The world of football transfers and football finances in general have gone a little crazy over the last two decades. From Willie Groves becoming the first player to be transferred for £100 in 1912, to players now making moves worth more than some countries entire GDP’s.
Today we’re taking a look at the most expensive footballer of every calendar year from 2018 to 1998, which just so happens to be 21 entries, which is a multiple of 7 as the more diligent among you may have noticed.
Here are the most expensive footballers of every year 1998-2018:
2018 – Kylian Mbappe
The most expensive transfer of 2018 was actually signed off and agreed upon in 2017, but Kylian Mbappe joined PSG on an initial one-year loan deal, with the move only becoming a permanent one this year. The second most expensive footballer of all time, Mbappe set PSG back a hefty £120 million, joining from former Ligue 1 title rivals Monaco. A really special talent, Mbappe is still only 19, yet he has already played a pivotal role in a World Cup winning side and made a Champions League Team of the Season.
2017 – Neymar
The two most expensive footballers of all time are the first two players in this seven, and both made their huge moves to Paris Saint-Germain. Neymar is the most expensive footballer of all time, having surprised many people when he left Barcelona in a £198 million deal. The Brazilian superstar doesn’t always attract the plaudits for his amateur dramatics on the pitch, but there’s no doubting his talent. He averaged 1.5 goal or assist contributions per game last season.
2016 – Paul Pogba
A world record transfer fee back in 2016, Manchester United’s acquisition of Paul Pogba for £89 million was a bit of an unusual one. Not unusual because of the enormous fee, Pogba is clearly a special talent, but unusual because of the fact that Pogba had previously been a Manchester United player and the club lost him for next to nothing. In his two and a bit years at Old Trafford, Pogba has shown glimpses of his class, but he has never put in consistently world class performances under Jose Mourinho, whose style doesn’t necessarily suit the Frenchmans.
2015 – Kevin De Bruyne
One man who has put in consistently world class performances since making a big-money move to the Premier League is Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne. The £55 million addition was the most expensive deal of 2015, but he has proved exceptional value for money. Arguably the best player in the Premier League, De Bruyne was the lynchpin in a City side which cruised to the Premier League title reaching 100 points last season.
2014 – Luis Suarez
The first La Liga arrival in this seven so far, Luis Suarez’s £75 million move to Barcelona in 2014 looked like huge money at the time, but Romelu Lukaku and Gonzalo Higuain have gone for that price or more since then. The Uruguayan joined Barca off the back of a quite incredible season at Liverpool, and he’s maintained those extraordinarily high standards at Barcelona, as well as cutting out some of the silly stuff. Suarez is 31 now, and he has scored 154 goals in 202 games at the Camp Nou.
2013 – Gareth Bale
For a long time, Real Madrid dominated the arena of world record transfer fees, but they haven’t broken the record since bringing in Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013. Bale cost Los Blancos £86 million five years ago, and he has since enjoyed mixed fortunes in the Spanish capital. On the one hand, Bale is clearly a world class footballer who has decided huge games for Real, winning four Champions Leagues in five seasons. On the other hand, he has had a string of injuries which have limited his contribution, making fewer appearances than Lucas Vazquez in each of the last three seasons.
2012 – Thiago Silva
The first defender to feature in this video, Thiago Silva’s £38 million move from AC Milan to PSG was the biggest transfer of 2012. One of the club’s first marquee signings following the arrival of Qatari money, Silva is now in his seventh season in the French capital, where he has won five league titles and 13 other trophies.
2011 – Javier Pastore
With their fourth entry only eight years into this video, albeit this will be their last, PSG have spent an enormous amount of money in recent years. Javier Pastore was the first big money signing made by PSG’s new regime, also costing the club £38 million. The gifted Argentine left PSG in the transfer window just gone in a £22 million move to Roma.
2010 – David Villa
I originally had 2010 down as Fernando Torres, who made a £50 million move from Liverpool to Chelsea in the 2010-11 season. However, very late in the day, I realised his transfer actually came in January 2011, meaning I was back at square one, and that’s why this video is up today and not yesterday. So apologies for that on my part.
The most expensive transfer of 2010, therefore, we believe to be David Villa’s £34 million switch from Valencia to Barcelona. A fantastic footballer and goal scorer, Villa was as prolific as ever at Barca, and he still is now at the ripe old age of 36 for New York City FC.
2009 – Cristiano Ronaldo
A world record fee that stood for four years, Cristiano Ronaldo turned out to be one of the bargains of the century at Real Madrid. Not only did they sign him for £80 million from Manchester United only for him to score 450 goals in 438 games and win 15 trophies, but nine seasons on, they’ve sold him for more than £88 million to Juventus at the age of 33. Credit where it’s due, a remarkable piece of business by Los Blancos.
2008 – Robinho
The second Manchester City player, and inevitably the last, to feature in this video, is former Brazilian wonderkid Robinho. Following the Citizens takeover by Sheikh Mansour and the Abu Dhabi United Group on the final day of the 2008 summer transfer window, they rushed through one marquee signing, and that man was Robinho. He managed less than two seasons at City, but his arrival was more about image than results, and it did the job on that front.
2007 – Fernando Torres
I might have been wrong to have Fernando Torres down as the biggest deal of 2010, but that doesn’t stop him featuring in this video altogether. The World Cup and two-time Euro winning Spaniard cost Liverpool more than £26 million back in 2007, although it’s fair to say he turned out to be a shrewd acquisition. He scored 81 goals in 142 games before his £50 million sale to Chelsea.
2006 – Andriy Shevchenko
Probably the worst signing in this video, Andriy Shevchenko cost Chelsea just shy of £31 million back in 2006. Then aged 29, the Ukraine legend didn’t even hit double figures in the league during his two seasons and 48 appearances for the Blues. Shevchenko was an outstanding centre-forward who was sensational at AC Milan, but there were suspicions the Ukrainian was an Abramovich signing and not a player Jose Mourinho had earmarked as a priority.
2005 – Michael Essien
Another Chelsea recruit, Michael Essien arrived in South-West London for a not-so-princely sum of £26 million. Essien had looked the real deal at Lyon. A complete midfielder who was so strong and athletic, tough in the tackle but also effective in attacking areas, Essien was brilliant in his first two or three seasons at the Bridge. Injuries began to bite in 2008 though, and Essien never quite recovered.
2004 – Didier Drogba
Would you be able to guess that Chelsea were taken over by a Russian oligarch in 2004? The Blues had the most expensive signing of 2004, 2005 and 2006. The first, and indeed the best in terms of his impact at the club, was Didier Drogba. The powerful Ivorian who had been something of a late bloomer in France arrived at Stamford Bridge in a deal worth £24 million. At his best, Drogba scored 37 goals in a single season, and even at his worst, the current Phoenix Rising forward still had a handy knack of turning on the style in big games.
2003 – David Beckham
The biggest and the most expensive transfer of 2003 was of course David Beckham’s switch from Manchester United to Real Madrid. In a drawn out transfer saga that ultimately resulted in Barcelona signing Ronaldinho and Manchester United bringing in Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham parted company with the Red Devils in a £25 million deal. One of the most recognisable men on the planet, Becks won one La Liga title in four seasons at the Bernabeu.
2002 – Rio Ferdinand
From a player who departed Manchester United in 2003 to one who arrived a year earlier, the most expensive transfer of 2002 was Rio Ferdinand’s departure from Leeds United. The England international arrived at Old Trafford for a fee of over £30 million, an extraordinary amount of money at the time. Ferdinand set a British record fee and a world record fee for a defender, but he proved to be an excellent signing by Sir Alex. A Rolls-Royce of a centre-back who formed a particularly formidable partnership with Nemanja Vidic, Ferdinand became a bonafide United legend.
2001 – Zinedine Zidane
Real Madrid’s acquisition of Zinedine Zidane from Juventus in 2001 was so pricey that it stood as a world record transfer fee for eight years, meaning the World Cup winner had been retired three years when it was finally overtaken. The gifted Frenchman who was such a natural footballer with genuine match-winning ability went on to spend five seasons at the Bernabeu, where he had patchy form, but showed his class at times on the biggest of stages. Zizou went on to have more success in his two-and-a-half years managing the club than he had in double that as a player.
2000 – Luis Figo
The world record fee that Zinedine Zidane broke was arguably the most controversial transfer in football history. Luis Figo had been the best player in the world at Barcelona, so a move to arch rivals Real Madrid was virtually unthinkable. Club president Florentino Perez had promised his arrival in his presidential campaign though, and a £37 million bid made true on his promise. Figo’s transfer was highly controversial, but he went on to have five excellent seasons in Madrid.
1999 – Christian Vieri
The penultimate inclusion in this video, Christian Vieri was an absolute monster of a centre-forward in his prime. Nicknamed ‘Bobo’, injuries would ultimately plague the Italians career, but at his best he was a frightening proposition for any defender in world football. After 29 goals in 32 games in his single season with Atletico Madrid, Lazio paid a world record breaking £32 million to bring Vieri back to Italy. He spent just a season with Lazio, before they sold him for a big profit to Inter Milan.
1998 – Denilson
We gave Andriy Shevchenko the title of the worst signing in this video, but Brazil star Denilson certainly gives him a good challenge for that honour. Denilson became the world’s most expensive player at £21.5 million in 1998, off the back of his impressive performances at that summers World Cup. The move saw Denilson swap Sao Paulo of Brazil for Real Betis of Spain, but it wasn’t a match made in heaven. Denilson struggled to break into the first team and Betis were relegated in his second season. He did help the club win promotion back into La Liga, making almost 200 league appearances in 7 season, but many of those were as an impact player off the bench.