A lot of these are from the last year, unsurprisingly, including a transfer that might set an all-time record for working out marvellously for all concerned.
22= Wayne Rooney (Everton to Manchester United, £27million, August 2004)
Manchester United paid Everton an initial £20million for the services of a wondrous teenage Wayne Rooney in summer 2004. The rest of his eventual fee was made up of ‘a complicated system of bonus payments which will relate to United’s success as a team’. The club’s captain and record goalscorer left 13 years later with 12 trophies (and four Community Shields) to his name; he probably met the criteria for those bonus payments.
22= Luke Shaw (Southampton to Manchester United, £27million, June 2014)
It’s been a curious Manchester United career for Shaw, blighted by serious injury and Jose being Jose. There are at least encouraging signs that he might yet hit the heights expected when he became the most expensive teenager in the game. He still has time on his side, if not the manager.
22= Christian Benteke (Liverpool to Crystal Palace, £27million, August 2016)
Joins countryman Romelu Lukaku in sneaking a second entry on the list. That’s really where any similarities end right now.
21. Marouane Fellaini (Everton to Manchester United, £27.5million, September 2013)
Let it never be forgotten that Manchester United signed Marouane Fellaini for £27.5million in September 2013, despite the Belgian having a £23.5million release clause inserted into his Everton contract that expired by the end of July. Still it isn’t as if David Moyes could have possibly known such intricate details…
19= Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea to Everton, £28million, July 2014)
Everton did well here, didn’t they? Three seasons chock-full of goals and then almost tripled their money. A shame, then, that they went and spent it mainly on pish.
19= Wilfried Bony (Swansea to Manchester City, £28million, January 2015)
Perhaps the biggest failure on this list. Others here might not have really panned out but have time to put that right. Others went undoubtedly badly, but Christian Benteke – to name one underwhelming example – retained his value. Bony returned to Swansea for less than half the £28million City paid for a meagre return of 10 goals in 46 games. He then scored just two Premier League goals in Swansea’s relegation campaign before being ruled out for the rest of the season in February.
17= N’Golo Kante (Leicester to Chelsea, £30million, July 2016)
Moved to Leicester, won the league, moved to Chelsea for a far heftier fee and promptly did it again. Now he might be about to win the World Cup. Still mad to think he was playing second-tier football in France as recently as 2014.
17= Rio Ferdinand (Leeds to Manchester United, £30million, July 2002)
As if to illustrate just how impressive Rio Ferdinand was, second on the list of Leeds’ biggest sales ever is Ross McCormack. The striker moved to Fulham for £11million – almost one-third of what the club received all the way back in 2002 for a 23-year-old who became the most expensive defender in world football for a second time.
16. Dimitar Berbatov (Tottenham to Manchester United, £30.75million, September 2008)
Few people can claim to have truly pushed Sir Alex Ferguson to his limits, but Daniel Levy is not like most mortals. At least partly assisted by a newly-minted Manchester City attempting to flex their muscles, Tottenham were able to squeeze just over £30million out of United on a frantic summer deadline day.
15. Christian Benteke (Aston Villa to Liverpool, £32.5million, July 2015)
The reason Wilfried Bony’s move to Manchester City was described as the biggest failure on a list also including Christian Benteke’s ill-fated Liverpool spell is not only because the Reds recouped most of their outlay, but he also scored a respectable ten goals in 20 starts. Having said that, it never did feel like a comfortable union between player and club.
14. Sadio Mane (Southampton to Liverpool, £34milion, June 2016)
Whereas Sadio Mane and Liverpool fit like hand in glove. The club’s collapse during his Africa Cup of Nations absence was no coincidence, while his debut season was curtailed by injury. Despite all that, the Senegalese ended the campaign as the club’s top goalscorer. Mo Salah put any hopes of a successful defence of that particular title to bed, but Mane still more than played his part in Liverpool’s fearsome front three.
13. Andy Carroll (Newcastle to Liverpool, £35million, January 2011)
Still, though, Liverpool’s default setting when spending a vast sum of money on one individual is to falter. Mane is one of few true successes when the Reds dust off their wallets, and club-record signing Andy Carroll is the very epitome of the usual disappointment that follows many a big signing at Anfield.
12. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal to Liverpool, £35million, August 2017)
Liverpool again, is it? This one’s gone pretty well. An eyebrow-raising transfer at the end of the 2017 summer window, but Oxlade-Chamberlain gradually grew in prominence as Liverpool’s unlikely European march gathered steam and was a firmly established key man until injury in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final cut his season short and ruled him out of the World Cup.
11. Danny Drinkwater (Leicester to Chelsea, £35million, August 2017)
After importing half of Leicester’s title-winning central midfield with great success in the summer of 2016, Chelsea looked to repeat the trick 12 months on. It was… less successful. Drinkwater was a peripheral figure in his first season at Stamford Bridge, while a displaced Ruben Loftus-Cheek went out on loan to finally play some football and promptly propelled himself into the England squad, leapfrogging Drinkwater in the process.
10. Juan Mata (Chelsea to Manchester United, £37.1million, January 2014)
David Moyes signed four players during his managerial reign at Manchester United. The Scot eventually had his large Belgian comfort blanket shipped in from Merseyside, but one would be forgiven for forgetting the summer arrivals of Guillermo Varela and Saidy Janko. Even during his winter struggles, Moyes saw fit only to welcome Juan Mata from Chelsea. He was sacked within three months.
9. Nemanja Matic (Chelsea to Manchester United, £40million, July 2017)
A cornerstone of Chelsea’s title-winning sides in 2015 and 2017, the defensive midfielder played 36 times as Manchester United finished second in 2017/18 after he was reunited with Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford. He does what he does, and what he does he does very well indeed.
8. Raheem Sterling (Liverpool to Manchester City, £44million, July 2015)
Finally, indisputably paid off his transfer fee with a starring role in City’s all-conquering 2017/18 Premier League record-breakers. When not spending too much or too little of his own money, he was scoring 18 Premier League goals and 23 in all as City romped to the title. At time of writing, it remains unclear whether he is a hero of England’s unlikely 2018 World Cup victory, or the scapegoat for a shameful semi-final exit.
7. Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea to Everton, £45million, August 2017)
This looks a bit silly now, but last summer was full of people talking about how good Everton’s transfer business had been and how well they’d spent the Lukaku money. Turned out they’d actually spunked it up the wall even worse than Spurs or Liverpool with their Bale and Suarez windfalls. Sigurdsson, to be fair, had been excellent for Swansea but just wasn’t what Everton required and certainly not at that eye-watering price.
6. John Stones (Everton to Manchester City, £47.5million, August 2016)
Still not quite a Manchester City regular, but definitely looking more like a £47.5million defender after his second season under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage. May not be as massive of face or as meme-able as Harry Maguire, but it would be harsh beyond words to hold anyone to such standards, even at a price nudging fifty million smackers.
4= Fernando Torres (Liverpool to Chelsea, £50million, January 2011)
Romelu Lukaku left Chelsea in 2014 because he could not dislodge, among others, Fernando Torres at Chelsea. His move to Manchester United finally dislodged Torres from the top of this list. Sweet revenge I’m sure for the big Belgian.
4= Kyle Walker (Tottenham to Manchester City, £50m, July 2017)
While plenty baulked at the sheer massive size of the fee, a sober analysis revealed a deal that actually suited all parties. City got the best right-back in England, Walker got to go and win trophies, Spurs got a lovely big wad of cash and had a very useful replacement already in place. The subsequent improvement of Walker’s all-round game under Guardiola, and the increased opportunities afforded to Kieran Trippier at Spurs have meant England were another massive beneficiary of this rarest of deals that worked out splendidly for absolutely everyone. Lovely.
3. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester to Manchester City, £60m, July 2018)
The slow, methodical dismantling of Leicester’s Fairytale Heroes by the Premier League’s big beasts continued into a third summer with Manchester City finally completing a big-money move for Mahrez, who is also now the most expensive African footballer of all time and will provide some much-needed attacking flair at City. Ahem. Although actually…
1= Virgil van Dijk (Southampton to Liverpool, £75m, January 2018)
The biggest transfer fee ever paid for a defender, and it’s clearly a mad amount of cash, but Van Dijk did much to improve Liverpool’s defence in a memorable first six months at the club that took him to the Champions League final while also securing the top-four finish that ensured another crack at it next season.
1= Romelu Lukaku (Everton to Manchester United, £75m, July 2017)
His first year at Old Trafford wasn’t entirely plain sailing, tailing off rather after a promising start. His best performances of 2018 have mainly been for the other Red Devils, where he carried a prolific run of scoring into Belgium’s fine World Cup before coming up dry in the knockout stages. Back to United, then, after a successful but also, ultimately, frustrating month in Russia. Have his returns for United quite justified a £75m price tag? No. Has he been a flop? Also no.