Football transfers: Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and the 10 most expensive players in history

Enzo Fernandez at Chelsea, Neymar at PSG and Antoine Griezmann at Barcelona. TEAMtalk montage.

Talented players naturally command hefty fees and Europe’s biggest clubs are willing to break the bank to sign their top transfer targets. 

The likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City have all completed nine-figure deals in recent years.

We’ve taken a look at the 10 most expensive transfers of all time and how those players fared after completing their big-money move.

Note: While we’ve mentioned the potential add-ons in any deal, we’ve ranked the players by their initial transfer fees. The transfer fees are also in Pounds instead of Euros.

10. Romelu Lukaku – £97.5m

After firing Inter Milan to the Serie A title in the 2020/21 season, Lukaku returned to Chelsea for a second spell in a £97.5million deal.

The Belgium international scored just 15 goals in 45 appearances in all competitions in 2021/22, and his struggles were typified by a performance at Crystal Palace where he touched the ball just seven times.

He also burnt his bridges at Stamford Bridge by publicly criticising Thomas Tuchel’s tactics and expressing his desire to return to Inter.

The 30-year-old spent the 2022/23 season on loan at Inter and has since joined Roma on another season-long loan deal.

9= Jack Grealish – £100m

An Aston Villa academy graduate, Grealish established himself as both the captain and the talisman of his boyhood club.

Manchester City triggered the release clause in his Villa contract in the summer of 2021, making him British football’s first £100million player.

The England international initially struggled to adjust to the tactical demands of Pep Guardiola and played a bit-part role in his debut season at the Etihad.

But he rediscovered his best form in 2022/23 and helped City win the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League in a historic season.

9= Declan Rice – £100m + £5m

After going head-to-head in the Premier League title race in 2022/23, Arsenal and Manchester City then battled for Rice’s signature.

The midfielder, who captained West Ham United to a UEFA Europa Conference League title in 2023, was reportedly open to both offers.

But City were only willing to offer £90million for the midfielder and Arsenal agreed to pay the Hammers an initial £100million and another £5million in add-ons.

He has already got his hands on some silverware after making his Arsenal debut in the Community Shield win over Manchester City.

Declan Rice, Kai Havertz, Jurrien Timber Arsenal

Declan Rice, Kai Havertz, Jurrien Timber with the Community Shield

9= Moises Caicedo – £100m + £15m

Caicedo was a relative unknown when he moved to Brighton in January 2021, but he then developed into one of the best midfielders in the Premier League.

While Liverpool agreed an £111million deal with Brighton in the summer of 2023, the Ecuador international rejected a move to Anfield as he had his heart set on joining Chelsea.

The Blues agreed to pay an initial £100million and another £15million in potential add-ons, which would make him the most expensive Premier League signing of all time.

“We all know him, his quality and his profile,” manager Mauricio Pochettino said. “I think he is the perfect player for this project. We are excited and we are so happy to have him in the squad. The club worked really, really hard [to sign Caicedo].”

6. Philippe Coutinho – £106.5m + £35.5m

Having established himself as one of the best midfielders in the world, expectations were high when Coutinho left Liverpool and completed a £106.5million move to Barcelona in January 2018.

The move also included another £35.5million in potential add-ons, and the Brazil international failed to justify that huge price tag.

He couldn’t fill the void left by Andres Iniesta’s departure and registered just 25 goals and 14 assists in 106 appearances for the Spanish side.

The 31-year-old had loan spells at Bayern Munich and Aston Villa before joining the latter in a £17million deal in 2022.

He failed to rediscover his best form at Villa Park and has since joined Qatari side Al-Duhail on a season-long loan deal.

5. Enzo Fernandez – £106.8m

Fernandez shot to prominence at the 2022 World Cup, where he helped Argentina lift the trophy and also won the Young Player of the Tournament award.

Chelsea then broke the Premier League transfer record in January 2023 by triggering the £106.8million release clause in his Benfica contract.

The 22-year-old has provided glimpses of his immense potential, including a man-of-the-match performance against Liverpool on the opening weekend of the 2023/24 season.

But he’s been unable to transform Chelsea’s form and has won just four Premier League games during his first seven months in England.

4. Antoine Griezmann – £107.6m

Griezmann rejected an offer from Barcelona in the summer of 2018 and famously explained his decision during a Spanish television documentary.

But the France international changed his mind a year later and Barcelona triggered the £107.6million release clause in his Atletico Madrid contract.

He proved ill-suited to Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation and registered just 35 goals and 17 assists in 102 appearances for the club.

The 32-year-old returned to Atletico Madrid on a two-year loan deal in 2021 and the move was later made permanent for just £17million.

3. Joao Felix – £113m

Atletico Madrid decided to reinvest the Griezmann money on Felix, who had just enjoyed a brilliant breakthrough season at Benfica.

But the 23-year-old, who also picked up the coveted Golden Boy award in 2019, is yet to replicate the form he showed in Portugal.

He has struggled to express himself in Diego Simeone’s demanding system, registering just 34 goals in 131 appearances in all competitions.

The Portugal international had an underwhelming loan spell at Chelsea in the second half of 2022/23 and has now joined Barcelona on a season-long loan deal.

2. Kylian Mbappe – £133m + £33m

Mbappe came through the ranks at Monaco and burst onto the scene in 2016/17 before joining Paris Saint-Germain on an initial loan deal.

PSG made the move permanent the following summer, paying their Ligue 1 rivals an initial £133million and another £33million in potential add-ons.

The France international has more than justified that price tag, scoring 217 goals in 263 appearances while winning five Ligue 1 titles and a host of individual awards.

While PSG accepted a world-record £259million bid from Al-Hilal in the summer of 2023, the 24-year-old was not interested in a move to Saudi Arabia and is now in contract talks with the Parisians.

1. Neymar – £198m

In the summer of 2017, Paris Saint-Germain sent shockwaves across the footballing world by triggering the £198million release clause in Neymar’s Barcelona contract.

He became the most expensive footballer of all time and the deal more than doubled the previous world record fee of £89million.

The Brazil international won five Ligue 1 titles and eight domestic cup trophies during his time in France but was unable to lead PSG to their first Champions League title.

After struggling with injury problems and falling out of favour in 2023, Neymar joined Al-Hilal in a deal that could ultimately be worth £77million.

READ MORE: Farewell Neymar: The best of us mere mortals but always overshadowed by Messi and Ronaldo