Transfer fees have been rising at a rapid rate, and some of the prices quoted for players have reached astronomical levels.
Since the first €100m+ transfer in 2013, Gareth Bale’s move from Tottenham to Real Madrid, 13 more players have moved for such large fees – but the majority of these have been unsuccessful.
It’s often been the case that, even if the player does well, they will struggle to justify such a large outlay and the pressure of such a move can negatively impact performances.
Declan Rice looks likely to be next on the list and he will be hoping to buck the trend of being a €100m+ flop. With Arsenal now ironing out the final details of the transfer, time will tell how he gets on at his next club.
We’ve listed the 14 players who went for such a large fee and evaluated how well they justified the price.
The Welsh winger was one of the best players in the Premier League in his final season at Tottenham, and was certain to depart the club in search of a shot at glory.
That’s exactly what he found, moving to Real Madrid for a world-record fee in 2013 of around €100million, and his first few seasons at the club were the epitome of greatness.
Winning four Champions Leagues, whilst scoring in two finals, Bale has notched up over 100 goals and 60 assists in his nine years at the club.
However, injury problems, battles with the Spanish media and poor form meant that Bale endured a rocky relationship with the Real Madrid fans towards the end of his time at the club.
Bale hung up his boots soon after the 2022 World Cup and is now loving life on a golf course somewhere. While things did turn sour towards the end, his transfer fee was more than justified.
Watch this space.
Ronaldo broke the world record fee when he moved from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009 and, after nine incredibly successful years at the Bernabeu, it was time for a new adventure.
Juventus paid €100million to convince Real Madrid to part ways with their talisman in 2018 and he was bought with an eye on Champions League glory – but he and the club ultimately failed in this aspect.
Whilst Ronaldo did perform well, scoring 101 times in 134 games, Juventus came up short in Europe, failing to progress beyond the quarter-finals in any of his three seasons at the club.
Their domestic dominance also ended in 2021, with Inter Milan breaking their streak of nine consecutive Serie A titles, and Ronaldo subsequently returned to Manchester United for around £20million.
A lot of money and a lot of goals, but ultimately the transfer didn’t help Juventus achieve anything special.
One of the worst transfers on this list, unquestionably.
Real Madrid paid around €100million for Hazard’s services in 2019, despite knowing that he was going to be available for free one year later, and this premium price was not worth it in the slightest.
The Belgian winger spent most of his time in Spain injured, scoring just seven goals in 76 appearances across four seasons for the club.
Now 32, Hazard had his Real Madrid contract terminated this summer and is said to be considering his retirement. A terrible move all around.
Paul Pogba was marmite throughout his second spell at Manchester United after he returned to the club for a world record €105million in 2016.
The French midfielder had a loyal legion of fans but was also unpopular with a lot of the Old Trafford faithful, who even booed him towards the end of his spell with United.
Pogba was one of the most talented players in the Premier League and a World Cup winner to boot but his inconsistent performances, combined with United going on a five-year trophy drought, has meant he will not be remembered fondly.
He had his glimpses of brilliance but overall has not justified the fee or the hype which surrounded him upon his signing from Juventus. Since leaving Old Trafford last summer, he’s struggled to stay fit upon his return to Italy.
Four years ago today at the Etihad, Manchester United were 2-0 down in the second half.
Then Paul Pogba and Chris Smalling took over 😤
— B/R Football (@brfootball) April 7, 2022
After impressing at Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona paid a whopping €105million, with significant add-ons, for the winger who was just 20 at the time.
Dembele spent most of his early Barcelona career in the injury room, but under Xavi he has been given a new lease of life. The French winger played his role in Barcelona’s 2022-23 La Liga winning campaign, scoring five goals and providing seven assists.
The jury is still out on whether or not he has justified his lofty €105million transfer fee as of yet, but the recent resurgence in his career has been promising.
Lukaku was originally sold by Chelsea in 2014 for around €30million to Everton but his improved form earned him a big move to Manchester United three years later.
After flopping at United, the Belgium international was offloaded to Inter Milan where he finally found consistency and fired Antonio Conte’s side to their first Serie A title in a decade.
Chelsea suddenly ran back to the player they loaned and eventually sold years before, and paid around €115million for his return to West London.
They now wish they didn’t.
Lukaku scored just eight league goals in his first season back at Chelsea, and the only thing worse than his performances on the pitch was his attitude off it.
In an interview during the season in December 2021, Lukaku expressed his desire to return to Inter, angering the Chelsea fanbase, and causing Thomas Tuchel to drop him from the squad.
Another huge transfer that defined the summer of 2021, Grealish left his boyhood club Aston Villa to join Champions Manchester City in a Premier League record move at the time.
€117million was spent to bring him to the Etihad Stadium, but the creative midfielder struggled to shine in his debut season, despite winning the league.
Fast forward 12 months and Grealish has won over plenty of the haters. His numbers don’t necessarily represent a €117million player, but his role in City’s 2022-23 treble-winning season was vital.
Grealish has grown in confidence over the past couple of years and is now one of the first players on Pep Guardiola’s teamsheet. He’s also one of the most entertaining footballing personalities in the game right now.
Grealish makes a good point here, he’s spent close to a full year playing non-stop football and won the treble. He’s had 3-4 days on the beers and some people have lost their minds. He’s loved because he’s not a robotic personality, long may it continue. pic.twitter.com/21IIn7CDWM
— HLTCO (@HLTCO) June 21, 2023
Griezmann’s transfer saga was a drawn-out, tiresome affair.
After initially rejecting Barcelona to stay at Atletico Madrid, and releasing a movie to explain ‘the decision,’ the Frenchman changed his mind a year later and made a €120million move to the Nou Camp in 2019.
Griezmann struggled to adapt to Barcelona’s style, scoring just 35 goals in 102 games, before returning to Atletico in 2021.
A huge loss which plundered Barcelona into financial crisis, and nothing much memorable on the pitch from the 32-year-old.
In hindsight, he was better off staying in Madrid.
Perhaps the most notable of Todd Boehly’s signings so far, Chelsea spent a staggering €121million on Fernandez after an eye-catching World Cup with Argentina. The talent is obviously there and Fernandez can’t really be held responsible for Chelsea’s disastrous 2022-23 campaign.
With the likes of N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho out the door at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s new-look midfield will be built around Fernandez.
Time will tell if this one is a success or not.
The Portuguese international has shown glimpses of quality while in Spain but has often come up short. Felix spent the second half of last season on loan with Chelsea where he had a similarly tough time.
His future in Spain now looks up in the air and Atletico Madrid aren’t likely to receive anywhere near the €126million they originally spent on him in 2019.
The big winners of Coutinho’s €160 million move to Barcelona in 2018 were undoubtedly Liverpool, who used their lottery win to bring Virgil van Dijk and Alisson to Anfield and kickstart their trophy-winning run under Jurgen Klopp.
Coutinho fared less well. Asked to play in an unfamiliar midfield role, in an attempt to replace the outgoing Andreas Iniesta, the Brazil international struggled at the Camp Nou and came in for some heavy criticism.
He spent the 2019-20 season on loan at Bayern Munich, where his two goals against Barcelona in that 8-2 came to symbolise the Spanish club’s insane transfer policy.
While Barca continue their rebuild under Xavi, Coutinho is currently strutting his stuff for Aston Villa. It’s hard not to think that this wasn’t part of the plan…
Arguably the best player in the world, Mbappe continues to dominate the headlines while in France.
With 212 goals in 260 appearances, the World Cup winner has emphatically lived up to the hype. But the Champions League remains elusive and the Parisiens might be tempted to cash in on the 24-year-old while they still can.
Ultimately, you imagine they could’ve easily won five of the last six Ligue 1 titles without spending quite so much on Mbappe and their other marquee signing in 2017…
Kylian Mbappé – INCROYABLE. 😮💨🇫🇷
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) November 2, 2022
The most expensive footballer of all-time, Neymar’s €222million transfer from Barcelona to PSG in 2017 sent shockwaves across European football.
While the Brazil international has won five Ligue 1 titles and reached the final of the 2020 Champions League, a lack of both continental silverware and personal accolades during his time there remains elusive.
Speaking to Goal, former Liverpool and Brazil defender Fabio Aurelio said: “The ambitions he has, and for the quality and talent he has, the fact that he has never won a Ballon d’Or feels wrong.
“He has all the conditions to do it, but I don’t know what has happened. Maybe some things are more important to him than the game, I don’t know?
“He’s a top player, but he could do more. He could manage his life better, especially considering the influence he has on the next generation of Brazilian players.”
“I’m tired of these ex-players who are there and only open their mouths to talk sh*t,” Neymar replied on an Instagram story.
“A five-minute interview and all he did was talk about other people’s lives. If you want to criticise, criticise. But talking sh*t like that is not possible.”
While the 31-year-old has obviously scored plenty at PSG, neither party has fully achieved their aim; PSG’s of winning the Champions League and Neymar collecting a Ballon d’Or.