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The Most Expensive Footballers of All-Time


6. Philippe Coutinho - £156m

Coming in at number five is the former Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho, whose £142m move to Barcelona in January 2018 still stands as the highest Premier League sale of all time. Joining for a fee of as little as £7.5m from Inter Milan in 2013, he established himself as a Liverpool great and one of the best players in the league during his six seasons at the club. This transfer remains the third-highest of all time.

Unfortunately for Coutinho, he was unable to live up to expectations in La Liga, and lasted just 18 months at the Camp Nou, before he was sent to Bayern Munich on loan. You may remember he famously scored twice against his parent club in an 8-2 Champions League demolition.

The following season saw him return to Spain, but a knee injury cut his season short. In January 2022, he completed a shock loan move back to England with Aston Villa, re-uniting with ex-teammate Steven Gerrard. This move was made permanent that summer for £17m but he has since moved to Qatari side Al-Duhail on loan.

Philippe Coutinho

5. Alvaro Morata - £163.6m

Perhaps the most surprising name on this list is Alvaro Morata, who has racked up a whopping £163.6m in transfer fees across his career.

The Spaniard is perhaps remembered in England for his underwhelming time at Chelsea where he scored 24 times in 72 appearances for the Blues following a £60m move from Real Madrid in the summer of 2017.

Incredibly, Morata has had two separate spells at Real Madrid, Juventus and Atletico Madrid during his career, with the first €50m of his transfer fees being accumulated via a €20m move to Juve in 2014 before Real re-signed the Spaniard for €30m just two years later. Incredibly, since then, €38m of Morata’s transfer fees have come in the form of loan moves from Chelsea to Atletico Madrid, as well as from the latter-mentioned club to Juventus.

Alvaro Morata Chelsea

4. Ousmane Dembele - £191.3m

Dembele’s £43.5m transfer to PSG from Barcelona this summer propelled him from the seventh most-expensive player of all time all the way up to fourth. However, the majority of his accumulated transfer fee comes from his move to Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for £117m.

There was huge pressure on the youngster from the start, who was brought in to replace the recently departed Neymar. The Frenchman is known for his excellent dribbling ability and the capability to use both feet. His playmaking skills were on show in the 2021-22 season, where he delivered 13 assists, the highest in the league.

His six-year spell in Spain was hampered by constant injuries and poor form, not helped by his inability to play consistent minutes. He scored 40 goals in 185 games and won three La Liga titles. He signed a new two-year contract with Barcelona in 2022 but joined PSG a year later.

Ousmane Dembele

3. Cristiano Ronaldo - £210.1m

Cristiano Ronaldo is regarded by many as one of, if not the best player, of all time, so it should not come as a shock to see him near the top of this list. Despite leaving Manchester United for Real Madrid in 2009 for what was a then world-record fee of £80m, it was actually his following move to Juventus which generated his highest sale, an £88.3m transfer to Juventus.

Having arrived in England in 2003 as the most expensive teenager in English Football history, he lived up to expectations as one of the most exciting youngsters ever. 84 goals in 196 appearances and one Ballon d’Or across six seasons solidified himself as a Premier League legend before he made the move to become a Galactico. This is where he enjoyed his best years, scoring an incredible 450 goals in 438 appearances, and winning four more Ballon d’Ors. He continued his extraordinary success in Italy before making a sensational but controversy-filled return to Manchester United in 2021. He mutually agreed to terminate his contract in November 2022, allowing him to join Saudi League side Al-Nassr in January as a free agent.

At age 38, it seems unlikely that his accumulated transfer fee will rise.


2. Neymar Jr - £268.3m

Involved in the most expensive transfer of all-time, Neymar was certain to make it onto the list. He left Barcelona for PSG in 2017 for a whopping £200m, after the Ligue 1 side triggered a release clause in his contract.

Neymar is one of just three players to have scored 100 goals for three different clubs, having achieved this with Santos, Barcelona and PSG. However, despite his impressive numbers, there is still a feeling that he never really fulfilled his true potential as one of the most talented players of his generation.

He joined Barcelona in 2013 from Santos, where he won two La Liga titles, three Copa del Rey trophies, and one Champions League, which was part of the treble victory in 2015. He enjoyed continued success in Paris, forming part of a formidable trio with Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, before eventually reuniting with Lionel Messi who joined the club in 2021.

In his final season at PSG, he was regularly linked with moves away, and his future with the club was met with constant uncertainty. A strong start to the season seemed to put any rumours to bed but at the end of the campaign it was clear that he was no longer a part of their plans and was allowed to leave. He completed a £78m move to Al-Hilal in August.

Nasser al-Khelaifi Neymar PSG

1. Romelu Lukaku - £288.7m

Ranked at the top of the list is Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea’s then-club record signing when they bought him from Inter Milan in 2021 for £97.5m, marking his second stint with the side. Viewed as the final piece of the puzzle in a Champions League-winning team, his return to London quickly turned into a disaster. Whilst he made a quick start, scoring on his debut, an injury meant an extended absence, in which he took part in an unauthorised interview with Sky Italia expressing his unhappiness with the situation at Chelsea. Despite playing out the rest of the season, the relationship between club, player and fans was irreparable and he returned to Inter Milan on loan the following summer.

It was at West Bromwich Albion where Lukaku made his name, scoring 17 goals in 35 games in a loan spell in 2012. Another impressive loan stint at Everton the following season earned him a permanent move to The Toffees for £28m. He enjoyed lots of individual success, breaking multiple club scoring records, including becoming their highest scorer in the Premier League.

A move to Manchester United followed for an initial £75m, before he left for Italy for around £70m.

He is currently on loan at AS Roma from Chelsea, and if this spell proves to be successful, there is a good chance his total transfer fee will increase.


Players that could break into the top 6:

It is almost certain that this top six will look very different in a decade or so, with transfer fees constantly inflating and the amount of money that is being invested in today’s game.

Here are some names who you could see break into the top 6 in the future:

Kylian Mbappe

Perhaps the most obvious is 24-year-old Kylian Mbappe, already at number six in the all-time list at £165.7m, all from his move from Monaco to PSG. However, with Mbappe’s desire to join Real Madrid, and the reality of him being in the final year of his contract, it could mean that this figure doesn’t rise at all for a very long time. Although, it seems unfathomable that PSG would just allow one of the best players in the world to walk away for free, so it will be intriguing to see how this saga ends.

Kai Havertz

Another name to look out for is Kai Havertz, a player who has had a very underwhelming time in England, despite scoring the winner in a Champions League final just two years ago. Still only 24, he has already made two big moves in his career, joining Chelsea from Bayer Leverkusen £71m in 2020, before making the switch across London to join rivals Arsenal for £65m this summer. This leaves him less than £30m short of Coutinho’s total transfer fee, so unless he remains in North London for the rest of his career, he is almost certain to surpass that figure.

Joao Felix

Havertz’ ex-Chelsea teammate Joao Felix is also one to watch, with his £120m in total fees certain to grow. Currently on loan at Barcelona from Atletico Madrid, who paid £110.5m for him in 2019, a successful stint should see this figure rise significantly.

Jude Bellingham

Such is the way football is heading, a lot of young players are closing in on the top five having just made one move. Although, barring any unforeseen circumstances, none should be joining the list any time soon. For example, Jude Bellingham, who completed a £115m (including add-ons) move to Real Madrid this summer. At just 19-years old, he will certainly generate huge future fees if he were to ever leave the Bernabeu.