It’s no real surprise that eight of the 10 biggest transfer fees of all time have been spent on players aged 25 or under, but there are some exceptions to this rule.
Al-Ittihad are seemingly gearing up to make a £118million bid for Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, who turned 31 earlier this year. That got us thinking about some of the other older heads that have gone for huge transfer fees in the past.
Using figures from Transfermarkt, we have gathered the 10 most expensive transfer fees paid for players aged 30 and over.
=9. Radja Nainggolan (Roma to Inter Milan)
Following four eye-catching seasons with Roma, Inter Milan swooped in for the Belgian midfielder back in 2018. He had only recently celebrated his 30th birthday upon making the move and in the end, he didn’t last long at the San Siro.
Inter splashed around £32.5million on the midfielder in a deal that also saw Davide Santon and Nicolo Zaniolo move in the opposite direction.
While he had a fairly promising debut season, he didn’t last long after that. The following year he was shipped out on loan to Cagliari and he eventually left Inter by mutual consent in 2021. Not the best business.
=9. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli to Chelsea)
The experienced defender had built up a stellar reputation in Italy and he looked like a more than capable replacement for the outgoing Antonio Rudiger at the time. However, it wasn’t long until this deal went sideways.
Koulibaly never really adapted to the Premier League and was part of a Chelsea side that vastly underachieved and finished 12th in the Premier League. Considering they spent around £32.5million on the defender, he undoubtedly went down as a Chelsea flop.
The only real saving grace from this deal was the fact that Chelsea were able to recoup a decent amount of their original transfer fee. Al-Hilal spent £20million on the defender and Chelsea were more than happy to accept the loss.
=7. Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus to AC Milan)
This was an eyebrow-raising move at the time and is still strange to look back on these days. Bonucci left the reigning champions Juventus for an AC Milan side that was in rebuild mode.
Reports at the time suggested that the £36million move came around because of a falling out between the experienced defender and manager Massimiliano Allegri. Bonucci ultimately only lasted one season in Milan before he made his move back to Juventus were he still plays to this day.
“It was a difficult season for me, both personally and professionally,” Bonucci told Gazetta dello Sport. “There were some disagreements and, especially after the defeat in the Champions League [Juventus vs Real Madrid final], I ultimately made a poor decision.
“But I have to say that the decision, which certainly influenced my career, improved me as a man. Those months at Milan let me do some soul-searching and made me realise that my calling was at Juventus, who are like my family.”
🇮🇹 The Leonardo Bonucci Saga:
⚫️ Leaves Juventus in Summer 2017.
✍️ Signs for one of their biggest rivals in AC Milan.
👨✈️ Becomes captain of AC Milan.
⚽️ Scores against Juventus in Turin & celebrates the goal.
✍️ Resigns for Juventus one year later.
— SPORF (@Sporf) August 2, 2018
=7. Paulinho (Barcelona to GZ Evergrande)
In order to keep his spot in the Brazilian side ahead of the 2018 World Cup, Paulinho made a shock move to Barcelona in 2017 after he’d spent the last three years playing in China.
The Brazilian midfielder actually turned out to be a really solid signing for Barcelona too. He scored nine goals in his solitary season in Spain and helped Barcelona to a league and cup double before returning to China for £36million.
6. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich to Barcelona)
Xavi’s goal at Barcelona has been to lower the average age of the squad and bring through a new generation of stars, but that doesn’t mean they can’t splash out on the odd superstar or two.
Lewandowski had made it clear that his time in Germany was up and after a drawn-out negotiating process, they eventually agreed upon a £38.5million deal.
The now 35-year-old striker scored 33 goals in his debut season in Spain and helped Barcelona to a league and cup double. You can’t really complain at that.
5. Miralem Pjanic (Juventus to Barcelona)
This still remains to be one of the strangest transfers of all time. Barcelona paid around £51million for a 31-year-old Pjanic back in 2020 and sold 24-year-old Arthur Melo to Juventus in the same window.
Unsurprisingly, Pjanic didn’t last long at Barcelona and ultimately only made 30 appearances for the club before leaving in 2022.
4. Casemiro (Real Madrid to Man Utd)
Man Utd desperately needed a new holding midfielder and then all of a sudden they pulled a deal for Casemiro out the bag. The five-time Champions League winner didn’t come cheap, but he impressed in his debut season.
Erik ten Hag splashed a reported £60.5million on the midfielder, making him the most expensive over-30s midfielder of all time.
3. Neymar (PSG to Al-Hilal)
Champions League nights just won’t hit the same without Neymar. It was clear that PSG wanted him out and in the end, Al-Hilal splashed £77million on the 31-year-old. A significant loss for European football.
2. Harry Kane (Tottenham to Bayern Munich)
After 435 appearances and 280 goals, Kane finally called it quits on his Tottenham career this summer. The England captain was in search of a fresh challenge and Bayern Munich offered just that.
Thomas Tuchel was desperate for a marquee signing and in the end, he got just that. Bayern spent a reported £85.7million on the 30-year-old and he’s already hit the ground running. With three goals in his first couple of Bundesliga matches, his first career trophy is surely only around the corner.
— FC Bayern München (@FCBayern) August 22, 2023
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid to Juventus)
Who else? Considering the insane goalscoring numbers Ronaldo put up in a Juventus shirt you can’t really have too many complaints over this deal.
The Italian club spent £100million on a then 33-year-old Ronaldo and he went on to score 101 goals for the club across three seasons which works out at around £990,000 per goal.
Ronaldo enjoyed plenty of domestic success while in Italy, but the Champions League remained elusive for him while in Italy. Still, the Juventus fans were treated to plenty of memorable moments with Ronaldo leading the side.