Players who were signed on free transfers – Paul Pogba, basically – are included, but those who came through youth ranks before being sold for a truckload of cash are not…
1. Neymar – Barcelona to PSG
A massive profit apparently isn’t enough to placate Barcelona following Paris Saint-Germain’s raid for the Brazilian, who cost £71.5million from Santos in 2013. Neymar’s £198million buyout clause was supposed to scare off anyone who fancied the playmaker, but not the Qatari-backed Parisians, who found ways to stump up the amount in full for the player to release himself from his contract. With Barca suing Neymar and the 25-year-old making a counter claim, it’s getting messy…
2. Paul Pogba – Juventus to Manchester United
The France star left United in 2012 after it had become apparent that Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t going to build his midfield around the teenager anytime soon. So Pogba went to Juventus, won four Serie A titles and a couple of Doubles, before Jose Mourinho instructed United to fork out a then-world record fee for a player they had discarded four years previously.
3. Ousmane Dembele – Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona
That Rennes are receiving around double what Borussia Dortmund paid them in May 2016 in sell-on clauses from Barcelona’s deal for Ousmane Dembele tells its own story. That Ousmane Dembele was yet to make his professional first-team debut at this stage two years ago, yet is now the second-most expensive player ever, tells another.
4. Gareth Bale – Tottenham to Real Madrid
Spurs signed Bale from Southampton in 2007 for an initial fee of £5million, with another £5million in potential add-ons. However, in 2008, the Saints agreed to take just £2million more, in light of their need to find cash quick. They, nor anyone else, foresaw that Bale would go on to break the world record in 2013, when he moved to Real Madrid for £85.1million.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United to Real Madrid
By selling Ronaldo for £80million in 2009, United may have made a huge wedge on the star they signed as a teenager from Sporting Lisbon for £12.24million, but the Spaniards certainly got the better end of the deal. Ronaldo went on to become the club’s highest-ever goalscorer; United signed Gabriel Obertan and Michael Owen.
6. Kaka – AC Milan to Real Madrid
Real Madrid broke the transfer record – anyone spotting a pattern here? – twice in 2009, with the £56.1million deal that bought Kaka from AC Milan lasting only a fortnight as a landmark deal before Ronaldo’s arrival made it look like peanuts – which is exactly the term Silvio Berlusconi used to describe the £5million Milan paid to bring him to Italy from Sao Paulo in 2003.
7. Romelu Lukaku – Everton to Manchester United
Many had their doubts when United paid £75million for Lukaku earlier this summer, but within weeks, and even before the season had started, the rate of inflation in the market quickly made it appear a decent deal for United. As it was for the Toffees, who were well aware – as was anyone with eyes or ears – of Lukaku’s intention to move up a level or two. With such a profit, they were able to buy Gylfi Sigurdsson and have change left over.
8. Kyle Walker – Tottenham to Manchester City
The right-back joined Spurs in 2009 along with Kyle Naughton for a combined fee of £9million. Given Everton had offered £5million for Naughton, we are valuing Walker’s sale at £4million. Fast-forward eight years and Pep Guardiola was willing to pay more than 12 times that amount, with £50million potentially rising to £53million.
9. John Stones – Everton to Manchester City
Everton gave Barnsley £3million in 2013 for a raw centre-half before selling him on to Manchester City three years later as a raw centre-half for more than 15 times the amount they paid the Tykes.
10=. Zinedine Zidane – Juventus to Real Madrid
Real had to break the world transfer record when they signed Zidane from Juve in 2001 but, again, it proved to be astute business. Juventus received around £46million for a player they had signed from Bordeaux for £3million five years previously, but Zidane created a legacy at Real not only as a player, but also a coach, having now guided the club to two Champions League titles under his leadership.
10=. Edinson Cavani – Napoli to PSG
Cavani joined Napoli from Palermo in a deal that was made up of a 5million euros payment for a one-season loan with a 12million euros obligation-to-buy payment due immediately after. Following 104 goals in 138 games, Napoli sold the Uruguayan on for £55million, despite him being constantly linked with the Premier League.
12. Luis Suarez – Liverpool to Barcelona
Liverpool felt £65million was a fair sum – even if it that is £10million less than initially thought – for a player who was serving a four-month ban for biting an opponent for a third time. All things considered, including Suarez’s continued disciplinary problems and his desire to move closer to his wife’s family in Spain, it was then a fair deal for a player the Reds signed from Ajax three and a half seasons previously for £22.7million.
13. Gonzalo Higuain – Napoli to Juventus
After finishing 2015-16 as Serie A top scorer, Juventus finally agreed to pay the full amount of Higuain’s release clause; a whopping 90 million euros, which though it was paid in two equal instalments, made Higuain’s move the most expensive domestic deal between Italian clubs. Juve weren’t cash-strapped for too long – they raked in £89million for Pogba around a fortnight later.
14. Kevin De Bruyne – Wolfsburg to Manchester City
In 2014, De Bruyne made Chelsea a tidy £11million profit, especially when you consider that he had made only nine appearances in two years on the Blues’ books. But the deal that took him to Wolfsburg was dwarfed by the £55million Manchester City paid to bring the Belgian back for a proper crack at the Premier League.
15. Luis Figo – Barcelona to Real Madrid
Zidane’s move came only a year after Real had forked out another record fee in 2000 to sign Figo, with £37million not only securing the services of an incredible talent but also serving as a show of strength over their deadly rivals, who were powerless to stop the Portugal winger leaving after his release clause had been met.