The Ten Richest Transfers in Soccer History, and How They Worked Out
Paris St. Germain paid €222 million to acquire Neymar from Barcelona on Thursday, which more than doubles the previous transfer record of €105 million that Manchester United paid for Paul Pogba last summer. With that exorbitant price tag comes lofty expectations—Neymar will be expected to produce right away, and PSG is certainly hoping his presence will help the club become a perennial challenger for the Champions League title.
These type of hugely expensive transfers often work out; after all, those type of fees are only shelled out for the world's best. The €94 million Real Madrid paid for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009, for example, has proven to be money well spent. On the other hand, Pogba had a somewhat disappointing debut season at Manchester United and will need to improve if he's to justify the fee.
Here's a list of the ten most expensive transfers in soccer history, along with how the player fared at his new club.
10. Angel Di Maria, from Real Madrid to Manchester United for €75.6 million (2014)
This has become the poster child for expensive, high-profile transfers gone wrong. Then-United manager Louis van Gaal thought he had signed United's next great No. 7 in Di Maria, who was 26 at the time. After a strong start at Old Trafford—Di Maria was named the club's Player of the Month for September—Di Maria struggled mightily. He played just one season and made only 27 appearances with the team (scoring three goals) before PSG bought him from United for a rumored €64 million.
9. Zinedine Zidane, from Juventus to Real Madrid for €77.5 million (2001)
Every other transfer on this list took place in 2009 or later, which helps put this gigantic move into perspective. In 2017 figures, Real Madrid paid roughly €100 million for the 29-year-old marauding French midfielder, who is Real Madrid's current manager. In his first season at the Bernabeau, Zidane helped Real to the Champions League title, scoring one of the best goals in the competition's history in the final. In 2002-03, Real won La Liga and Zidane was named FIFA World Player of the Year for the third time. He didn't win another major trophy in the remaining three years he'd play at the club before retiring after the 2006 World Cup, but Zidane remained one of the finest midfielders in the world.
8. James Rodriguez, from AS Monaco to Real Madrid for €79.8 million (2014)
Real Madrid bought the 23-year-old Colombian after he shot to stardom by scoring six goals en route to the Golden Boot award at the 2014 World Cup. Rodriguez was handed the No. 10 shirt upon his arrival, and he had his moments at Real Madrid, but injuries disrupted his rhythm. Because of the quality and depth of Madrid's roster, he was often used as a substitute and struggled to cement himself as a surefire starter for long stretches of time, culminating in Rodriguez's being left off the squad that beat Juventus in the Champions League final. Rodriguez was loaned to Bayern Munich on a two-year deal in July of 2017.
7. Luis Suarez, from Liverpool to Barcelona for €82.3 million (2014)
Suarez had a remarkable spell at Liverpool, where he won back-to-back PFA Player of the Year awards in 2013 and 2014. He left Anfield as a 27-year-old after the Merseyside squad's heartbreaking second-place finish in the Premier League in 2014, and he wasted no time establishing himself as one of La Liga's best. Along with Lionel Messi and Neymar, Suarez formed one-third of the "MSN" attacking trio that gave defenders across Europe nightmares. Suarez won the European Gold Shoe as the continent's top scorer in 2016 and was also named La Liga's best player that season. He remains a crucial piece on a Barcelona team that is one of Europe's best.
6. Romelu Lukaku, from Everton to Manchester United for €85 million (2017)
The 24-year-old Belgian was the crown jewel of United's summer spending and will look to lead the front line as the new No. 9. Lukaku has proven himself as a reliable Premier League scorer, having netted 43 goals over his last two campaigns at Goodison Park, and he'll need to maintain or pick up that rate to justify the €85 million.
5. Gonzalo Higuain, from Napoli to Juventus for €90 million (2016)
This fee raised eyebrows, as it was based mainly on Higuain's terrific 2015-16 season in which he scored 36 goals in 35 Serie A appearances and led Napoli to the title. But Higuain hit the ground scoring, netting the winner in Juve's season-opening win over Fiorentina. In the one season he's played at Juventus, Higuain scored 24 Serie A goals and five Champions League goals as Juventus won Serie A comfortably and reached the Champions League final. To make good on the fee, Higuain will need to continue putting the ball into the back of the net in his thirties—he'll reach that milestone in December.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo, from Manchester United to Real Madrid for €94 million (2009)
It sounds a bit ridiculous to refer to €94 million as a bargain in any context, but when you consider that Higuain cost €90 million, getting 24-year-old Ronaldo for €94 million is an absolute steal. That's exactly what Real Madrid did back in 2009 and Ronaldo has won every team and individual award possible during his spell in Spain. His haul at Real: two La Ligas, two Copa del Reys, three Champions Leagues and three Ballon D'Ors with a fourth almost surely arriving later this year. What's made Ronaldo even more valuable is his longevity; at 32, he is still one of the top two players in the world.
3. Gareth Bale, from Tottenham to Real Madrid for €100 million (2013)
Bale's fee, plus the fact that he plays on the wing, condemned him to constant comparisons with Ronaldo. That's unfair to any player, but Bale has proven himself a valuable contributor at Real Madrid, forming one-third of the "BBC" attacking trio with Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. Bale, who was 24 when he moved to Spain, has scored 54 goals in 100 La Liga appearances—an impressive rate, for sure—but injuries continue to plague the Welshman, as has the emergence of Isco. Toward the end of last season, Isco played extremely well in Bale's absence and started over him in the Champions League final, which was played in Bale's native Wales.
2. Paul Pogba, from Juventus to Manchester United for €105 million (2016)
After emerging as one of the world's best central midfielders, Pogba returned to the club that let him go for free just four years earlier. Pogba had a decent first year at United, scoring five Premier League goals and notching the winner in United's 1-0 win over Ajax in the Europa League final, but decent doesn't cut it when you cost €105 million. He'll enjoy the support from new signing Nemanja Matic, whose defensive style should pair well with Pogba's tendency to go forward, and the Frenchman will look to improve on his 2016-17 campaign.
1. Neymar, from Barcelona to PSG for €222 million (2017)
The fee is difficult to wrap your head around, and it will be even harder for Neymar to justify costing more than double what any other player has. But at 25, he has many years of his prime left, and perhaps escaping from Messi's shadow will give Neymar the confidence to take the mantle from Messi and Ronaldo as the world's best. PSG has put its money where its mouth is, securing the services of one of the world's best. Time will tell if it was a worthwhile investment.