Man City’s 10 best transfers of all time

FT Desk
FT Desk

  • 1 Mar 2024 16:54 GMT
  • 7 min read
Erling Haaland, Man City, 2023/24

Manchester City have become an elite club in world football since being bought by Sheikh Monsour in 2008, cementing their place as one of the game’s behemoths by winning a historic treble in 2022/23.

City are now among some of the biggest spenders in the sport, which has allowed them to climb the footballing ladder and compete with the most successful clubs in the world.

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Although they have thrown away millions on some transfer mistakes, City have also spent well on world-class players, some of whom have become legends of the club.

Robinho may have got the ball rolling when he joined from Real Madrid, but the following players have achieved more than the Brazilian since arriving at the Etihad,

City have enjoyed their most dominant period since 2008, winning a cluster of trophies. Football Transfers looks at 10 of their best new players over the last 20 years.


10) Raheem Sterling – £49m from Liverpool, 2015

Raheem Sterling was just 20 when he moved from Liverpool to Manchester, and it represented a huge gamble from City’s hierarchy. He had displayed his talent at Liverpool, but he was far from consistent, which was shown by his tally of six goals and two assists in his first Premier League season for City.

However, once Pep Guardiola began to work with Sterling, he became far more clinical in front of goal, and his 18 strikes in the 2017/18 season, and 17 the following year helped the side to back-to-back titles.

It was a risky move at the time, but it’s certainly paid off. Sterling joined Chelsea for €56m in 2022.

Raheem Sterling at Chelsea
© IMAGO – Raheem Sterling at Chelsea

9) Pablo Zabaleta – £6.45m from Espanyol, 2008

Signed for just £6.45m from Espanyol in the same summer that Vincent Kompany arrived at the club in 2008, Pablo Zabaleta established himself as one of the league’s best full-backs and proved to be an absolute steal for that price.

With 333 appearances and six trophies for City, Zabaleta was instrumental in establishing them as a force to be reckoned with in English football.

The Argentine was actually signed the day before City were taken over by Sheikh Mansour, making the fact he endured for long yet more admirable. He and Kompany provided a solid foundation for more attacking assets to flourish.

8) Ederson – £35m from Benfica, 2017

With Man City busy buying superstars outfield, there was a growing feeling that Joe Hart presented the team with a weakness in goal even though he was a Premier League winner and, at the time of Guardiola’s appointment, still England’s No.1.

Guardiola wanted a ball-playing goalkeeper and after the failed project with Claudio Bravo, City plumped for Benfica’s Brazilian international Ederson.

Not even Pep could not have predicted how easily Ederson would adapt to English football, though.

Ederson is an outstanding shot-stopper, but his biggest talent is arguably his ability to drill long passes over the top of opposition defenders, turning defence into attack in an instant.

He could just about play outfield as a professional if he wanted to, and his style of play contributes so much to the way City build their game.

7) David Silva – £26m from Valencia, 2010

David Silva was signed for £26m from Valencia, and played a pivotal role in four Premier League wins, and four League Cup and two FA Cup triumphs.

In total, the silky playmaker made over 400 appearances for the Citizens, scoring 77 goals and assisting 141 – an impressive games-per-goal contribution ratio considering his position as a No.10/floating No.8.

His ability to find the defence-splitting pass was unerring, and his vision was up there with the best the Premier League has ever seen.

6) Fernandinho £34m from Shakhtar Donetsk, 2013

Fernandinho spent nine years at the club following his £34m move from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013.

He racked up over 300 appearances, and during that time has allowed the likes of Silva, Yaya Toure and Kevin De Bruyne the springboard to show their magic.

Fernandinho won 12 trophies at the club, and while not a high-profile name like Sergio Aguero or the aforementioned, he will go down in City folklore as a crucial part of their success in the 2010s.

5) Erling Haaland – £51.3m from Dortmund, 2022

Erling Haaland is the most recent entrant on this list, but he could yet go on to eventually become number one. Among the Premier League’s most incredible signings, the Norwegian sharpshooter cost City a relatively affordable £51.3m when he joined from Borussia Dortmund in 2022.

In his early 20s when he arrived in English football, some expected the son of former City star Alf-Inge to require some time to acclimatise to his new surroundings, but they couldn’t have been more wrong. Haaland netted an outrageous 52 goals in 53 games in his first season, firing City to a historic treble that saw them claim the Premier League, their first-ever Champions League and the FA Cup.

Having already broken countless scoring records, Haaland has so far shown no signs of slowing down.

4) Yaya Toure – £24m from Barcelona, 2010

Yaya Toure is one one of the best midfielder’s in Premier League history, let alone one of City’s top performers.

The Ivorian’s power, technical proficiency, and ability in front of goal struck fear into every opponent he faced, and he was a monster in the middle of the park.

Toure may have left in 2018, perhaps prematurely, but his impact should not be downplayed.

Over 300 appearances, 79 goals and 50 assists along with eight trophies, and arguably the best individual season from a midfielder in Premier league history in 2013/14; Toure had it all.

He was signed for £24m from Barcelona, but he was well worth the money, and of course, who can forget his song!

3) Vincent Kompany – £10m from Anderlecht, 2008

The saying ‘captain, leader, legend’ most certainly applies to Vincent Kompany, who joined City as a defensive midfielder for just £10m back in 2008 before evolving into one of the world’s best central defenders.

Kompany was there from the very beginning of the City rebuild, and 360 appearances, 20 goals, and 12 trophies later, his hero status has long since been cemented.

Signed for a relative pittance, Kompany is arguably one of the greatest bargains in Premier League history and his winning goal against Leicester City to help secure the 2019 title will live long in the memory of every City fan.

Burnley coach Vincent Kompany
© IMAGO – Burnley coach Vincent Kompany

2) Sergio Aguero – £35m from Atletico Madrid, 2011

Sergio Aguero joined the club for £35 million from Atletico Madrid in 2011 and, like those already mentioned in this list, played a fundamental role in their rise to the top of English football.

Five Premier League titles, six League Cup wins and one FA Cup victory; Aguero’s trophy cabinet is stacked.

Along the way, he made 390 appearances for the club, scoring 260 goals in all competitions to become the club’s all-time record goal-scorer.

He also netted 184 in just the Premier League, the fourth-highest in history and the highest for a foreign player, with the best goals-per-minute ratio ever in the competition.

Just months after leaving the club to join Barcelona in 2021 he was sadly forced to retire due to heart problems.

1) Kevin De Bruyne – £55m from Wolfsburg, 2015

Signed the year before Guardiola arrived, De Bruyne joined Man City with the weight of the English press’ criticism on his shoulders. After an underwhelming spell at Chelsea, in which he was never really given a fair shot, he then lit up the Bundesliga and has shone since signing for City.

He’s won countless trophies at the club, made over 250 appearances, and contributed to over 160 goals between goals and assists. De Bruyne is a Man City legend, and one of their greatest ever signings.

Kevin de Bruyne
© IMAGO – Kevin de Bruyne

It’s difficult to imagine that £55m for any player can be considered a bargain, but De Bruyne has proven that it’s possible.

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