The most expensive defenders ever: Gvardiol deal means Man City claim seven of top 20 names

Matt Stead
Maguire Stones Walker and Rice for England
England have some of the most expensive defenders ever

Manchester City have paid seven of the 20 biggest ever fees for defenders with the arrival of Josko Gvardiol. Harry Maguire remains top of the tree for now.


1) Harry Maguire – £80m/€97m (Leicester to Man Utd, August 2019)
After vetoing a summer 2018 move for Maguire because of a reticence to pay a potential world-record fee for a defender, Man Utd paid a very much real world-record fee for a defender to sign the Leicester centre-half the following year. And now they could sell him for half the price.


2) Josko Gvardiol – £77m/€89m (Leipzig to Manchester City, August 2023)
A standout World Cup for Croatia and another season of Bundesliga excellence – although Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland tried their utmost to ruin both respectively – finally earned Gvardiol his long-awaited Premier League move for less than the original world-record demands.


3) Virgil van Dijk – £75m/€84m (Southampton to Liverpool, January 2018)
The benchmark was set by Van Dijk, who claimed “I can’t do anything about the price” before doing everything to justify it, helping Liverpool reach a Champions League final within his first few months, winning the lot by his fourth year and raking in awards and acclaim in equal measure.


4) Wesley Fofana – £70m/€80.4m (Leicester to Chelsea, August 2022)
It took three rejected Chelsea bids – worth £50m, £60m and finally £70m with add-ons included – before Leicester finally caved and accepted up to £75m for a defender with 57 top-flight career league appearances. Even before Fofana’s subsequent serious knee injury, it wasn’t exactly going to plan in his debut season.


5) Lucas Hernandez – £68m/€80m (Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich, July 2019)
Bayern Munich’s record signing has been a bit of a dud, reaching just over 100 games in four years but watching the entire 2020 Champions League final win from the bench and potentially being sold at a considerable loss to PSG.


6) Matthijs de Ligt – £67.8m/€75m (Ajax to Juventus, July 2019)
When the vultures picked at the carcass of Ajax in 2019, De Jong and De Ligt were the parts deemed most succulent. Man Utd might have had their ridiculous reasons for turning the latter down but Juventus were not put off by his father’s weight; after three underwhelming years they might wish they had.


7) Ruben Dias – £65m/€71.6m (Benfica to Manchester City, September 2020)
Two days after Jamie Vardy scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 humbling of Manchester City, Pep Guardiola took his Etihad spending on defenders beyond £400m on one of the best of the lot.


8) Matthijs de Ligt – £62m/€70m (Juventus to Bayern Munich, July 2022)
“I was still really young. I went from a kid who did everything well at Ajax to a defender at Juventus, where every little thing I did wrong was seen by everybody,” De Ligt has said of his brief time in Turin, which he swapped for a role out of the spotlight as the “boss” of Bayern’s defence.


9) Achraf Hakimi – £60m/€71m (Inter to Paris Saint-Germain, July 2021)
After playing for Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Inter, Hakimi had enough of representing clubs with European pedigree and so rocked up in Paris to win a few domestic trophies and keep Kylian Mbappe company.


10) Joao Cancelo – £60m/€65m (Juventus to Manchester City, August 2019)
Swapping places with Danilo, Cancelo went from bit-part player to one of the best in the league, then suddenly Bayern Munich loanee and on the summer 2023 transfer list, all within four ludicrous years.


11) Aymeric Laporte – £57m/€65m (Athletic Bilbao to Manchester City, January 2018)
After Manchester City balked at the numbers involved in procuring Van Dijk from Southampton, they simply switched them around and went for Laporte in a club-record move instead.


12) Marc Cucurella – £55m/€68m (Brighton to Chelsea, August 2022)
It doesn’t feel as though the add-ons potentially taking this deal to £63m were activated in a dreadful year for Cucurella the individual and the Chelsea collective.


13) Benjamin Mendy – £52m/€57.5m (Monaco to Manchester City, July 2017)
An incredibly rare misstep for a Manchester City side which tends to spend such considerable sums brilliantly.


14) David Luiz – £50m/€62.5m (Chelsea to Paris Saint-Germain, June 2014)
Domestic Quadruples were won in both his full seasons in Paris, before Chelsea bought the Brazilian straight back for £16m less.


15) Benjamin White – £50m/€58m (Brighton to Arsenal, July 2021)
Arsenal started the bidding at £42m and had five offers turned down before acquiescing to Brighton’s initial demand for a guaranteed £50m, and all parties can be happy with their lot.


16) John Stones – £50m/€57m (Everton to Manchester City, August 2016)
Reckon it might be safe to assume the £2.5m in add-ons have been achieved for a brilliant defender and apparently even better midfielder.


17) Kyle Walker £50m/€56.7m (Tottenham to Manchester City, July 2017)
It seemed preposterous at the time but the only absurd thing six years on is just how much Walker has won as a trusted Guardiola lieutenant.

READ MOREMan City are masters of the £50m transfer and ‘odd’ Kyle Walker move as good as any


18) Lisandro Martinez – £48.3m/€57.3m (Ajax to Man Utd, July 2022)
He’s 5’9″ and Man Utd quite justifiably adore their short, World Cup-winning king.

Lisandro Martinez playing for Man Utd


19) Ben Chilwell – £45m/€55.8m (Leicester to Chelsea, August 2020)
One season of rotating between Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso and Emerson Palmieri was more than enough to persuade Chelsea that they should probably invest in a decent left-back, with Chilwell doing his bit to validate that decision.


20) Jules Kounde – £45m/€54m (Sevilla to Barcelona, July 2022)
After spending much of the summer leading Chelsea on, Kounde made a step up in La Liga and formed a key part of a thrillingly mean defence which conceded 13 fewer goals than any other side en route to the title.