Players Liverpool sold, signed and even just targeted before swiftly moving on are among the most expensive transfers in the history of the January window.
20) Juan Mata (Chelsea to Manchester United, 2014 – £37.1m)
David Moyes did not do a great deal right as Manchester United manager but flying Juan Mata in on a rescue helicopter a matter of months before his sacking goes down as a positive. The Spaniard stayed long enough to win four trophies, leapfrog Andy Cole in terms of all-time Premier League appearances for the club by one and draw level with Roy Keane for goals.
17=) Lucas Moura (Sao Paulo to Paris Saint-Germain, 2013 – £38m)
“We have shown an interest, but until such time we get a deal agreed, we can’t say he’s our player,” declared Sir Alex Ferguson in summer 2012. Paris Saint-Germain ensured Manchester United never had the chance but the French giants ultimately made a loss on Lucas Moura, who did at least manage a typically healthy collection of 15 trophies in Paris.
17=) Alex Teixeira (Shakhtar Donetsk to Jiangsu Suning, 2016 – £38m)
Only the real ones remember when Alex Teixeira was The Next Big Thing. Liverpool supporters were absolutely obsessed with the idea of signing an uncapped and almost entirely untested Brazilian they had never seen play, purely because he was linked with them for loadsa money. They pulled out of talks in the end and Shakhtar simply sold the highest bidder: a team which was dissolved in 2021. Wonder why.
17=) Paulinho (Barcelona to Guangzhou Evergrande, 2019 – £38m)
Barcelona were laughed at when they signed Spurs legend Paulinho from Guangzhou Evergrande for £36m in August 2017, but the tables turned so considerably after a fine season in Spain that the decision to loan him back a year later was equally confusing. Guangzhou subsequently made that deal permanent and he scored 19 league goals to help them win the title. The 34-year-old is back at Corinthians, determined to play for each of his clubs twice. Pick up the phone, Antonio.
15=) Bruno Guimaraes (Lyon to Newcastle, 2022 – £40m)
Newcastle could probably double their money now if a) they wanted to, and b) money was a worthwhile concept to them. They have so much of it that the idea of selling Bruno Guimaraes is preposterous: he is clearly in with The Project and Eddie Howe will build it all around the Brazilian if he has any sense.
15=) Anthony Gordon (Everton to Newcastle, 2023 – £40m)
If he’s as good as last winter’s £40m signing then Newcastle will be delighted. It would be fair to say we have our doubts.
14) Luis Diaz (Porto to Liverpool, 2022 – £49.9m)
The transfer which so infuriated Daniel Levy, the supposed master negotiator seething at another club for negotiating. Luis Diaz has been a fine addition to further regenerate the Liverpool attack and his recent injury setback will sting.
13) Fernando Torres (Liverpool to Chelsea – £50m)
It still feels bizarre that Fernando Torres played eight more Premier League games for Chelsea than he did for Liverpool. The goal haul despite that – 20 at Chelsea and 65 at Liverpool – points to a career trajectory that suffered a sharp fall upon his move to Stamford Bridge. And yet his four years with the Blues yielded a Champions League and Europa League trophy each, with no Anfield trinkets whatsoever.
12) Ferran Torres (Manchester City to Barcelona, 2022 – £54.7m)
Back before Barcelona used economic levers to sign players with money they absolutely didn’t have, the Blaugrana fed their transfer addiction through old-fashioned means like overdrafts and bank loans. We’ve all been there. Cost of living crisis and that. They could have plucked Torres from Valencia for £20m or so about 18 months beforehand but shut up that’s why.
11) Bruno Fernandes (Sporting to Manchester United, 2020 – £55m)
Sensational to begin with. Genuinely absolutely brilliant. Then suddenly and completely randomly went a bit shit from around September 2021 to late 2022. No explanation has ever been put forth as to why. Good on Manchester United for keeping the two best of their three Portuguese representatives at the World Cup, by the way.
Bruno Fernandes was truly exceptional in the World Cup. Truly, truly exceptional. He is a special footballer. Just wait until ten Hag turns United from a chaotic transition-based team into a controlled machine and he's flourish. High-risk players need controlled environments.
— EBL (@EBL2017) December 12, 2022
10) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal, 2018 – £56m)
A miserable end should not obscure a mutually beneficial and temporarily happy union. Only seven players have ever scored more goals for Arsenal than Aubameyang – and each of those above him made at least 90 more appearances for the Gunners. If only he was more punctual.
9) Diego Costa (Chelsea to Atletico Madrid, 2018 – £57m)
Football’s greatest mystery is how Chelsea managed to sell a 29-year-old Diego Costa to Atletico Madrid for £57m despite the striker being very publicly surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge, as painstakingly proven by Antonio Conte’s text message dumping him straight after they won the title together in summer 2017. Costa had not played professional football for seven months by the time he returned to the Spanish capital; his La Liga record during that second spell was 61 appearances, 12 goals and 17 yellow cards, as well as an eight-game suspension he received for abusing a referee.
8) Aymeric Laporte (Athletic Bilbao to Manchester City, 2018 – £57.2m)
Perhaps swayed by Liverpool breaking the world record for biggest transfer fee ever spent on a defender earlier that same month, Manchester City settled for Aymeric Laporte. It has not been a smooth ride since but four Premier League titles in five years tells quite the compelling story of a player who has grown into his senior role.
7) Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea, 2019 – £57.56m)
It is not going to plan for Christian Pulisic, who might well suggest that playing for and being coached by three different managers in nearly four years at a time of immense upheaval has not helped. Frank Lampard, Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter have all struggled to harness the American’s talents. And Maurizio Sarri was managing the Blues when the deal was put together.
6) Oscar (Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG, 2017 – £60m)
Receiving £57m for an unwanted Costa was a quite ludicrous magic trick from Chelsea, but even they would be hard pushed to outdo the £60m they raked in for Oscar, practically a reserve, in 2017. Jamie Carragher described it as “embarrassing” for the Brazilian, but he can probably live with the shame. Or wipe his tears away using bank notes.
5) Mykhaylo Mudryk (Shakhtar Donetsk to Chelsea, 2023 – £62m)
You will read a lot about this being an £89m transfer but the truth is that Chelsea will only pay £89m if everything goes swimmingly; Chelsea only paid an initial £62m for the Ukrainian winger who – just a week before – we were repeatedly told only wanted to join Arsenal. He has signed an eight-and-a-half-year contract, which is officially a hell of a lot.
4) Dusan Vlahovic (Fiorentina to Juventus, 2022 – £66.6m)
The football world scoffed along with Dusan Vlahovic at the Sophie’s Choice he was presented in January 2022. After breaking numerous records with Fiorentina, the young striker could have taken his pick of interested clubs. Arsenal were predictably – and justifiably at the time – rejected in favour of a move to Juventus. What could have been.
3) Virgil van Dijk (Southampton to Liverpool, 2018 – £75m)
This was the most expensive January deal ever when it went through on the first day of 2018 and the size of the fee took everyone by surprise. But it turns out that it was basically a bargain for the lynchpin of one of the most formidable teams in Premier League history.
2) Enzo Fernandez (Benfica to Chelsea, 2023 – £106.8m)
A deadline-busting deal that was on and off for much of January and only at the very last definitively on. Chelsea ended up going over and above Fernandez’s 120million euro release clause in exchange for a payment structure that suited their needs. Those needs primarily being “spread the cost as much as possible across the massive eight-and-a-half-year contracts we give out now”.
1) Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool to Barcelona, 2018 – £142m)
Liverpool were merely delaying the inevitable when they resisted Barca’s three offers in summer 2017. The Spanish side had to wait half a season and chuck another £20million at the Reds but finally they got their man and Coutinho got his move. Not that either he or the buying club will look back on the deal fondly.