What are the most expensive transfers of all time? The 50 highest fees in history

Martin Macdonald

Man Utd have completed the biggest transfer of the summer to date by signing Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund.

The England international right-winger moved from the Bundesliga side to Old Trafford for a fee reported at €85 million, or £73m.

READ MORE: Who are the world's most valuable footballers? Find out here...

While it is not close to the biggest transfer fee ever paid, it is a remarkable amount given the financial problems that many football clubs are suffering due to the loss of income driven by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It also reinforces the spending power that Manchester United command.

So what are the biggest transfer fees in football history?

Neymar to PSG

The most expensive footballer in history remains Neymar following his transfer from Barcelona to PSG in 2017.

The Brazil international left Camp Nou for PSG in a move worth €222m (£200m), ending an impressive four-year stay with Barca.

Neymar joining PSG was the first time a French club had claimed the world record for football transfers.

The biggest transfers to take place since then have not come close to the record.

In the same summer as Neymar's move, Kylian Mbappe swapped Monaco for PSG, though the deal did not become permanent until 2018.

It was worth €180m and remains the second highest transfer fee of all time.

World record transfers

The move for Neymar saw him claim the title for biggest transfer of all time from Paul Pogba.

Pogba previously set the all-time transfer record in 2016, his move from Juventus to Manchester United costing €105m.

Paul Pogba, Manchester United

Paul Pogba, Manchester United

Prior to that, the most expensive transfer in history was Gareth Bale, who left Tottenham for Real Madrid in 2013 in a €100m deal.

That move ended a four-year stay in top spot for Cristiano Ronaldo, whose own move to Madrid from Man Utd cost €94m in 2009. Such has been the rapid increase in market values, that move no longer even sits in the top 10.

Other holders of the world record transfer since the turn of the century have included Kaka (2009), Zinedine Zidane (2001), Luis Figo (2000) and Hernan Crespo (2000).

The transfer record changed hands five times between 1996 and 1999, being held by Ronaldo and Alan Shearer before the Brazil striker won it back by joining Inter in 1997. He is the only player since Diego Maradona to hold the record twice.

After Ronaldo, Denilson and Christian Vieri then took the honour.

READ MORE: What is Lionel Messi’s net worth and how much does he earn?

Here is a detailed run through of the biggest transfers in football history.

The 50 most expensive transfers ever

1. Neymar (Barcelona to PSG, 2017) - €222m

2. Kylian Mbappe (Monaco to PSG, 2017) - €180m

3. Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool to Barcelona, 2018) - €145m

4. Joao Felix (Benfica to Atletico Madrid, 2019) - €126m

5. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid to Barcelona, 2019) - €120m

=6. Ousmane Dembele (Dortmund to Barcelona, 2017) - €105m

=6. Paul Pogba (Juventus to Man Utd, 2016) - €105m

=8. Eden Hazard (Chelsea to Real Madrid, 2019) - €100m

=8. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid to Juventus, 2018) - €100m

=8. Gareth Bale (Tottenham to Real Madrid, 2013) - €100m

11. Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd to Real Madrid, 2009) - €94m

12. Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli to Juventus, 2016) - €90m

13. Harry Maguire (Leicester to Man Utd, 2019) - €87m

=14. Romelu Lukaku (Everton to Man Utd, 2017) - €85m

=14. Jadon Sancho (Dortmund to Man Utd, 2021) - €85m

16. Virgil van Dijk (Southampton to Liverpool, 2018) - €84.5m

17. Luis Suarez (Liverpool to Barcelona, 2014) - €82.3m

=18. Romelu Lukaku (Man Utd to Inter, 2019) - €80m

=18. Nicolas Pepe (Lille to Arsenal, 2019) - €80m

=18. Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao to Chelsea, 2018) - €80m

=18. Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid to Bayern, 2019) - €80m

22. Kai Havertz (Leverkusen to Chelsea, 2020) - €77m

23. Zinedine Zidane (Juventus to Real Madrid, 2001) - €76m

24. Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid to Man Utd, 2014) - €75.6m

=25. Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax to Juventus, 2019) - €75m

=25. Frenkie de Jong (Ajax to Barcelona, 2019) - €75m

=25. James Rodriguez (Monaco to Real Madrid, 2014) - €75m

=25. Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg to Man City, 2015) - €75m

29. Arthur Melo (Barcelona to Juventus, 2020) - €72m

=30. Victor Osimhen (Lille to Napoli, 2020) - €70m

=30. Rodri (Atletico Madrid to Man City, 2019) - €70m

=30. Thomas Lemar (Monaco to Atletico Madrid, 2018) - €70m

33. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter to Barcelona, 2009) - €69.5m

34. Ruben Dias (Benfica to Man City, 2020) - €68m

35. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester to Man City, 2018) - €67.8m

36. Kaka (Milan to Real Madrid, 2009) - €67m

37. Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid to Chelsea, 2017) - €65.5m

38. Aymeric Laporte (Athletic Bilbao to Man City, 2018) - €65.2m

39. Joao Cancelo (Juventus to Man City, 2019) - €65m

40. Edinson Cavani (Napoli to PSG, 2013) - €64.5m

=41 Christian Pulisic (Dortmund to Chelsea, 2019) - €64m

=41. Angel Di Maria (Man Utd to PSG, 2015) - €64m

43. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Dortmund to Arsenal, 2018) - €63.7m

=44. Alisson (Roma to Liverpool, 2018) - €62.5m

=44. Raheem Sterling (Liverpool to Man City, 2015) - €62.5m

46. Luis Figo (Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000) - €62m

47. Oscar (Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG, 2017) - €61m

=48. Miralem Pjanic (Juventus to Barcelona, 2020) - €60m

=48. Tanguy Ndombele (Lyon to Tottenham, 2019) - €60m

=48. Naby Keita (RB Leipzig to Liverpool, 2018) - €60m

=48. Luka Jovic (Frankfurt to Real Madrid, 2019) - €60m

=48. Achraf Hakimi (Inter to PSG, 2021) - €60m

Who is the most expensive goalkeeper of all time?

Chelsea may regret their decision to make Kepa Arrizabalaga the biggest transfer for a goalkeeper in football history.

The Blues splashed out €80m to sign the Spain keeper from Athletic Bilbao in 2018.

A string of high-profile errors impacted Frank Lampard’s chances of success at the club and within two years Chelsea had signed Edouard Mendy to replace him as number one.

Kepa, Chelsea

Kepa, Chelsea

Kepa took the record from Alisson, a signing that proved much more successful for Liverpool.

They spent €62.5m to sign him from Roma a month before Kepa joined Chelsea and the Brazil international, along with defender Virgil van Dijk, helped to address major weaknesses that were holding back Liverpool.

Brazil international Alisson helped Liverpool win the Champions League and Premier League in successive seasons.

Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea to Real Madrid), Ederson (Benfica to Man City) and Gianluigi Buffon (Parma to Juventus) make up the top five.

Who is the most expensive defender of all time?

The record transfer for a defender is held by Harry Maguire, who joined Manchester United from Leicester City for €87m in 2019.

Maguire took the record from Virgil van Dijk, an €84.5m signing for Liverpool from Southampton a year earlier.

The move Man Utd made for England international Maguire is often questioned, perhaps because his usually solid performances and occasional errors are also viewed in the context of his enormous transfer fee.

Van Dijk’s success at Liverpool does not help Maguire either. The Netherlands international’s arrival had a transformative effect at the club and they went on to earn Champions League and Premier League glory under Jurgen Klopp.

Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus) and Ruben Dias – who has had a similar impact to Van Dijk at Man City – round out the top five.

Who is the most expensive midfielder of all time?

Philippe Coutinho goes down as the biggest transfer involving a midfielder (even if he can also play further forward) – a move that has not worked out for Barcelona.

Coutinho became the most expensive January transfer signing ever in 2018, when he pushed to leave Liverpool for Barca.

Coutinho, Barcelona

Coutinho, Barcelona

The Catalans had not found a suitable replacement for Neymar and felt that by spending big on his compatriot, they would find an answer to their problems.

Instead, Coutinho inadvertently brought issues of his own. He simply became the latest of a string of stars, which included Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was unable to fit into a system built around Lionel Messi, and 18 unsuccessful months later he was shunted out on loan to Bayern Munich.

Now back at Camp Nou, he is again struggling for consistency amid a lack of form and injuries but remains the biggest La Liga transfer in history.

Paul Pogba and Kai Havertz are next, with Zinedine Zidane still featuring prominently despite his move to Real Madrid from Juventus taking place 20 years ago. He now manages the Spanish club.

Angel Di Maria rounds out the top five – he makes the list for his €75.6m move to Man Utd in 2014, rather than the subsequent €64m transfer to PSG a year later.

Who is the most expensive forward of all time?

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe fill the first two spots in this ranking, as well as the overall list.

Brazil star Neymar is also the most expensive South American signing ever, with Mbappe holding the record for Europe.

Four of the five biggest transfers of all time are forwards, with Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann also featuring prominently, while Ousmane Dembele is the fifth most expensive attacker ever.

Neymar, PSG

Neymar, PSG

Joao Felix actually arrived at Atletico Madrid as the expensive replacement for Griezmann.

In signing him, Diego Simeone’s side were adding a player who seemingly had both potential and current ability to their ranks. Indeed, Felix had just come off an incredible run in Portugal, in which he had scored 11 and laid on eight in Benfica’s last 16 league games of the 2018/19 campaign.

Such incredible scoring form saw him discussed as potentially being the breakout star to challenge Mbappe in the next generation, yet he has not got close to those heights in the Spanish capital, despite contributing regularly.

There was a long will-he-won’t-he saga attached to Griezmann’s move from Atletico Madrid to Barcelona. The player himself hyped it up in 2018 during the World Cup before snubbing the Catalans in a television broadcast, yet a year on he finally made the switch.

Griezmann had backed himself as a Ballon d’Or winner barely six months before moving to Barcelona, yet alongside a six-time winner of that award, Lionel Messi, he has struggled to cut a niche for himself in this Camp Nou side.

Perhaps if and when Messi finally departs, the Griezmann that lit up the Wanda Metropolitano will finally become evident again.

Antoine Griezmann, Barcelona

Antoine Griezmann, Barcelona

Barcelona had money burning a hole in their pocket when they gambled upon signing Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund.

The former Rennes youngster had been successful in the Bundesliga and as Barca sought to bolster their attacking line, they felt Dembele was a player who could be at the club for years to come.

He may yet be, although his first three years with the Catalans have been difficult as they have been riddled with muscular injuries that he has failed to overcome. Dembele is in danger of being a major transfer flop, though if he can regain his fitness, form and confidence, he may yet prove a valuable asset.

Many expect Erling Haaland to feature prominently in this list if he leaves Borussia Dortmund this summer. The Bundesliga club have reportedly set a €180m asking price for the prolific 20-year-old.

Who is the most expensive teenager of all time?

Kylian Mbappe became the most expensive teenage transfer ever when he joined PSG.

That move smashed the record previously held by Anthony Martial when he joined Man Utd from Monaco in 2015.

There have been some huge transfers for teenagers since Mbappe, though none which have threatened the record.

Kylian Mbappe, PSG

Kylian Mbappe, PSG

Joao Felix (€126m) joined Atletico Madrid in the fourth biggest transfer ever, Juventus splashed out €75m for Matthijs de Ligt in 2019 while Real Madrid have signed Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Junior for over €45m each.

The second of PSG’s mega-money signings of 2017 that completely changed the landscape of the transfer market, Mbappe actually arrived at the club on a loan deal that had a clause that would be made permanent if Les Parisiens avoided relegation. This was inevitable and purely installed to circumvent Financial Fair Play.

Mbappe has gone some way to realising his potential at Parc des Princes, becoming a World Cup winner in 2018 and continuing to score at the prodigious rate expected of him.

A hat-trick against Barcelona at Camp Nou in the 2020/21 Champions League last 16 seemed to confirm his rise to superstar status.

Who is the most expensive English player of all time?

As well as being the most expensive defender signing in history, Harry Maguire also holds the record for English players.

The biggest British transfer, though, was when Gareth Bale left Tottenham for Real Madrid in 2013, when the winger also became the world’s most expensive player.

Having started his career as a left-back, he had become increasingly attacking with Spurs but completed his switch to the forward line at the Bernabeu, where he became an integral member of the ‘BBC’ forward line.

Along with Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale claimed two La Liga titles as well as four Champions League crowns.

He remains on the books of the club but was back on loan at Spurs.

It didn't seem like he would play for the club again until former coach Carlo Ancelotti returned as the new boss at Santiago Bernabeu.

Who is the most expensive North American player of all time?

Christian Pulisic holds the record for the biggest transfer involving a North American player.

He joined Chelsea from Borussia Dortmund for €64m in 2019 and has yet to fully find his peak form after battling with injuries.

There is a huge gap to the next most expensive players from the USA.

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea

Sergino Dest joined Barcelona in a move worth up to €26m from Ajax last year, while Juventus struck a similar deal to sign Weston McKennie from Schalke.

The North American record may not be threatened in the coming years unless Canada international Alphonso Davies, one of the game’s best rising stars, ever leaves Bayern Munich.

Closest to Pulisic in this ranking are two Mexico players. Hirving Lozano joined Napoli from PSV for €42m in 2019, while it cost Wolves €41m in loan and transfer fees to sign Raul Jimenez from Benfica the same year.

Who is the most expensive African player of all time?

Nicolas Pepe is the biggest transfer involving an African player.

It cost Arsenal an astonishing €80m to sign the Ivory Coast forward from Lille in 2019.

Pepe has not worked out at the Emirates Stadium and he has spent most of the 2020/21 Premier League season out of Mikel Arteta’s starting line-up.

Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal

Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal

Lille are also responsible for the second biggest move involving an African player. They sold Nigeria forward Victor Osimhen to Napoli for €70m last year.

Algeria star Riyad Mahrez has been a successful transfer for Man City, who paid €67.8m to bring him in from Leicester in 2018.

What is the most expensive Premier League transfer of all time?

Paul Pogba is the most expensive Premier League transfer in terms of those bought by an English club.

Between his love of social media away from the field and a difficulty finding his best level on it with Manchester United, Pogba is one of the most controversial footballers of the present day.

Of course, his roundabout story into Man Utd’s first team has scarcely helped.

Having departed the club in 2012 after barely playing a first team game, he returned four years later as the most expensive player in the world at the time.

He has struggled with that weight of expectation, and while he has shown glimpses of his world-class ability, he has often failed to hit the heights he has with the France national team.

United also hold the second, third and fourth positions in this category with their moves for Harry Maguire, Romelu Lukaku and Jadon Sancho.

The jury is very much out on the next biggest transfers in the Premier League, with Arsenal forward Nicolas Pepe and Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga up next.

Who has the highest combined transfer fees of all time?

As well as holding the biggest transfer in history from his move to PSG, Neymar is also the player who has the highest combined transfer fees of all time.

In addition to the PSG transfer, his move to Barcelona from Santos in 2013 was reported at the time to have cost €57.1m, though was later discovered to have been €86.2m as there had been a substantial payment to Neymar’s parents.

The two players closest behind him are Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku.

Romelu Lukaku, PSG

Romelu Lukaku, PSG

Ronaldo has had three high-profile moves, from Sporting CP to Man Utd, United to Real Madrid and most recently to Juventus.

Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid in 2018 signalled the end of a glorious era. The Portuguese had become an icon at the Bernabeu, where he had become the club’s record scorer and had done so by averaging more than a goal per appearance.

Juventus, then, felt that signing the veteran Ronaldo was a worthwhile move, even at the age of 33.

He has maintained an incredible scoring ratio, although it is down slightly on what he managed at Real Madrid. Nevertheless, he has given Juve three outstanding seasons of service to date.

The signing of Ronaldo for Juve is Serie A’s biggest in history.

Lukaku, meanwhile, has had five transfers involving Anderlecht, Chelsea, Everton, Man Utd and Inter. The last two moves alone totalled €165m.

With Neymar looking likely to stay with PSG for the foreseeable future, Lukaku could jump into first place if he moves again.