfers of all time.

However, Barcelona‘s signing of Vitor Roque from Athletico Paranaense for an eventual €60 million was not far away from the top 50.

So what are the biggest transfer fees in football history?

Neymar to PSG

The most expensive footballer in history is Neymar following his transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017.

The Brazilian left Camp Nou for PSG in a move worth €222m (£200m), ending an impressive four-year stay with Barca.

Neymar was the first time a French club had claimed the world record for football transfers.

The biggest transfers to take place since then have not come close to the record.

In the same summer as Neymar’s move, Kylian Mbappe switched from Monaco to PSG, though the deal did not become permanent until 2018.

It was worth €180m and is the second highest transfer fee of all time.

World record transfers

The move for Neymar saw him claim the title for biggest transfer of all time from Paul Pogba.

Pogba previously set the all-time transfer record in 2016, his move from Juventus to Manchester United costing €105m.

Paul Pogba, Manchester United
© ProShots – Paul Pogba, Manchester United

Prior to that, the most expensive transfer in history was Gareth Bale, who left Tottenham for Real Madrid in 2013 in a €101m deal.

That move ended a four-year stay in top spot for Cristiano Ronaldo, whose own move to Madrid from Man Utd cost €94m in 2009. Such has been the rapid increase in market values, that move no longer even sits in the top 10.

Other holders of the world record transfer since the turn of the century have included Kaka (2009), Zinedine Zidane (2001), Luis Figo (2000) and Hernan Crespo (2000).

The transfer record changed hands five times between 1996 and 1999, being held by Ronaldo and Alan Shearer before the Brazilian striker won it back by joining Inter in 1997. He is the only player since the late Diego Maradona to hold the record twice.

After Ronaldo, Denilson and Christian Vieri then took the honour.

READ MORE: What is Lionel Messi’s net worth and how much does he earn?

Here is a detailed run through of the biggest transfers in football history.

The 50 most expensive transfers ever

  1. Neymar (Barcelona to PSG, 2017) – €222m
  2. Kylian Mbappe (Monaco to PSG, 2017) – €180m
  3. Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool to Barcelona, 2018) – €145m
  4. Jude Bellingham (Dortmund to Real Madrid, 2023) – €134m
  5. Moises Caicedo (Brighton to Chelsea, 2023) – €134m
  6. Joao Felix (Benfica to Atletico Madrid, 2019) – €126m
  7. Declan Rice (West Ham to Arsenal, 2023) – €122m
  8. Enzo Fernandez (Benfica to Chelsea, 2023) – €121m
  9. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid to Barcelona, 2019) – €120m
  10. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa to Man City, 2021) – €118m
  11. Romelu Lukaku (Inter to Chelsea, 2021) – €115m
  12. Ousmane Dembele (Dortmund to Barcelona, 2017) – €105m
  13. Paul Pogba (Juventus to Man Utd, 2016) – €105m
  14. Gareth Bale (Tottenham to Real Madrid, 2013) – €101m
  15. Harry Kane (Tottenham to Bayern Munich, 2023) – €101m
  16. Eden Hazard(Chelsea to Real Madrid, 2019) – €100m
  17. Cristiano Ronaldo(Real Madrid to Juventus, 2018) – €100m
  18. Aurelien Tchouameni(Monaco to Real Madrid, 2022) – €100m
  19. Darwin Nunez(Benfica to Liverpool, 2022) – €100m
  20. Antony(Ajax to Man Utd, 2022) – €100m
  21. Mykhailo Mudryk(Shakhtar Donetsk to Chelsea, 2023) – €100m
  22. Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd to Real Madrid, 2009) – €94m
  23. Wesley Fofana (Leicester City to Chelsea, 2022) – €93m
  24. Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli to Juventus, 2016) – €90m
  25. Josko Gvardiol (Leipzig to Man City, 2023) – €90m
  26. Neymar (PSG to Al-Hilal, 2023) – €90m
  27. Harry Maguire (Leicester to Man Utd, 2019) – €87m
  28. Neymar (Santos to Barcelona, 2013) – €86m
  29. Romelu Lukaku (Everton to Man Utd, 2017) – €85m
  30. Jadon Sancho (Dortmund to Man Utd, 2021) – €85m
  31. Rasmus Hojlund (Atalanta to Man Utd, 2023) – €85m
  32. Virgil van Dijk (Southampton to Liverpool, 2018) – €84.5m
  33. Luis Suarez (Liverpool to Barcelona, 2014) – €82.3m
  34. Romelu Lukaku (Man Utd to Inter, 2019) – €80m
  35. Nicolas Pepe (Lille to Arsenal, 2019) – €80m
  36. Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao to Chelsea, 2018) – €80m
  37. Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid to Bayern, 2019) – €80m
  38. Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus to Bayern, 2022) – €80m
  39. Kai Havertz(Leverkusen to Chelsea, 2020) – €77m
  40. Zinedine Zidane(Juventus to Real Madrid, 2001) – €76m
  41. Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid to Man Utd, 2014) – €75.6m
  42. Kai Havertz (Chelsea to Arsenal, 2023) – €75m
  43. Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax to Juventus, 2019) – €75m
  44. Frenkie de Jong (Ajax to Barcelona, 2019) – €75m
  45. James Rodriguez (Monaco to Real Madrid, 2014) – €75m
  46. Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg to Man City, 2015) – €75m
  47. Arthur Melo (Barcelona to Juventus, 2020) – €72m
  48. Ruben Dias (Benfica to Man City, 2020) – €71m
  49. Casemiro (Real Madrid to Man Utd, 2022) – €71m
  50. Victor Osimhen (Lille to Napoli, 2020) – €70m
  51. Sandro Tonali (Milan to Newcastle, 2023) – €70m
  52. Mason Mount (Chelsea to Man Utd, 2023) – €70m
  53. Dominik Szoboszlai (Leipzig to Liverpool, 2023) – €70m

Who is the most expensive goalkeeper of all time?

Chelsea have regretted their decision to make Kepa Arrizabalaga the biggest transfer for a goalkeeper in football history when they splashed out €80m to sign the Spain keeper from Athletic Bilbao in 2018.

Kepa, Chelsea
© ProShots – Kepa, Chelsea

Kepa broke the record previously held by Alisson, a signing that proved much more successful for Liverpool.

They spent €62.5m to sign him from Roma a month before Kepa joined Chelsea and the Brazil international, along with defender Virgil van Dijk, helped to address major weaknesses that were holding Liverpool back.

Brazil international Alisson helped Liverpool win the Champions League and Premier League in successive seasons.

Who is the most expensive defender of all time?

The record transfer for a defender is held by Josko Gvardiol for his €90m move to Man City from Leipzig in 2023.

He took the record from Harry Maguire, who joined Manchester United from Leicester City for €87m in 2019.

Maguire had taken the record from Virgil van Dijk, an €84.5m signing for Liverpool from Southampton a year earlier.

Who is the most expensive midfielder of all time?

Philippe Coutinho goes down as the biggest transfer involving a midfielder (even if he can also play further forward) – a move that did not work out for Barcelona.

Coutinho became the most expensive January transfer signing ever in 2018, when he pushed to leave Liverpool for Barca.

Coutinho, Barcelona
© ProShots – Coutinho, Barcelona

The Catalans had not found a suitable replacement for Neymar and felt that by spending big on his compatriot, they would find an answer to their problems. He has since left for Aston Villa.

Jude Bellingham, Jack Grealish, Aurelien Tchouameni, Paul Pogba and Kai Havertz all moved for over €100m, with Zinedine Zidane still featuring prominently despite his move to Real Madrid from Juventus taking place 20 years ago.

Who is the most expensive forward of all time?

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe fill the first two spots in this ranking, as well as the overall list.

Brazil star Neymar is also the most expensive South American signing ever, with Mbappe holding the record for Europe.

Neymar, PSG
© ProShots – Neymar, PSG

Who is the most expensive teenager of all time?

Kylian Mbappe became the most expensive teenage transfer ever when he joined PSG.

That move smashed the record previously held by Anthony Martial when he joined Man Utd from Monaco in 2015.

There have been some huge transfers for teenagers since Mbappe, though none which have threatened the record.

Kylian Mbappe, PSG
© ProShots – Kylian Mbappe, PSG

Jude Bellingham transferred to Real Madrid (€134m) in 2023, Joao Felix (€126m) joined Atletico Madrid in 2019, while Juventus splashed out €75m for Matthijs de Ligt in 2019 also.

The second of PSG’s mega-money signings of 2017 that completely changed the landscape of the transfer market, Mbappe actually arrived at the club on a loan deal that had a clause that would be made permanent if Les Parisiens avoided relegation. This was inevitable and purely installed to circumvent Financial Fair Play.

Mbappe has gone some way to realising his potential at Parc des Princes, becoming a World Cup winner in 2018 and continuing to score at the prodigious rate expected of him.

A hat-trick against Barcelona at Camp Nou in the 2020/21 Champions League last 16 seemed to confirm his rise to superstar status.

Who is the most expensive English player of all time?

Jude Bellingham overtook Jack Grealish as the most expensive Englishman in history in 2023 at €134m when he joined Real Madrid from Borussia Dortmund.

Who is the most expensive North American player of all time?

Christian Pulisic holds the record for the biggest transfer involving a North American player.

He joined Chelsea from Borussia Dortmund for €64m in 2019 and never made the grade before transferring to AC Milan in 2023.

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea
© ProShots – Christian Pulisic, Chelsea

The North American record may not be threatened in the coming years unless Canada international Alphonso Davies, one of the game’s best rising stars, ever leaves Bayern Munich.

Who is the most expensive African player of all time?

Nicolas Pepe is the biggest transfer involving an African player.

It cost Arsenal an astonishing €80m to sign the Ivory Coast forward from Lille in 2019.

Pepe proved to be a flop at the Emirates Stadium and left in 2023.

Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal
© ProShots – Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal

Lille are also responsible for the second biggest move involving an African player. They sold Nigeria forward Victor Osimhen to Napoli for €70m in 2020.

What is the most expensive Premier League transfer of all time?

Moises Caicedo is the most expensive Premier League transfer in terms of those bought by an English club.

He overtook previous record holder Declan Rice.

Who has the highest combined transfer fees of all time?

Neymar is the overall most expensive player in football history following his transfer from Paris Saint-Germain to Al-Hilal in 2023, with the total outlay spent on him throughout his career at €400 million.

Not only did Neymar break the world record fee when he joined PSG for €222m in 2017, but he also moved to Barcelona for a huge €86.2m when he left Santos in 2013. Furthermore, his move to Al-Hilal cost roughly €90m, which means Neymar has never been purchased for cheap.

That means when added together, Neymar has cost around €400m.

Romelu Lukaku had previously overtaken Neymar in 2021 as the player with the highest combined transfer fees of all time as his transfers involving Anderlecht, Chelsea (twice), Everton, Man Utd and Inter total an incredible €328m. His loan move back to Inter also cost a further €8m and it is likely this loan move will be extended for another fee. His last three permanent moves alone came to €280m.

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