The 10 most expensive centre backs of all time

Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith
  • Updated: 18 Jul 2024 20:00 BST
  • 5 min read
Harry Maguire, England, 2022-23
© ProShots

Josko Gvardiol is the most expensive centre back in football history thanks to his €90 million move to Manchester City from Leipzig in the summer of 2023.

Gvardiol had emerged as arguably the best young defender on the planet in the previous year before his transfer.

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He had been one of the stars at the 2022 World Cup as Croatia made it all the way to the semi-finals.

He overtook Harry Maguire as the most expensive centre-back ever. Maguire is now the second costliest centre back after his €87m transfer from Leicester City to Manchester United in 2019.

The Englishman impressed at the 2018 Russia World Cup and after a further season at the King Power Stadium, Man Utd were persuaded to make Maguire the most expensive defender of all time. He started well at Man Utd but soon turned into a figure of fun with some disastrous performances.

Earlier in the same summer transfer window as Maguire’s big-money move to Man Utd, Matthijs de Ligt had previously become the most expensive centre-back of all time after leaving Ajax to join Juventus for €85.5m. The Dutchman was heavily sought after following his role in Ajax’s run to the 2018/19 Champions League semi-finals and chose to join Juventus amid interest from across Europe. He was underwhelming in three years in Turin.

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

Matthijs de Ligt at Bayern
© IMAGO - Matthijs de Ligt at Bayern

De Ligt’s international team-mate Virgil van Dijk previously held the title of the world’s most expensive centre-back before the 2019 summer transfer window.

The former Celtic star left Southampton to sign for Liverpool during the 2018 January transfer window, signing for the Reds for a fee of €84.65m after impressing on the south coast. He proved to be one of Liverpool's best defenders ever. He helped the Anfield-based side reach the Champions League final in his first six months at the club and thenw in the competition in 2019.

The 2022 summer transfer window saw Wesley Fofana move from Leicester City to Chelsea, costing the Stamford Bridge outfit €80.4m. This made him the fifth most expensive centre-back in football history. It means that Leicester have been the selling club for two of the five most expensive centre-backs ever. Fofana has struggled with injury at Chelsea so far.

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In sixth place is Lucas Hernandez, who was sold by Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich for €80m. Although he can play at left-back, he is primarily a centre-back. Like Maguire and De Ligt, Hernandez also moved clubs for a large fee in 2019. He left Bayern for PSG in the summer of 2023 after a tough four years.

Ruben Dias is the seventh most expensive centre-back of all time. He joined Manchester City from Benfica for a fee of €71.6m. He developed into one of the best defenders in the world at City under Josep Guardiola.

The eigth-most expensive centre back of all-time became Leny Yoro in 2024, with the Frenchman joining Manchester United from Lille for a fee that could rise as high as €70m.

The aforementioned De Ligt appears in the top 10 most expensive centre-backs of all time for a second time thanks to his €67m transfer from Juventus to Bayern Munich in 2022. However, just like at Juventus, De Ligt struggled at Bayern.

Aymeric Laporte's €65m transfer from Athletic Bilbao to Man City in 2017 wraps up the top ten, meaning the Premier League is responsible for seven of the 10 most expensive centre-backs ever.

The 10 most expensive centre-backs of all time

Josko GvardiolLeipzig to Man City€90m2023
Harry MaguireLeicester to Manchester United€87m2019
Matthijs de LigtAjax to Juventus€85.5m2019
Virgil van DijkSouthampton to Liverpool€84.65m2018
Wesley FofanaLeicester to Chelsea€80.4m2022
Lucas HernandezAtletico Madrid to Bayern Munich€80m2019
Ruben DiasBenfica to Manchester City€71.6m2020
Leny YoroLille to Man Utd€70m2024
Matthijs de LigtJuventus to Bayern Munich€67m2022
Aymeric LaporteAthletic Club to Manchester City€65m2017

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