Football transfer fees have inflated over the years as the amount of money in the beautiful game also increases. Bumper TV deals, sponsorships and investment from oil-rich owners have seen extravagant amounts of money being spent on the game’s most elite players; Real Madrid broke the world-transfer record twice in the hunt for their 10th Champions League crown whilst Manchester City’s transfer outlay under Sheikh Mansour reached over £750m. However, in terms of cumulative transfer fees, there may be a few surprises.
We reveal the top 10 most expensive footballers ever in terms of combined transfer fees.
#10 – JUAN SEBASTIAN VERON – £80m
Clubs: Estudiantes, Boca Juniors, Sampdoria, Parma, Lazio, Inter Milan, Manchester United, Chelsea
Highest fee paid: £28m by Manchester United
Juan Sebastian Veron divides opinion on whether the Argentine midfielder justified any of his huge transfer fees. Veron had every club chasing him at one point in his career after a series of stellar seasons in Italy. It was Manchester United who swooped for his signature but the now retired midfielder struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League and was eventually sold to rivals Chelsea for almost half of his transfer fee.
#9 – HERNAN CRESPO – £83.5m
Clubs: River Plate, Parma, Lazio, Inter Milan, Milan, Chelsea, Genoa
Highest fee paid: £35m by Lazio
Argentinian marksman Hernan Crespo was another player who failed to replicate his form in Italy when making the switch to England. After a successful spell with Parma; scoring 80 goals in four seasons at the club, he became the world’s most expensive player when Lazio paid £35m for his services. He finished at the Serie A top scorer in his first season and eventually moved to Inter Milan due to Lazio’s financial troubles. Crespo swapped Milan for Chelsea but struggled to adapt and was eventually loaned to Milan after the arrival of Didier Drogba. Crespo is now manager of Serie B side Modena.
#8 – NICOLAS ANELKA – £86.8m
Clubs: PSG, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City, Fenerbahce, Bolton, Chelsea, Shanghai, West Brom, Mumbai
Highest fee paid: £23m by Real Madrid
Nicolas Anelka is the ultimate football journeyman and has enjoyed spells with many different clubs spanning over six countries. Anelka was tipped to be one of the world’s best during his time at PSG and made the move to England with Arsenal. The Gunners made a solid £22m profit as the Frenchman was sold to Real Madrid only for PSG to pay almost exactly the same amount to bring him back to the capital. Anelka enjoyed spells with various English clubs and is currently operating as a player manager for Mumbai FC.
#7 – RADAMEL FALCAO – £89.6m
Clubs: River Plate, Porto, Atletico Madrid, Monaco, Manchester United, Chelsea
Highest fee paid: £53m by Monaco
At one point in his career, Radamel Falcao was the most feared striker in the world. After establishing himself at Porto, Atletico Madrid splashed out £33m on the Colombian hitman to replace the out-going Sergio Aguero. Falcao guided Atletico to a UEFA Europa League and SuperCup as well as a Copa del Rey. He left the club with a remarkable return of 70 goals in 91 games before Monaco shelled out a mammoth £53m. Since leaving Spain, his career has took a turn for the worse after a disastrous spell with Manchester United, he is now on loan at Chelsea working under Jose Mourinho.
#6 – CRISTIANO RONALDO – £92.2m
Clubs: Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United, Real Madrid
Highest fee paid: £80m by Real Madrid
Balon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo makes the list despite only playing for three clubs during his career. After making a £12m move to Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon, Ronaldo established himself as one of the world’s greatest ever player. The Portuguese international helped Manchester United to three Premier League titles before stating his desire to join Los Blancos. Madrid forked out £80m to bring the superstar to Spain where he has gone from strength to strength for the Galacticos.
#5 – GARETH BALE – £96m
Clubs: Southampton, Tottenham, Real Madrid
Highest fee paid: £85m by Real Madrid
Welsh maestro Gareth Bale is another who enters the list despite only playing for three clubs. Few would have predicted that a young Southampton left back would go on to become the world’s most expensive player and a Champions League winner. Tottenham signed Bale from the Saints for just £10m before Madrid paid around £85m for his services after the Welshman dazzled the Premier League; scooping the PFA Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year awards. Bale has come under intense criticism from Real Madrid fans and will be hoping to re-kindle his form under Rafael Benitez following a successful Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with Wales.
#4 – LUIS SUAREZ – £103.5m
Clubs: Nacional, Groningen, Ajax, Liverpool, Barcelona
Highest fee paid: £75m by Barcelona
Barcelona striker Luis Suarez enters the list at number four following his transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona. Suarez excelled for Ajax in the Eredivisie which landed him a transfer to Liverpool who fended off interest from Tottenham to secure the Uruguayan’s signature for around £22m as a replacement for Fernando Torres. Suarez made an instant impact at Anfield scoring a chip on his debut against Stoke. The 28 year old became a hero for the Reds and almost fired them to title with a stunning season under Brendan Rodgers despite being hit with bans after numerous controversies. Following his World Cup bite on Giorgio Cheillini, Suarez was sold to Barca for around £75m where he completed the treble alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar; scoring in the Champions League final.
#3 – JAMES RODRIGUEZ – £106.5m
Clubs: Banfield, Porto, Monaco, Real Madrid
Highest fee paid: £63m by Real Madrid
Real Madrid feature prominently on this list and James Rodriguez from Monaco was another mammoth transfer fee. Monaco paid £38.5m for his services after some spectacular performances for Porto. However, after the 2014 World Cup where the Colombian scooped the Golden Boot, Real Madrid splashed £63m to bring the youngster to the Bernabeu. Rodriguez has lived up to his price tag thus far with 17 goals in his first season. James was also awarded with the 2014 Puskas award for his strike against Uruguay in the World Cup.
#2 – ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC – £126.7m
Clubs: Malmo, Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, PSG
Highest fee paid: £55m by Barcelona
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was previously the most expensive footballer of all time before a major transfer in the summer window knocked the Swede off top spot. Ibrahimovic has represented some of the biggest clubs in world football including the top three Italian clubs. Ibrahimovic’s biggest transfer was to Barcelona from Inter Milan, a deal which saw Samuel Eto’o move the other way. The Swedish international is now playing for French champions Paris St Germain where he recently became the top scorer in the clubs history. Despite losing his place as the most expensive player, don’t rule out a return to the top as Ibra has hinted at another move in the future.
#1 – ANGEL DI MARIA – £132.6m
Clubs: Rosario, Benfica, Real Madrid, Manchester United, PSG
Highest fee paid: £60m by Manchester United
Argentine winger Angel Di Maria became the most expensive footballer of all time following his £45m move to PSG. Some feel that the 27 year old was forced out of Real Madrid in order to accommodate Bale’s transfer despite a man of the match performance in Madrid’s tenth Champions League win. Louis Van Gaal made Di Maria his prime target but after a good start to his career in Manchester, his form dipped and he struggled throughout the season. Di Maria failed to make a flight for United’s pre-season tour and reports emerged that he had agreed personal terms with PSG. The former Benfica forward underwent a medical with the Parisians and four days later United confirmed the £44m transfer which made him the most expensive footballer of all time.