The 10 managers with the highest total transfer spend in history
Money and footballing success are inextricable – and some of the most successful managers in history have spent vast sums in transfer fees on the way to amassing their trophy collections. Here, we take a look at the biggest-spending coaches in football history.
It is increasingly difficult to win anything in top-level football without recruiting top-class talent for enormous sums. Though there has been a trend towards players running down their contracts and becoming free agents, clubs still need to pay fees to build solid squads capable of challenging for titles.
It is no surprise, then, that some of the biggest names in current coaching circles make their way onto this list of big spenders.
Still, there are a couple of surprises. Jurgen Klopp, who has had so much success at Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool, does not make the top 10. Nor does Sir Alex Ferguson, who admittedly retired before transfer fees went truly astronomical. Instead, there are one or two names you might not expect.
So, here are the top 10 biggest spending football managers in history, taking in their combined transfer outlays at all the clubs they’ve managed. Note: all figures are via Transfermarkt.
10. Claudio Ranieri – €864.33million
Perhaps the most surprising name on this list – and the least successful in terms of trophies won – Ranieri’s spending has been accumulated over a very long time and at 18 different clubs.
But given those clubs include Chelsea, Juventus and Monaco (when they were in their splashing-the-cash phase), perhaps we shouldn’t be so shocked.
Ranieri’s two most expensive purchases both came on the same day, June 30 2016, when he signed Colombian attackers Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez for Monaco for a combined total of €88million.
Weirdly, the Italian’s third-most-expensive signing was Islam Slimani, who joined Leicester for €31million in the wake of the Italian’s only league title as a manager – the 2016 Premier League. The signing didn’t really go to plan, did it?
9. Ernesto Valverde – €866.83million
Another slightly eyebrow-raising inclusion, the vast bulk of Valverde’s spend came in the three seasons when he was Barcelona manager and the club was going absolutely bonkers – 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Barca had just pocketed the whopping €222million fee from the sale of Neymar and, let’s face it, they pissed it up the wall.
On Valverde’s watch, the Blaugrana paid out a transfer fee of over €100million on three occasions – first for Ousmane Dembele, then Philippe Coutinho and finally Antoine Griezmann.
Now back at Athletic Bilbao, a club severely restricted in their transfer business by their Basque-only policy, don’t expect this number to rise too dramatically. Valverde could soon drop out of the top 10 and be overtaken by the likes of Klopp, Thomas Tuchel and Unai Emery.
Ousmane Dembélé has scored 32 goals for Barcelona:
◎ 16 right foot
◉ 16 left foot
Balance has been restored. ⚖️
(video via @PremierSportsTV)pic.twitter.com/1BHwM77iJS
— Squawka (@Squawka) February 27, 2022
8. Antonio Conte – €967.1million
This one isn’t a surprise at all, is it?
Conte is the absolute master of squeezing every possible penny out of club owners.
After all, this is a coach who famously said: “Well, you cannot go to eat at a €100 restaurant with just €10 euro in your pocket, can you?”
He’s had plenty of success with that approach, winning titles with Juventus, Inter and Chelsea but failing to deliver silverware at Spurs – despite getting Daniel Levy to sanction a not-inconsiderable outlay on transfer fees.
The Italian’s top buys over the years include Romelu Lukaku (€77million), Alvaro Morata (€66million) and Richarlison (€69.5million).
7. Arsene Wenger – €973.25million
Another who accumulated fees over a long period, a lot of Wenger’s early acquisitions at Arsenal proved to be brilliant value for money, even accounting for inflation, and helped Arsenal to a period of unprecedented success. Just think Thierry Henry for £14.5million or Patrick Vieira for £3.5million.
Yet in the late-Wenger era, it all got a bit… strange. Shkodran Mustafi for £35million, anyone?
6. Diego Simeone – €1.04billion
Ah, football’s great underdog. The man who suffers at the hands of the wealthy, powerful Spanish duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelo… oh, he’s spent over a billion Euros.
Despite Simeone’s regular protestations to the contrary, Atletico have become a superpower of European football in recent years and have the spending record to match.
To be fair to the Argentine, he’s played an integral role in pushing the club to the level at which it now sits, winning two La Liga titles, two Europa Leagues and a Copa del Rey in his decade at the helm.
He hasn’t always managed to get the best out of expensive attacking acquisitions, however. Joao Felix’s struggles after his €127million transfer from Benfica are a case in point.
5. Massimiliano Allegri – €1.08billion
For those who think Juventus only do free transfers, think again.
While in his first spell managing the Bianconeri from 2014 to 2019, Allegri oversaw some serious investment, most notably the €117million signing of Cristiano Ronaldo and the €90million purchase of Gonzalo Higuain.
He also spent a few bob at AC Milan, his most expensive signing at San Siro being the €24million paid to Barcelona for Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2011.
4. Manuel Pellegrini – €1.16billion
Another slight surprise – but three years at Manchester City and a season at Real Madrid is going to boost anyone’s total spend, isn’t it?
In fact, the Chilean veteran was Real Madrid boss in the summer of 2009, when they broke the all-time transfer record twice in a week, first for Kaka from AC Milan, then for Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United.
There some slightly less illustrious names in Pellegrini’s top 10 most expensive purchases, however. While at West Ham, he managed to spend a combined £80million to bring in Sebastien Haller and Felipe Anderson.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) February 8, 2019
3. Carlo Ancelotti – €1.44billion
Don Carlo has always spent big, but he’s always delivered.
He’s managed a superclub in all of Europe’s top five leagues and has become the first and only man to complete the set in terms of top-tier domestic titles. Oh, let’s not forget those four European Cups in his cupboard either.
If you want someone to coach an expensively-assembled squad full of superstars and big egos, Ancelotti’s yer man. The Italian has signed over 100 players over the course of his long managerial career, with Gareth Bale (€101million) at the very top of that list.
2. Pep Guardiola – €1.61billion
Another man who operates only at the stratospheric superclub level, Guardiola occupying a position in the top three was inevitable, especially with the cash he’s splashed to turn Manchester City into the ultimate footballing Deathstar.
Despite that consistent outlay, though, Guardiola’s record fee for a single player remained the €69.5million he paid for Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the summer of 2009 until the £100million signing of Jack Grealish 12 years later.
Perhaps Guardiola had been burned by that particular deal, with his relationship with the big Swede famously fraught.
After leaving Barca, Ibrahimovic said: “When you buy me, you are buying a Ferrari. If you drive a Ferrari, you put premium petrol in the tank, you hit the motorway and you step on the gas.
“Guardiola filled up with diesel and took a spin in the countryside. He should have bought a Fiat.”
1. Jose Mourinho – €1.71billion
It wasn’t going to be anyone else, was it?
Mourinho, like Simeone, loves to paint himself as the perennial underdog. But nothing could be further from the truth. He has consistently invested huge fees in players from his first spell as Chelsea boss, when he had Roman Abramovich’s funds at his disposal, to his current stint at Roma.
All of his top three biggest fees, however, came over three summers as Manchester United boss in 2016, 2017 and 2018, when he spent £94.5million, £76.2million then £53.1million on Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Fred, respectively. Suffice to say they didn’t quite have the desired impact.
Overall, though, you can’t argue with Mourinho’s record. Yeah, he’s spent big. But, like Ancelotti and Guardiola, he’s delivered, with 25 shiny pots in his collection, including two European Cups and three Premier League titles.