Juventus signing Matthijs De Ligt for around £67million while Leicester demand more than £80million for Harry Maguire has raised a few eyebrows. But that seems to be the premium for Premier League sides when buying from domestic rivals. Over the last five years, there have been cheaper alternatives to the most expensive domestic purchases available on the continent…
2014: Luke Shaw – Southampton to Manchester United; Juan Bernat – Valencia to Bayern Munich
Shaw arrived at Old Trafford a few weeks before Louis van Gaal and when the manager got a glimpse of his new left-back, he wasn’t very impressed.
“He needs to be fit and is not very fit and fit enough to do what I want. He needs to train individually until he is fit,” said Van Gaal, starting what was to become a recurring theme throughout the left-back’s Old Trafford career. Lucky for him that United aren’t as ruthless as Bayern Munich.
They signed Spain left-back Juan Bernat from Valencia for around £7.9million a few weeks after Shaw cost the Red Devils around £30million. Matthias Sammer said: “He is an extraordinary young player who we’ve been following for a while. We are sure that we will have made a very good investment for the future.”
Bernat proved to be a splendid investment when he was sold to PSG four years later for £13million but rather less an ‘extraordinary young player ‘. One bad game was all it took for Bayern to decide to get rid following Bernat’s mistake in a Champions League clash: “When we played in Seville, he was solely responsible for us almost being eliminated,” explained Uli Hoeness. “That day, we decided that we would sell him because he almost cost us all the success in the Champions League.”
2015: Raheem Sterling – Liverpool to Manchester City; Paulo Dybala – Palermo to Juventus
Sterling and his agent stomped their feet and wailed until Liverpool finally got what they wanted from Manchester City to let the forward move to the Etihad to play for Manuel Pellegrini.
City had to make Sterling the most expensive English player ever, paying £44million up front, but Pellegrini described the then-20-year-old as “one of the best attacking players in world football” even if he was extremely raw.
Juventus presumably thought similarly of Dybala, who moved to the Serie A champions for an initial fee of £23million after scoring 13 goals in 34 Serie A appearances the previous season.
Chelsea and PSG were also keen, according to Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini: “At least three teams are really interested in him. The apple is ripe and we are ready to pick it. Those who understand football realise his potential.”
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) June 4, 2015
2016: John Stones – Everton to Manchester City; Samuel Umtiti – Lyon to Barcelona
The market of summer 2016 had centre-backs aplenty for sale, though English clubs struggled to find the value buys. Stones, 22, cost City £47.5million and the jury is still out on the Manchester City defender, who struggled to get in Pep Guardiola’s XI down the stretch as the Treble loomed.
David Luiz’s return to Chelsea from PSG for around £34million has reaped similarly mixed results, though at least the Blues can reflect smugly on the fact they made a profit over the two deals with the Parisians. The verdict on Arsenal’s £35million defender Shkodran Mustafi, though, is rather more unanimous.
Centre-backs were a hot commodity too on the continent. Ezequiel Garay moved from Zenit to Valencia despite being linked with Manchester United since birth while Bayern Munich took World Cup winner Mats Hummels from Borussia Dortmund for about £30million.
The most comparable deal to Stones’ is Barcelona’s purchase of Samuel Umtiti. The Lyon defender and France international was the same age as Stones when he left Lyon to move to the Nou Camp for around half the price (£24.6million) City paid Everton.
2017: Romelu Lukaku – Everton to Manchester United; Andre Silva – Porto to AC Milan
Lukaku’s move coincided with the summer when the transfer market seemingly lost its marbles. Neymar shattered the world record with his £200million move to PSG – following Kylian Mbappe – while Barca threw £135million of their windfall at Borussia Dortmund for Ousmane Dembele.
Compared to those figures, the £75million United paid Everton didn’t seem so outlandish. Centre-forwards were certainly in demand among Premier League clubs, with Chelsea paying £58million for Alvaro Morata, Arsenal parting with £46.5million for Alexandre Lacazette and Liverpool coughing up £34million for Mo Salah.
Given most of the strikers were Premier League-bound, there was little movement of centre-forwards on the continent.
The biggest deal for a centre-forward not involving English clubs was Andre Silva’s £33.6million switch from Porto to AC Milan. The Portugal striker was three years younger and more than £40million cheaper than Lukaku but neither really proved to be worth the money. Lukaku looks set to be heading to Milan with Inter if they can be convinced to give United their money back, while Silva was dispatched to Sevilla on loan last season.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) June 12, 2017
2018: Riyad Mahrez – Leicester to Manchester City; Thomas Lemar – Monaco to Atletico Madrid
The Algeria winger finally got his way when City broke their transfer record – though not by as much as Leicester initially hoped – to sign the 27-year-old at the second attempt.
There was another winger who moved within Europe, though it would be a little unfair to Mahrez to compare him with Juventus’s £100million signing Cristiano Ronaldo.
If it was an experienced winger that Guardiola was looking for then Mahrez was one of few around. Thomas Lemar, 22, moved from Monaco to Atletico Madrid for £52.8million to become the Rojiblancos’ record signing before they went slightly mad this summer. Though that’s still a £40million discount on the price Arsenal were supposedly once willing to pay.