Stunning Manchester United signing might never be beaten but Chelsea are putting up a transfer fight

Matt Stead
Chelsea player Cole Palmer, Leeds midfielder Archie Gray and Jude Bellingham of Birmingham
The England tax is unreal, even without any caps

Chelsea, Newcastle and Tottenham have all breached the top ten for biggest uncapped English signings ever, but Manchester United might never be beaten.

These players were all uncapped at the time of their signing; whether they went on to represent England is immaterial.


20) James Maddison (Norwich to Leicester, £22.5m to £24m, June 2018)
Within four months of his second Premier League move – Maddison actually joined Norwich in the winter before their 2016 relegation, being loaned straight back to Coventry – there came a first England call-up. But the playmaker did not feature and instead had to wait another year for that inaugural cap.

Maddison has gone to a World Cup and made a provisional European Championship squad but only barely has more caps as a Spurs player (four) than during his time with Leicester (three).


19) Joe Willock (Arsenal to Newcastle, £20m to £25m, August 2021)
“That is my dream – it’s every young player from England’s dream,” he said in April 2023 of an international call-up. “That has to be my goal. I’m hungry, I’m young and I’ve got a lot to give.”

The 24-year-old, Newcastle’s last signing of the pre-PIF era, belongs to that lost era of Declan Rice midfield partners; Kobbie Mainoo and Adam Wharton have jumped the queue.


18) Ben Godfrey (Norwich to Everton, £20m to £25m, October 2020)
There was a time when Godfrey could be lumped in with Benjamin White and nary an eyelid was batted. “These two are flexible, they play in different roles and can play left and right. This is a great opportunity for us to know them a bit better and for them to work with the team,” Southgate said after naming the pair in the provisional squad for Euro 2021.

The manager made the right decision in taking White over Godfrey (and probably the wrong one in picking Steve Holland over White). We have got to know both a bit better since and would no longer consider them equals. Although Europa League winners Atalanta know who they prefer.


17) Alex Scott (Bristol City to Bournemouth, £20m to £25m, August 2023)
Gary O’Neil must have been sick of the sight of Bournemouth in summer 2023, losing out on top Wolves target Scott to the team which traded him for Andoni Iraola months prior.

Scott, then a teenager, eventually impressed after overcoming an injury which delayed his Bournemouth debut. On a different timeline he really might have made that England squad for the Euros but his first U21 call only came in March.


16) Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth to Aston Villa, £20m to £26.5m, July 2019)
It was A Big Thing when Aston Villa agreed to chuck £20m Bournemouth’s way in the process of making the loan of Mings a more permanent feature in 2019.

The centre-half had played a key part in their rise from the Championship and as that year’s official Promoted Team That Makes A Load Of New Signings, it made perfect sense from Villa’s viewpoint if no-one else’s. An England squad place arrived a few months later and the Villa captaincy followed in 2021, much to Steven Gerrard’s future chagrin.

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15) Jude Bellingham (Birmingham to Borussia Dortmund, £22.5m to £30m, July 2020)
Manchester United pulled out all the stops and even wheeled in Sir Alex Ferguson but Borussia Dortmund’s pitch involved nonsense like clear pathways to the first team and boring Bellingham decided to make the best possible decision for his career instead of picking based on banter and vibes because he is boring.

Within four months of his Germany move, Bellingham was firmly embedded in the England set-up, not to be moved for about two decades. He cannot have been far off doing a Jay Bothroyd and claiming a Three Lions caps while playing for a lower-division club.


14) Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield United to Arsenal, £24m to £30m, August 2021)
Ramsdale was as uncapped by the senior England side when he joined Arsenal as when he moved back to Sheffield United from Bournemouth the year before. The only difference this time was the ridicule he faced upon that switch to north London as a twice-relegated keeper signed as back-up for Bernd Leno.

It took Ramsdale a couple of months to prove the doubters wrong and not much longer to force his way into the England picture. He plays about as often for them as he does Arsenal now, so not much.


13) Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham to Tottenham, £25m to £30m, August 2019)
It is a dreadful shame that the 24-year-old Sessegnon remains uncapped and now unattached following his release from Tottenham. A total of 57 appearances in five seasons leaves no mystery as to the problem for a talented player who has been derailed by injuries.

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12) Jordan Pickford (Sunderland to Everton, £25m to £30m, June 2017)
“The club’s only going forward, so it’s the best thing I can be doing,” said Pickford upon his move from Sunderland to Everton, who had just finished 7th in the Premier League and have come 8th, 8th, 12th, 10th, 16th, 17th and 15th in the subsequent seven campaigns.

His first England call-up came that August before his Three Lions debut in the November. No-one has been able to out-rave him between the sticks for his country in the meantime; Pickford is four clean sheets and eight caps behind Gordon Banks.


11) Noni Madueke (PSV to Chelsea, £30m, January 2023)
“If I play week in, week out next season, I will be in contention for a senior team call-up. I’ve spoken to Gareth and the door is open,” said Madueke last June, before starting 13 Premier League games and beating Mykaylo Mudryk for goals and assists.

That route presumably still exists but Enzo Maresca will have to consistently pick Madueke and thus frequently overlook Chelsea’s many other hundred young forwards.


10) Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (Leicester to Chelsea, £30m, June 2024)
The outlier in a summer of egregious PSR tomfoolery
, Dewsbury-Hall made his professional debut at 21 and thus skipped every stage of the England youth set-up. Being great for Leicester was not enough to register on the radar; simply being at Chelsea likely improves his senior chances.


9) Archie Gray (Leeds to Tottenham, £30m, July 2024)
Leeds were ‘heartbroken’ to lose the boyhood brilliance of an academy product Brentford bid £35m for and, according to some outlets, Tottenham paid up to £40m to sign. But Moussa Sissoko has most commonly been attached to teenager Gray, who has 24 combined caps for England U15s, U16s, U17s, U19s, U20s and U21s.

Kalvin Phillips made his England debut before his Premier League bow. If Southgate cannot function without his safety blanket, perhaps he needs to look at Leeds again.


8) Tino Livramento (Southampton to Newcastle, £32m, August 2023)
Signed by Saints from Chelsea for just £5m in 2021, right-back Livramento earned Southampton a massive profit after just 34 appearances, his spell cruelly curtailed by injury.

That likely contributed to his slow start at Newcastle, eventually turning out 35 times in his debut season and helping gradually wean Eddie Howe off his Kieran Trippier fix. It will take something even stronger to curb Southgate’s addiction.


7) Ollie Watkins (Brentford to Aston Villa, £28m to £33m, September 2020)
One season as a centre-forward was enough to tempt Aston Villa into parting with up to £33m for Watkins in September 2020. Those £5m in add-ons have surely been achieved across 70 goals, 13 England caps and Champions League qualification, even if he frustratingly remains on the international periphery.


6) Lewis Hall (Chelsea to Newcastle, £28m to £35m, July 2024)
With only 12 career appearances to his name by the time he joined Newcastle on loan, Hall was rather unsurprisingly not in the England picture. A first season with the Magpies in which he made his move permanent but still struggled for game time for the most part did little to improve those prospects.

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5) Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolves to Nottingham Forest, £25m to £44.5m, August 2022)
While Gibbs-White is guaranteed a fair few mentions in every international break, and has even been specifically name-dropped a few times recently by Southgate, his dragging of Forest through successive survival campaigns has not quite translated to England honours yet.

It will come. The 24-year-old has won the U17 World Cup and U21 Euros and that almost guarantees a clear pathway to at least a handful of senior caps once the latest tournament is in the rear-view mirror.


4) Max Kilman (Wolves to West Ham, £40m, July 2024)
An England international of 25 caps, but in futsal rather than association football. That actually prevented Kilman from making a proposed switch in allegiance to represent Ukraine from Euro 2021 onwards, leaving the Three Lions as his only route to playing for a country. His consistency for Wolves has put him on the periphery of an England call-up and a £40m move to West Ham might be that final push.


3) Anthony Gordon (Everton to Newcastle, £40m, January 2023)
It was assumed by many that Newcastle had taken leave of their entire senses when throwing as much as £45m at Everton for a forward with seven goals and eight assists in 78 games. Gordon has already outstripped both before hitting that appearance mark at Newcastle, with Liverpool speculation leaving his ‘head in a mess’.

Gordon’s remarkable development – at one point only foreseen by the wise Todd Boehly – has been underlined by his role at Euro 2024 as the chief England Clamour.


2) Cole Palmer (Manchester City to Chelsea, £40m to £42.5m, September 2023)
It is easy to forget just how ludicrous this move was at the time. It made absolutely no sense: Chelsea did not need yet another young, exciting forward and if Palmer was of the requisite quality, Manchester City would never have let him go.

But Chelsea have thrown more than enough at the wall for some to stick and Palmer was the shoot of inspiration rather than yet another questionable deal. By the end of the year he had become their most important player and that responsibility only increased to the tune of an England debut, goal and place in their European Championship squad.

Palmer had played just 41 games at senior level when Chelsea signed him for the rough equivalent of around £1m per career appearance. It has gone well.


1) Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace to Manchester United, £45m to £50m, July 2019)
Crystal Palace supporters probably felt that it was the usual show of big club bias from Southgate to not cap Aaron Wan-Bissaka, then call him up two months after he joined Manchester United. But the Euro 2024 squad proved that Palace are the manager’s new favourite club, and the right-back remains as uncapped at Old Trafford as he ever was at Selhurst Park.

Wan-Bissaka is not daft enough to believe the England door is still open, but the option of switching allegiance to DR Congo has not yet been taken. Representing them is probably the only way he will be moved from the top of this list.