Football just felt more fun in 2012.
Manchester City stole their first-ever Premier League title in the dying seconds, Chelsea sh*thoused their way to Champions League glory and Spain continued their domination at the Euros. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were at their peak, and their teams were stacked full of global superstars. PSG had just begun their ascent to the top of France and Radamel Falcao was putting Chelsea to the sword.
Nowadays transfers even at lower levels all feel huge, and players with less than a season of football to their name can go for £50million or more.
Back then, signings were probably better value for money and clubs wouldn’t be spending the GDP of a small nation on a backup full-back.
Here are the most expensive signings from the year 2012 – and their varying levels of success.
10. Robin Van Persie
Arguably the most controversial transfer on this list, Van Persie was one of the deadliest strikers in the world at Arsenal, scoring 37 times in his final season and winning the Premier League golden boot award.
The Dutchman kicked up a stink at the end of the 2011-12 season, writing an open letter questioning the ambition of his club, and looked certain to leave.
A number of clubs were interested in him, but Van Persie followed “the little boy inside of him” and committed an unforgivable sin: joining Manchester United.
A fee of £25million was enough for Sir Alex Ferguson to take Arsenal’s best player, as he entered the final 12 months of his deal, and he was worth every penny and more.
Winning a second consecutive golden boot the following season, his 26 league goals were enough to win Manchester United the title in his first campaign at Old Trafford, including two goals against his former side Arsenal to silence the boos.
Van Persie would score 58 times in 105 games before joining Fenerbahce in 2015, and will go down as one of the best strikers the league has seen.
Robin van Persie’s 12/13 Premier League season by numbers:
👕 38 appearances
⚽️ 26 goals
🅰️ 9 assists
🏆 1 title
RVP joined MUFC on this day in 2012. 🇳🇱
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 17, 2021
A highly sought-after 20-year-old at Internacional, Chelsea beat a lot of clubs to the signature of Oscar in the summer of 2012, who joined for around £27million.
Despite performing pretty well for most of his time at the club, Oscar departed English football in 2017 to join Shanghai Port for a whopping £67million.
Oscar did manage over 200 appearances for Chelsea, scoring 38 times from attacking midfield, and was praised for his work rate and skill as a number 10.
He did have his ups and downs in West London though, with a number of poor patches during his five-year spell at the club, one of which even had Jose Mourinho questioning his ability.
“I don’t think he had a bad performance, I just think he was not good enough, which is a huge difference,” Mourinho surprisingly claimed after Chelsea’s win over Stoke City in April 2015. Bit harsh.
The then 24-year-old Brazilian winger, who was coveted by Premier League clubs, departed Shakhtar Donetsk in favour of a big-money project at Anzhi Makhachkala for around £32million.
It did not go well.
7. Eden Hazard
“I am signing for the Champions of Europe” Hazard tweeted in the summer of 2012.
After ripping Ligue 1 to shreds with Lille, in 2012 it was obvious the 21-year-old was destined for greatness, and every top club in Europe was seemingly interested in the Belgian.
Chelsea won the Champions League, then won the race for Hazard, who joined the club for around £33million, and he delivered on the hype.
Seven years of goals and glory at Chelsea was followed by a £100million move to Real Madrid, where he has struggled, but there are nothing but fond memories of Hazard in West London.
6. Luka Modric
A maestro in midfield, by the end of the 2011-12 season Modric had outgrown Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid came calling.
The Croatian joined the Spanish champions for around £33million, but had a disastrous first season under Jose Mourinho, with some sections of the Spanish media calling him the worst signing of the window. That aged well.
5. Axel Witsel
The second Belgian on this list, the midfield powerhouse was earning rave reviews at Benfica, meaning that Zenit Saint-Petersburg came calling.
The 23-year-old went for close to £37million, and remained a key part of the Belgium team whilst running the show in Russia.
After five years and 180 appearances for Zenit, Witsel went to Borussia Dortmund after a brief spell in China, and is now turning out for Atletico Madrid at the age of 33.
4. Javi Martinez
A key player for Marcelo Bielsa as Athletic Bilbao reached the Europa League final, the Spanish midfielder, who could also play in defence, was wanted by Bayern Munich, and he made the big move to the Champions League finalists for around £40million.
Martinez was great when he was fit for Bayern. The problem was that he rarely was.
Nevertheless, he made over 250 appearances for the club before moving to Qatar in 2021.
3. Lucas Moura
PSG had just started to spend big in 2012, and made Lucas Moura their record signing for around £40million in August 2012 from Sao Paulo.
Moura would only link up with PSG in January 2013, and wasn’t too bad there, but was deemed surplus to requirements by Unai Emery, and joined Tottenham in 2017.
With 46 goals in 229 games for the Parisian side, Moura kicked off an era of big stars who would join the club, paving the way for Neymar and Lionel Messi to follow suit and move to Paris in the future.
He’s also been pretty decent for Tottenham, blowing hot and cold at times, but scored arguably the greatest goal in their history on that night in Amsterdam…
On this day in 2019, Tottenham were down 3-0 to Ajax on agg. at half-time of the UCL semifinal second leg.
55' Lucas Moura ⚽
59' Lucas Moura ⚽
90+6' Lucas Moura ⚽
One of the greatest Champions League comebacks ✨
— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 8, 2021
This one was neither green nor incredible.
The Brazilian winger, who was known because of his sheer size and power, was another big name signing for Zenit in 2012, joining for around £40million from FC Porto.
Hulk would average over a goal every two games for Zenit, with 77 in 148 appearances over four seasons. Probably a worthwhile investment.
1. Thiago Silva
So good that he has a song about him.
PSG’s marquee signing in 2012 was landing the world-class Brazil centre-back from AC Milan for around £42million and he fully justified his status.
Joining in his prime at the age of 27, Thiago Silva established himself as one of the greatest defenders of all time in eight years at PSG, where he made 315 appearances and won nearly everything available, falling just short in the Champions League.
Captain. Leader. Legend.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 11, 2021