If you’ve ever spent any time on the Internet, then you’ve no doubt fallen into a Wikipedia wormwhole. One minute you’re browsing along, going about your day and 28 minutes later, you’re a temporary expert on the world’s largest islands. Hey, it happens.
Please take a few minutes and peruse the Wikipedia’s list of the 100 most-expensive soccer transfers (technically: “List of most expensive association football transfers”) otherwise the ensuing rambling, semi-coherent blog post won’t make much sense.
And, yes all of the following comes with major reservations since it’s Wikipedia. For example, Neymar’s move to Barcelona isn’t on the list, perhaps due to how shady it went down with personal bank accounts involved. The list also has both Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo jointly in positions one and two, so yeah. Then there’s the entire issue of inflation (and trying to calculate Euro exchange rates from 13 years ago by an admittedly math-challenged author) that makes everything written here highly unscientific and realistically nothing more than some Wiki wormhole-inspired musings.
Still with me? Let’s boogie.
The Five Best:
- Robin van Persie, Arsenal to Manchester United (2012, £24, T-79th-most expensive): Yes, his contract was almost up at the Emirates, but United swooped in and got 26 goals (and more importantly 38 league appearances) from the Dutchman and a final EPL title for Sir Alex Ferguson and one last jab at sparring partner Arsène Wenger. Savvy business.
- Gianluigi Buffon, Parma to Juventus (2001, £30, T-20th): That’s an awful lot of money to spend on a keeper, especially in 2001 dollars, and remains a world-record for the position. Buffon easily made good on the investment, serving as the face of the Old Lady for parts of two decades winning seven Serie A titles (two stripped via the Calciopoli scandal). Buffon remained with Juventus, too, when the club was shipped to Serie B for a season for its role in the scandal, which the players had little if anything to do with.
- Eden Hazard, Lille to Chelsea (2012, £32, 51st): Of all the European superclubs, Chelsea knows how to work the transfer game on both sides expertly. The Blues added Hazard, arguably the best player in the Premier League, for less than half of what it sold David Luiz ($75 million) to PSG for last summer and only a few million more than Manchester United paid Southampton for teenage left back Luke Shaw.
- Sergio Agüero, Atletico Madrid to Manchester City (2011, £38, 24th)/Yaya Toure, Barcelona to Manchester City (2010, £28, 67th): 96 goals in 148 appearances across all competitions is an excellent rate for a striker, saying nothing of his Premier League-winning, stoppage-time goal on the final day of the 2011-12 season or his 16 goals in 20 games last year that helped City claim its second title. City paying that little for Toure, its best overall player the past few seasons, is simply great business — even better when you consider it’s significantly less than the club paid for Fernandinho three years later.
- Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United to Real Madrid (2009, £80, 1-2): Let’s agree Real Madrid didn’t get Ronaldo on the cheap, however if you go up-and-down the list, how many mega-money moves involving star players backfire? Rarely is Real Madrid’s money-is-no-object transfer policy wise, but it landed Ronaldo when he was 25 and about to hit his prime. In Spain, Ronaldo has scored 205 goals in 184 league matches, won two straight Ballon d’Ors, won La Liga and most importantly, won Real Madrid it’s 10th Champions League crown. Oh right, he’s also kicked the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona, thanks in no part to his personal animosity toward Lionel Messi, into the stratosphere.
The Five Worst:
- Kaká, AC Milan to Real Madrid (2009, £56, 8th-most expensive): If only Real Madrid could have justified the former Ballon d’Or winner’s four years in the Spanish capital as a tax write-off, or something. Los Blancos certainly expected more than 85 La Liga appearances from the Brazilian. Instead Kaká was a shell of the player he was at AC Milan, never settling into a comfortable position. He’s now with Orlando City SC and the most-expensive designated-player in MLS history.
- Roberto Soldado, Valencia to Tottenham (2013, £26, T-84): Tottenham invested part of its Gareth Bale profits into Soldado, making him its record transfer. All Spurs have to show for it is seven league goals — three from open play — over parts of two seasons.
- Andriy Shevchenko, AC Milan to Chelsea (2006, £30, 30th): For the money he’s invested in Chelsea, owner Roman Abramovich isn’t exactly a George Steinbrenner-type meddler. The one time his personal whims came into play, it resulted in Shevchenko, a Ballon d’Or winner with AC Milan, turned into a punchline at Stamford Bridge. After nine goals in 42 games he was gone and his career never recovered.
- Robinho, Real Madrid to Manchester City (2008, £32.5, 32nd): On the day Manchester City’s current owners bought the club, they brought in Robinho from Real Madrid to make a splash and show their intent. It never quite worked out that way the club envisioned, as he was loaned back to his former club Santos before a move to AC Milan.
- Javier Pastore, Palermo to PSG (2011, £36.6, 33rd): PSG, thanks to its cash-rich Qatari-based ownership group, can burn money and not really worry about, i.e. $70+ million on David Luiz. Pastore was one of the club’s first big-money purchases and, yes, he’s won a pair of Ligue 1 titles. Even so, the Argentine didn’t become the star PSG envisioned, so it turned out it spent a boatload of Euros on a squad player.
And, for fun, here are eight bonus fun facts/musings from that fantastic list:
* Willian checked in at 60 and 61 on the list, moving from Shaktar Donetsk to Anzhi Makhachkala to Chelsea with about $90 million changing hands over the course of eight months. Anzhi Makhachkala, which briefly handed Samuel Eto’o the highest-paying contract in the world, saw its big-spending days evaporate almost as quickly as they arrived. The team is now back in the Russian second division and divested of all its star acquisitions.
* Real Madrid broke its own world record for highest fee, twice. The first time it only took a year, when it bought Zinedine Zidane from Juventus, topping its purchase of Luis Figo in 2000 (from rival Barcelona, a move that prompted a pig’s head to be thrown on the pitch). The Gareth Bale move in the summer of 2013 topped the Ronaldo record set in 2009 (minus the on-field delicatessen).
Maybe there is a Fibonacci Sequence to predict the next time it will happen.
* Real Madrid tops the Top 100 list with 16 entries on the list, beginning with Nicolas Anelka in 1999. Manchester City is second with 13. Based on the current 2015 exchange rate, Madrid spent close to $995 million on these players, City spent $598 million. (Again these figures don’t quite equate to real-world value. The IMF didn’t return my numerous calls asking for help.)
* The list is a nice reminder of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s one season at Barcelona. Naturally, in a “bad” season, Ibrahimovic still scored 21 goals and Barça won La Liga.
* The AS Monaco experiment certainly had legs, right? In 2013 the club shelled out $136 million for Falcao and James Rodríguez. By the start of the 2014-15 season the two Colombians were at Manchester United (on loan) and Real Madrid, respectively.
* Here’s a quirk: there are more Belgian players (Hazard, Marouane Felliani, Romelu Lukaku, Axel Witsel) in the Top 100 than German players (Mesut Özil, Andre Schürrle and Mario Götze).
* Sign of the times, the only time an Italian team cracked the Top 100 in this decade is Gonzalo Higuian’s move from Real Madrid to Napoli in 2013. From 1999-2001 there are 10 Serie A transfers that remain among the Top 100, including Christian Vieri’s then world-record move from Lazio to Inter Milan.
* Arjen Robben (Chelsea to Real Madrid) and Carlos Tevez (MSI to Manchester City) appear in the Top 100. Their ensuing trophy-filled moves to Bayern Munich and Juventus, do not. Go figure.
[Photos via Getty]