The 12 players to have moved for €100m or more – & how they fared

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Ousmane Dembele hugs Antoine Griezmann during Barcelona's match against Villarreal, Camp Nou, September 2019

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, 11 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.

Only eight clubs have ever spent €100m or more on one player, and some have spent so much that they’ve created a black hole in the club bank account.

We’ve listed the 12 players who went for such a large fee and evaluated how well they justified the price.

Gareth Bale

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 endures a rocky relationship with the Real Madrid fans, and his commitment to the club has been called into question.

Bale is certain to leave the club this summer, and whilst he may be remembered more fondly further down the line, this messy breakup sours what was a fantastic few seasons for both club and player. His transfer fee was more than justified.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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.

Eden Hazard

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 first season injured, scoring just one goal in 22 appearances, and has been getting progressively worse.

Now 31, Hazard has been linked with moves back to the Premier League, and his future at the Bernabeu looks bleak. In large part thanks to his constant injuries, the Belgian has looking unrecognisable to the world-beater he was at Chelsea.

Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba has been marmite throughout his second spell at Manchester United since returning to the club for a world record 105million in 2016.

The French midfielder has a loyal legion of fans but also remains unpopular with a lot of the Old Trafford faithful, who recently booed the 29-year-old after his performance against Norwich.

Pogba is one of the most talented players in the Premier League and a World Cup winner to boo but his inconsistent performances, combined with United going on a five-year trophy drought, has meant he will not be remembered fondly.

He looks set to leave the club on a free transfer for the second time, and a massive investment from United has only returned a League Cup and Europa League from his first season.

Pogba’s had his glimpses of brilliance but overall has not justified the fee or the hype which surrounded him upon his signing from Juventus. Still, don’t be surprised to see him shining at a better-run club in the not-too-distant future.

Ousmane Dembele

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 has spent most of his Barcelona career in the injury room, and with his contract expiring at the end of this campaign, was set to go down as one of the biggest transfer flops on this list.

However, under the tutelage of Xavi, Dembele has found both fitness and form, and is finally starting to show why Barcelona paid so much for him in 2017.

“What Ousmane generates almost nobody else does but then you have to take advantage of it and he does too, in taking the final decision,” Xavi stated, praising the winger despite Barcelona losing to Cadiz in April.

A contract extension now appears likely.

Romelu Lukaku

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 has scored just five league goals, 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.

Now regularly starting on the bench, the 28-year-old’s future is unclear, and his transfer has been a failure for all parties.

Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku celebrates after beating Arsenal, August 2021.

READ: Five times that Romelu Lukaku has caused controversy by speaking out

Jack Grealish

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.

€117million was spent to bring him to the Etihad Stadium, despite City possessing a wealth of attacking midfielders, and the 26-year-old England international has struggled to cope with the step-up so far.

With just two goals in 21 matches, Grealish is yet to impress in a sky blue shirt, but there is still hope that he will come good once he fully adjusts to Pep Guardiola’s system.

Many eyebrows were raised when City chose to sign Grealish when they seemed more desperate for a centre-forward to replace Sergio Aguero, and it seems the sceptics have won this one for now.

Antoine Griezmann

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 on loan to Atletico in 2021.

A huge loss which plundered Barcelona into financial crisis, and nothing much memorable on the pitch from the 31-year-old.

In hindsight, he was better off staying in Madrid.

Joao Felix

After an unsteady start to life in Spain, Felix has started to come good for Atletico Madrid and has plenty of time to fully justify his €126 million fee.

Philippe Coutinho

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…

READ: Ranking the 10 worst signings of Bartomeu’s Barcelona presidency

Kylian Mbappe

Arguably the best player in the world, Mbappe looks likely to join Real Madrid on a free transfer this summer.

With 165 goals in 213 appearances, the World Cup winner has emphatically lived up to the hype. But the Champions League remains elusive and the Parisiens are unlikely to recoup any of the colossal €180million spent.

Ultimately, you imagine they could’ve easily won four of the last five Ligue 1 titles without spending quite so much on Mbappe and their other marquee signing in 2017…

Neymar

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 four 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 30-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.


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