Anthony Martial ruled as the most expensive teenager in Premier League history for eight long – just as Manchester United – years. Romeo Lavia is here now.
These right here are the most expensive teenage signings in Premier League history.
10) William Saliba (£27m)
One of Arsenal’s absolute greatest post-Wenger signings felt more like he would fit the opposite description until fairly recently. The Gunners beat Tottenham to the capture of Saint-Etienne centre-half Saliba in summer 2019, when Raul Sanllehi and Unai Emery were given the keys the Emirates.
A central defensive partnership of David Luiz and Sokratis was not for breaking – and Saliba did need a little more seasoning – so the Frenchman was immediately loaned back to Ligue Un. Then again. And again. Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille enjoyed his stylings but it was not until August 2022, three years and 10 days after Arsenal signed him, that Saliba made his Gunners debut.
Neither player nor club have looked back since, all the way to a Premier League title challenge that only began to fizzle out upon an injury to Saliba. As ropey as things seemed at times, the new five-year contract he signed in July is a mark of how patience can pay off.
9) Wayne Rooney (£27m)
A figure made to look relatively modest with the passage of time, it has been suggested that inflation both ordinary and footballing would put the fee paid for Rooney in 2004 at more than £110m two decades later.
Man Utd would consider either entirely worth it for their record goalscorer, former captain, two-time Player of the Year and winner of 16 trophies at Old Trafford. They might well argue that they got a bargain considering Rooney’s standout Euro 2004 and intense interest from Sir Bobby Robson’s Newcastle, even if it required what was a world-record sum for a teenager to procure the forward from Everton.
8) Moise Kean (£29m)
During his time as an Everton player, Kean scored more often for both Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus on loan than he did for his parent club. The Frenchman finished with as many goals as managers at the Toffees, netting against Newcastle, Bournemouth, Salford and Fleetwood, while playing under Marco Silva, Duncan Ferguson, Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez.
None could unlock the forward’s prodigious talents, nor override some reported attitude issues. Kean was reprimanded for breaching club discipline in November 2019, shortly after his arrival, before being heavily sanctioned for throwing a house party during lockdown.
In an incredibly rare example of Everton righting a transfer wrong, they essentially got their money back when selling the Italian straight back to Juventus for £25m after a two-year Turin loan.
7) Anderson (£30m)
One did not simply play for Man Utd between 2007 and 2015 without spending at least some of the intervening time appearing on some sort of podcast and suggesting Anderson could have been the greatest footballer in history if he wasn’t obsessed with McDonald’s.
The literal Golden Boy of 2008 made his move to Old Trafford alongside Nani the prior summer, making 38 appearances in his debut season and never surpassing that figure in seven further campaigns.
The Brazilian arguably fit enough into 2007/08 to make it all worth it, coming on in the final minute of stoppage time in extra-time to convert a sudden death penalty with his first kick of the Champions League final, immediately after John Terry lost his footing.
6) Gabriel Jesus (£31m)
” We look forward to him making a big impact at Manchester City in January,” said Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain in August 2016, discussing the relatively unknown Gabriel Jesus. A lauded talent within Brazil, it was nevertheless striking to see the Premier League commit such figures on a teenager in Pep Guardiola’s first transfer window.
That “big impact” was almost unfathomably quick from Jesus when he did arrive at the Etihad the following January. It was decided that Jesus would stay in Brazil to complete their league season and inspire Palmeiras to a first national championship in 22 years, being named player of the year in the process.
With Jesus making his Selecao debut in September 2016, scoring five goals and assisting four in his first six caps by the end of the year, having helped guide his country to Olympics gold a fortnight after the confirmation of his impending move to England, it was clear Manchester City had spotted a talent. Four Premier League titles and 95 goals before being sold at a substantial profit to Arsenal six years later only underlined it.
5) Luke Shaw (£31m)
It is often underestimated just how callow – and how brilliant – Luke Shaw was in his early Premier League days. Rooney remains the only player to make his 50th appearance in the competition at a younger age (18 years, two months and four days), with Shaw matching Milner (18 years, seven months and 17 days) and beating Cesc Fabregas by about a week.
The left-back was a PFA Team of the Year member and Young Player of the Year candidate – beaten by Eden Hazard so fair enough – before he took the genuinely debatable step back of leaving that wonderful Southampton team for Louis van Gaal’s sterile revolution. It has taken time but only relatively recently has Shaw restored his reputation to those exciting St Mary’s levels as a reliable professional.
4) Fabio Silva (£35.6m)
Absolutely ludicrous, that. Portuguese authorities clearly agreed as the fee, a club-record transfer for Wolves at the time, was investigated as part of a wider operation exploring issues with agents and third-party payments.
Eyebrows might have been raised when Porto commanded such preposterous money for a teenager with a single league start and goal to his name. Silva’s entire professional career consisted of 781 minutes and three goals when Jorge Mendes worked his magic.
The forward did at least improve on that at Molineux, netting four times in the Premier League; he has been more prolific on loan at both Anderlecht and PSV since, with Julen Lopetegui left to hope the still-uncapped 21-year-old is like a new signing because he won’t be given any actual ones.
3) Wesley Fofana (£36.5m)
Brendan Rodgers might have been onto something when he said that new Leicester signing Wesley Fofana “looks like he’s played for a lot longer,” considering the centre-half has barely racked up 100 senior career appearances yet still earned transfers worth around £111.5m.
A single season at Saint-Etienne – the premature 2019/20 at that – was enough to persuade the Foxes that Fofana was worth comparatively silly money, much like his one full campaign at the King Power Stadium tempted Chelsea into making him one of the most expensive defenders ever less than two years later despite the Frenchman suffering a long-term injury in the interim.
The most games Fofana has played for any one club remains the 52 he managed at Leicester. Next is 30 at Saint-Etienne and yet another devastating cruciate ligament problem means he will be stuck on 20 at Chelsea and one with France for the foreseeable.
2) Anthony Martial (£44.7m)
“It was a ridiculous amount of money, but it’s the crazy world we are in,” said Louis van Gaal. “I have not bought Martial for me – I have bought him for the next manager of Manchester United.“
That he went on to vouch for the candidacy of Ryan Giggs to that role remains hilarious.
Martial did at least have some first-team pedigree when a panicking Man Utd came calling in September 2015. The Frenchman had played 70 games and scored 15 goals. But as French football journalist Philippe Auclair said at the time: “This amount of money leaves people speechless in France.”
With Monaco banking an initial fee of £36m, add-ons made up the rest of the £57.6m total possible payment. Martial triggered one clause by scoring well over 25 goals in his first four seasons, but he failed to hit the requisite number of France caps and – somehow – did not win the Ballon d’Or to activate another instalment.
1) Romeo Lavia (£53m)
A player so young that even if he serves the entirety of his compulsory seven-year contract with Chelsea, Lavia will still only be 26 and hitting his prime when it expires.
The Blues have been enamoured with Lavia for a while, bidding £50m on deadline day of the summer 2022 window, just five games into the Belgian’s Southampton career. Hell, Lavia’s whole career consisted of just seven matches by that point, so prodigious was his excellence in the Manchester City youth setup.
Premier League relegation did little to dim that light as Lavia was the silver lining to that miserable Saints cloud. And while Liverpool sniffed around, Arsenal and Manchester United were linked and Manchester City held first dibs, Chelsea were not to be deterred.
🗣️ Romeo Lavia on why he joined Chelsea. "I think the project and the ambitions of the club were two factors, but also the history of it, so these three factors determined my decision… pic.twitter.com/4k9dKovSvz
— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) August 18, 2023