This list only includes players who have played their club football within the confines of the United Kingdom, and only includes permanent clubs. Sorry to Robbie Keane, basically.
8. Stewart Downing – £44m (Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Liverpool, West Ham, Middlesbrough)
The two clubs who appear on this list most often do so four times. Whether that is an indictment on both Liverpool and West Ham’s past transfer business is not for me to say. But it is.
At least the Hammers only felt compelled to spend just £5million on the winger in 2013. Two years earlier, with Downing aged 27, Liverpool had spent £20m to sign him from Aston Villa.
The 35-time England international seems to have a strange effect on clubs. In July 2015, Championship side Middlesbrough re-signed Downing, then 31, for £7m. Some people shouldn’t be trusted with money.
7. Craig Bellamy – £45m (Norwich, Coventry, Newcastle, Blackburn, Liverpool, West Ham, Manchester City, Liverpool, Cardiff)
There is something remarkably pleasing about Craig Bellamy’s transfer history. Each of the first five permanent moves of his career involved fees ranging from £5m to £7.5m as he carved out a reputation as a solid but unspectacular Premier League striker. His move to Liverpool in 2006 came after the Welshman first registered double figures for goals in a single league season. A fine reward, one must admit.
Then something happened. After a year at Anfield, Bellamy made the switch to West Ham. Seven goals in 24 games was enough to persuade Manchester City to part with a whopping £14m for his services. The highlight of his two-year spell in Manchester was his thrilling performance in a 4-3 derby defeat against United in September 2009, in which he also slapped a pitch-invading fan in the face as his career was played out in a 90-minute microcosm.
That would be the last time any club paid a fee for Bellamy. Spells with Cardiff and Liverpool followed, but only as a free agent. Mind you, he won more trophies in the last two years of his career (2) than he did in the previous 16 (1).
6. Rio Ferdinand – £48m (West Ham, Leeds, Manchester United, QPR)
In a column for the Daily Telegraph dated December 13, 2015, Harry Redknapp explained the situation West Ham faced when selling Rio Ferdinand in 2000, five years after the Bosman ruling had taken effect.
‘I was managing West Ham United at the time and our chairman, Terry Brown, thought that we would never see transfer fees again. He, and a lot of other people, felt that all players would become free agents and you would simply not buy players any more. This thinking informed the sale of Rio Ferdinand. I wanted to keep him but the chairman said: “We have got to because with this Bosman ruling there will never be a big transfer.” So, we sold him to Leeds United for £18 million.’
How Brown must have felt when Leeds proceeded to sell Ferdinand on less than two years later for £30m, meaning Ferdinand can claim a unique title in footballing parlance: a two-time most expensive defender in the world. He could not quite make it a hat-trick when he eventually left Manchester United for QPR.
5. Peter Crouch – £49,060,000 (Tottenham, QPR, Portsmouth, Aston Villa, Southampton, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Tottenham, Stoke)
To put the transfer complaints any fanbase may harbour this transfer window, cast your minds back to the summer of 2005. Liverpool, fresh from being crowned European champions, were looking for players to help them defend their Champions League crown. Rafael Benitez, conqueror of the continent’s finest, was now eating at the top negotiating table, shopping at Waitrose instead of finding scraps of food in the bin.
Pepe Reina would arrive, a shrew purchase at just over £6m. But Benitez would part with cash for just four more players. Momo Sissoko was signed for £5.6m, while Jack Hobbs and Besian Idrizaj joined for nominal fees.
Liverpool’s biggest signing? Peter Crouch, in every sense. Southampton accepted £7m for the striker’s services, which ranks around the middle of his career transfer fees. The 36-year-old cost Stoke a then-club record £12m in August 2011, and he is still scoring the goals six years later.
4. Kyle Walker – £49.5m (Sheffield United, Tottenham, Manchester City)
Did Roy Keane have any particular individual in mind when he criticised the “mind-boggling” fees for “average players”? Jose Mourinho was certainly referencing one man when he questioned the “crazy fees” for “normal players”.
Kyle Walker’s questionable sending-off on his home debut for Manchester City did little to defy the detractors. The right-back has an initial £45m fee weighing on his shoulders, and after flying the Tottenham coop, must back up his convictions with trophies at the Etihad Stadium.
No-one was criticising him when Tottenham paid Sheffield United a combined £9m to sign both Walker and Kyle Naughton, were they? Football is a fickle beast.
3. Andy Carroll – £50m (Newcastle, Liverpool, West Ham)
In terms of active Premier League scorers, one player sits snugly between Gareth Barry and Diego Costa (both 52 goals), and Cesc Fabregas and James Milner (both 48 goals).
It seems strange to think that, for every Premier League goal Andy Carroll has ever scored, a club has paid £1m for his services. Fourteen top-flight goals for Newcastle persuaded Liverpool to part with £35m for him in January 2011. Six goals at Anfield followed, before West Ham came to his rescue to the tune of £15m. With 30 goals in 98 games in East London, Slaven Bilic will hope he returns soon.
2. John Stones – £50.5m (Barnsley, Everton, Manchester City)
Money can buy you Stones. Plenty of it had to be offered, of course, and many still suggest that Everton completely fleeced Manchester City when they received £47.5m for the defender whose main weakness is defending. It remains to be seen whether Pep Guardiola can help England’s Next Great Hope finally realise his potential.
Pushing Stones closer towards the top of this illustrious list is a man who helps elevate each of us every day. A man whose charismatic brilliance brings out the very best in all of those around him. A man who sensed Stones’ abilities, and prised him from Barnsley in the first place. Here’s to you, David Moyes.
1. Darren Bent – £59.5m (Ipswich, Charlton, Tottenham, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Derby)
On Tuesday, a private flight travelled from Bournemouth to Liverpool John Lennon Airport. At any other time of the year, this would almost certainly have been largely ignored. During a summer transfer window? Think again.
Within one of the most ridiculous hours of social media in recent years, infamous transfer ‘insider’ IndyKaila told his 268,000 followers that he was ‘trying to confirm’ with the captain, mid-flight, whether Virgil van Dijk was on said plane. Liverpool fans noticed that the silver Mercedes people carrier that picked up the passenger was a similar vehicle to the one that had escorted Mohamed Salah and other new signings to Anfield previously. A Twitter account was then set up, bearing the vehicle’s registration plate as its username. Liverpool fans are absolutely phenomenal.
Liverpool fans have crashed a worldwide flight tracking site. This summer transfer window is undefeated
— charlie (@__charliethomas) August 29, 2017
Thankfully, the social media platform was not quite at the height of its powers around 2009, when an England international striker was linked with a move to Merseyside. ‘Liverpool sign Bent’ read the messages, accompanied with a picture of a twisted Liverpool railway station sign. Oh, how we all laughed.
Darren Bent, for his part, was once a club-record signing for Tottenham and Sunderland, and remains Aston Villa’s most expensive player ever. He is still only 33. Weird.