From Fred to Ronaldo: Ranking every transfer over £50 million in football history

Real Madrid's new player Portuguese Cris

Before you know it, the January transfer window will be upon us.

Rumours as to whom the Premier League and Europe's biggest clubs will splurge on this winter are already spreading across the newspapers and fans are fantasying about their next big signing.

And while the exact movers are far from known, you can guarantee that they'll be transferred for extortionate fees in the inflated market we find themselves in since Neymar's Barcelona exit.

In fact, according to statistics from Transfermarkt, the sport has now seen 55 transfers which have been completed for an in excess of £50 million.

Once upon a time, that sort of money was reserved for the world's best players, but now the same price can be used on players who, well, aren't guaranteed to succeed at the highest level.

Ranking the 55 transfers

Bearing that in mind, we decided to take on the monumental task of ranking all 55 transfers that have passed the £50 million mark by how successful they've been. Yes, you read that right.

For every Zinedine Zidane to Real Madrid there's an Alvaro Morata to Chelsea, so check out the final list we constructed and see what you think:

55. Fred to Manchester United - £53.10 million

What an absolute catastrophe this move has turned out to be. Pep Guardiola must be thanking his lucky stars that Manchester City never completed a move for the lukewarm midfielder.

Despite getting a fair crack of the whip at Old Trafford with 41 appearances so far, Fred has fewer career Premier League goal contributions than Pepe Reina. We'll say no more.

Manchester United v Partizan: Group L - UEFA Europa League

54. Luka Jovic to Real Madrid - £54.00 million

You know a transfer has gone badly when you're being linked with a loan exit before you've even made your debut. It's been a tough start to life in Spain for Jovic, that's for sure.

Just one goal in 11 games shows exactly why Zinedine Zidane has showed so little faith him, but still having time to turn things around is why he narrowly avoids the bottom spot.


53. Alvaro Morata to Chelsea - £59.40 million

Twenty four goals in 72 outings doesn't represent the worst scoring record in the world, but Morata missed a hatful of chances during his one and a half seasons in west London.

The Spaniard's confidence was completely shot by the time he entered his second campaign and just had everybody wondering: why was Diego Costa even sold in the first place?


52. Tanguy Ndombele to Tottenham - £54.00 million

Since a Man of the Match display against Southampton, Ndombele has looked out of his depth in defeats to Liverpool and Brighton as well as the 7-2 thrashing by Bayern Munich.

There's still hope that he can turn things around under Jose Mourinho, but the Frenchman has been one of the worst performing big-money buys of this summer.


51. Angel Di Maria to Manchester United - £67.50 million

The Argentine actually made a flying start in Premier League football and 10 assists during his one and only season is enough to elevate him from the very bottom of this list.

Nevertheless, Di Maria looked a shadow of the man who shone at Real Madrid and United were so undeterred by the prospect of him leaving that he was sold for a substantial loss.


50. Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona - £130.50 million

After such a promising initial six months and a flurry of the trophies he so badly desired, the wheels came flying off for Coutinho during his first full season.

The Brazilian was panned in the Spanish press for a series of poor performances, regularly jeer by his own supporters and eventually dumped out on loan to Bayern Munich this summer.


49. Joao Cancelo to Manchester City - £58.50 million

Cancelo is slowly making his way into City's starting XI, but just four Premier League starts so far makes you wonder why Guardiola even bothered spending the money.

There's no doubting that Cancelo is a top, top player and the jury is still out on his City spell, it just seemed a big-money investment that the champions needn't have bothered with.

Manchester City v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League

48. Lucas Hernandez to Bayern Munich - £72.00 million

You'll start to understand this area of the list is some sort of no man's land where Hernandez, much like Cancelo, finds himself having not had chance to make much of an impact.

Injuries have held back Hernandez to just nine appearances this season and there's no way of telling if his expensive arrival in Bavaria will be a success or failure quite yet.


47. Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal - £72.00 million

We're giving Pepe the benefit of the doubt after showing glimpses of quality at Arsenal, no less than when he scored two free-kicks in 15 minutes against Vitoria.

However, the Ivorian must elevate his goal-scoring towards Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang's standards to justify his price tag and move higher up the list.


46. Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona - £108.00 million

Another transfer that seemed like absolute overkill, Griezmann has drifted into the background behind Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during his open months at Camp Nou.

That being said, we can't pretend as though five goals and three assists is some sort of terrible record and it looks inevitable that the World Cup winner will kick on soon.


45. Thomas Lemar to Atletico Madrid - £63.00 million

It's easy to become a bit-part in the riches of Diego Simeone's Atletico squad and that's exactly what happened to Lemar during his first campaign away from French football.

But when his average match rating is level with Jan Oblak this season, it would be naive to suggest that Lemar hasn't been an asset to Atletico nonetheless.

Deportivo Alaves v Club Atletico de Madrid  - La Liga

44. Benjamin Mendy to Manchester City - £51.75 million

Sue us, we think Mendy has largely been pure class when he's on the pitch for City, but that simply hasn't been often enough since his move in the summer of 2017.

Mendy has picked up no less than eight injuries at the Etihad Stadium and we can't overly reward a player who's made just 26 appearances for the club, even if luck hasn't been on his side.

Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk: Group C - UEFA Champions League

43. Diego Costa to Atletico Madrid - £59.40 million

They say never return and maybe Costa shouldn't have bothered.

Fourteen goals in 59 games marks a massive decline from his first spell, meaning he's dropped behind other strikes in the pecking order - and we can't gloss over his eight-match ban from April.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Athletic Club  - La Liga

42. Harry Maguire to Manchester United - £78.30 million

We'll be the first people to admit that we think Maguire will be a massive hit at Old Trafford, he just hasn't had the chance to prove it yet.

Just two clean sheets and 18 goals conceded doesn't make for great reading this season, but we're taking it with a pinch of salt considering the performances of players around him.


41. Fernando Torres to Chelsea - £52.65 million

Before you sharpen your pitchforks, lest we forget that Torres scored 22 goals during the Europa League-winning season and scored THAT goal against Barcelona in the 2012 Champions League.

But we'd be lying if we said this transfer wasn't a let down. Torres devolved into a middle-of-the-road striker once he pulled on a Chelsea shirt and who could forget his miss at Old Trafford?

Vitesse Arnhem v Chelsea - Pre Season Friendly

40. John Stones to Manchester City - £50.04 million

A move that was touted to elevate Stones' career to the next level has, well, largely held it steady and the Englishman has never become Guardiola's go-to man in central defence.

Two Premier League titles, two League Cups and an FA Cup means this can't be marked as a failure; Stones will just have expected more out of himself individually.

Manchester City v Liverpool FC - Premier League

39. Oscar to Shanghai SIPG - £54.00 million

Ranking the players that have moved to China is a tricky one, because you have to temper their achievements with the standard of football.

Disclaimer aside, however, it would be stupid to ignore the 38 goals, Chinese Super League title and Chinese FA Super Cup that have come with Oscar's move to Asian shores.

Shanghai v Western Sydney - Asian Champions League

38. Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid - £113.40 million

We've arguably been too generous to Felix because of his potential, but let's remember that the guy is only 20 years old and competing at Atletico before we get too hyper-critical.

Three goals in 13 outings as well as the Golden Boy award represents a solid foundation upon which he can hopefully justify the hype and that astronomical transfer fee.

2019 MLS All-Star Game: MLS All-Stars v Atletico Madrid

37. Christian Pulisic to Chelsea - £57.60 million

When Pulisic rattled home a 'perfect' hat-trick at Burnley completely out of the blue, it calmed Chelsea nerves that had been jangling after a top-turvy start in England.

His record now stands at six goals and three assists which, albeit unspectacular, is enough to elevate him above some of the more high-profile players costing north of £50 million.


36. Ousmane Dembele to Barcelona - £112.50 million

Dembele has produced some spectacular moments with 19 goals in 72 games for the Blaugrana as well as four major trophies in his three seasons. There's just one catch...

Injuries, injuries, injuries. The Frenchman is currently on the treatment table once again, meaning he's spent over 250 days sidelined and stopped us from rewarding him any more than we have.

Barcelona v Leganes - La Liga

35. Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City - £61.02 million

Trust us when we say this signing hasn't been as bad as some people make out, it's just that Mahrez has found it difficult muscling his way through all of City's attacking talent.

Sixteen goals in 59 games as well as the domestic treble means that Mahrez's arrival, although slightly unnecessary, has been more successful than not.


34. Jorginho to Chelsea - £51.30 million

If we were picking this list in the summer, there's no chance that Jorginho would have placed this highly, but Frank Lampard has worked wonders for the Italian.

You're just being stubborn if you don't think Jorginho has dropped some world-class performances and you only need to check out his remarkable assist against Watford for evidence.

Chelsea FC v Newcastle United - Premier League

33. Eden Hazard to Real Madrid - £90.00 million

It's still early days, but Hazard has already produced some magical moments at the Bernabeu and even nutmegged the referee on his way to creating a goal against Paris Saint-Germain.

We can't go too overboard with the compliments, though, because one goal in 13 appearances is simply below par for a Real number seven.

Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain: Group A - UEFA Champions League

32. Alvaro Morata to Atletico Madrid - £50.40 million

Returning to Madrid, albeit with Atletico this time around, has proven to be an inspired decision for Morata and he could very well climb these rankings in months to come. 

A record of 13 goals in 30 appearances has seen Morata hold off the likes of Griezmann, Felix and Costa for a place in one of Europe's most competitive starting XIs.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Athletic Club  - La Liga

31. James Rodriguez to Real Madrid - £67.50 million

Real might have gotten a little trigger happy when they saw Rodriguez's Golden Boot-winning displays in Brazil, yet the Colombian has still been a solid servant for the club.

Nearly 40 goals in the famous white jersey, as well as two European titles, is nothing to be sniffed at and his return from Bayern Munich after two seasons has given him another crack at the whip.


30. Hulk to Shanghai SIPG - £50.22 million

Again, chuck a lump of salt on what we're about to say here, but there's no denying Hulk has been a success in China.

The Brazilian forward has collected the same two winners' medals as Oscar, while also outshining his compatriot with 66 goals and a scintillating 2017 season which saw 30 strikes in 44 matches.

Kawasaki Frontale v Shanghai SIPG - AFC Champions League Group H

29. Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus - £76.95 million

De Ligt has settled at his new club better than any of the other newly-transferred defender on this list and dropped a Man of the Match performance during the Atletico Madrid win.

There were undoubtedly some wobbles early in the season, but 15 appearances has seen the 20-year-old hold his own against his more experienced peers and rivals.

Brescia Calcio v Juventus - Serie A

28. Kaka to Real Madrid - £60.3 million

The AC Milan magic might have passed and he never reached 10 goals in a season, yet Kaka still produced his fair share of memorable moments at the Bernabeu.

Kaka bagged a La Liga title and Copa del Rey for his efforts, it's just disappointing that he could never recapture the form that saw him collect a Ballon d'Or in 2007.

Real Madrid CF v Levante UD - La Liga

27. Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United - £76.23 million

Anybody who thinks this transfer should be ranked lower needs to open their eyes to how solid Lukaku's two seasons at Old Trafford really were. 

Twenty-seven goals established him as United's leading goal-scorer in 2018-19 and he managed to finish second alongside Marcus Rashford the following year despite being regularly benched.

Manchester United v Southampton FC - Premier League

26. Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Barcelona - £62.55 million

You'd be hard pressed to say that a transfer which brought 26 goals in 46 games and saw them win five major honours was in any way a failure.

What makes Ibrahimovic's case slightly different is his infamous fallout with Guardiola and the fact he could have been a true legend alongside Messi and co. with a different attitude.

FC Barcelona's Swedish forward Zlatan Ib

25. Rodri to Manchester City - £63.00 million

City have gone through more troughs and peaks than usual this season, so Rodri's early-season form for the Citizens is all the more impressive.

Just because the ex-Atletico man doesn't produce aesthetic goal contribution stats, it doesn't mean he isn't one of the Premier League's best midfielders and a long-term Fernandinho replacement.

Liverpool v Man City - FA Community Shield

24. Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona - £67.50 million

Marginally winning the battle of the summer midfield transfers, De Jong gets the nod for instantly battling his way into the Barcelona XI and garnering 19 appearances along the way.

His exemplary attitude, which even sees him watch back his own highlights after games, has contributed to him becoming Barca's sixth best player this season, per statistics. 

FC Barcelona Unveil New Player Frenkie de Jong

23. Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan - £58.50 million

Again, it's too early to get completely carried away, but Lukaku is producing historic numbers for an Inter striker in their first season.

Serie A looks perfectly suited to his combative style and 11 goals in 18 appearances has already seen him outscore the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Edin Dzeko.


22. Anthony Martial to Manchester United - £54.00 million

This a frustrating one, because Martial could have been an absolute world-beater if he maintained the trajectory that saw him score 17 goals and win the FA Cup during his debut season.

Martial has more than justified his 2015 transfer fee, but only time will tell whether the Frenchman can finally live up to his potential under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Manchester United v Partizan: Group L - UEFA Europa League

21. Kepa Arrizabalaga to Chelsea - £72.00 million

The fact we've talked so little about the fact Arrizabalaga is the most expensive goalkeeper in history tells you everything you need to know. No news is good news.

His meltdown during the 2019 Carabao Cup final aside, Arrizabalaga has arguably been the best Spanish shot-stopper in the Premier League since his arrival from Athletic Bilbao. 

Chelsea FC v AFC Ajax: Group H - UEFA Champions League

20. Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus - £105.30 million

Call us brave, yet we're pretty confident here. Twenty-six goals in 41 Serie A games means that Ronaldo has only been a top five striker since his time in Italy, despite the generous MVP award.

Don't us wrong, Ronaldo has still been fantastic at Juve and especially given his age, but that Atletico hat-trick is the only time we've seen the Portuguese at his very best since leaving Real.

Juventus v Genoa CFC - Serie A

19. Paul Pogba to Manchester United - £94.50 million

This is one we ummed and arred over for a long time. Pogba finished as United's top goal-scorer last season and has accumulated 25 assists since returning to the Premier League.

The only thing holding Pogba back is the controversy he's caused at the club, no less than under Jose Mourinho, and he looks poised to leave unceremoniously later this season.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - Premier League

18. Angel Di Maria to Paris Saint-Germain - £56.70 million

To feature on this list in both 51st and 18th place is pretty impressive in itself and moving to PSG in 2015 was the move that resusitated Di Maria's career after a torrid year in England.

Di Maria has won 12 major trophies in France, found the net on 78 occasions and played in 199 games despite competing for game time with some of the world's best forwards.


17. Gonzalo Higuain to Juventus - £81.00 million

Just because Higauin has never reached the goal-scoring heights he did at Napoli, it doesn't mean his time in Turin has been a failure and loaning him out in 2018 was certainly harsh.

Higuain scored 33 and 23 goals respectively during his first two seasons and has found the net five times this year after being given a second chance under Maurizio Sarri.


16. Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain - £199.80 million

How can one of the best players in the world finish in 16th place when they've scored 55 goals in 65 games? Controversy.

Neymar has been phenomenal on the pitch for PSG, but all the injuries, bans and discussions with Barcelona make you wonder whether that world-record fee was even worth paying.


15. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal - £57.38 million

Quite how Aubameyang has managed to maintain the goal record he has at Arsenal despite the failings of both Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery is simply beyond us.

The Gabon international recently reached his half century for Arsenal and shared the Premier League Golden Boot with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah during his first full season.

Watford FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League

14. Aymeric Laporte to Manchester City - £58.50 million

When Guardiola brought Laporte to England in the winter of 2018, it looked to be overkill. By the time City won the Premier League this summer, it was clear that the transfer was anything but.

Laporte quickly settled into the physicality of English football, arguably proving City's star player as they romped to 98 points and even chipped in with five goals along the way.


13. Hernan Crespo to Lazio - £51.13 million

The oldest transfer on the list and a world record at the time, it's credit to Crespo that his move ranks so highly almost two decades later.

The legendary striker scored 48 goals in just two seasons for the club, bagging the Supercoppa Italiana for his efforts, and was quickly poached as Ronaldo Nazario's successor at Inter Milan.

Lazio Roma's Hernan Crespo jubilates during the Ch

12. Alisson Becker to Liverpool - £56.25 million

Inspired matchmaking. Liverpool were crying out for a new goalkeeper after the debacle of the 2018 Champions League final and Alisson quickly made a then world-record fee look like a pittance.

The Brazilian is a well-rounded goalkeeper in every sense of the phrase, winning Europe's biggest trophy in his first full season and bagging the Premier League Golden Glove for good measure.


11. Gareth Bale to Real Madrid - £90.90 million

How do you justify a world record transfer fee? Score the winning goal in the Champions League and Copa del Rey finals during your opening season. Not bad going, Gareth.

Things have turned sour for Bale at the Bernabeu in recent months, but the Welshman remains one of the greatest 'Galaticos' in history and who can forget that bicycle kick in Kiev?


10. Luis Figo to Real Madrid - £54.00 million

Signing Figo from Barcelona remains one of the most controversial moves football has ever seen, so it must have come as a relief that Real got their money's worth.

The legendary Portuguese lifted the Ballon d'Or trophy just months after arriving, inspired them to Champions League glory in 2002 and left with a superb 57 goals from midfield to his name.

Real Madrid v Roma

9. Edinson Cavani to Paris Saint-Germain - £58.05 million

You know your money has been well spent when the signing becomes your all-time top scorer in fewer than seven seasons, which is exactly what Cavani has achieved in Paris.

Cavani racked up 195 goals to dwarf the former record of Ibrahimovic, including a breath-taking 49-goal season in 2016-17, and continues to shine despite competition from Mbappe and Neymar. 


8. Raheem Sterling to Manchester City - £57.33 million

It looked for a long time as though the Citizens had thrown money into the flames by signing Sterling, but the Englishman has proven everybody wrong under Guardiola's guidance.

Sterling is now one of the world's best players at just 24 years old and his goal-scoring record of 63 strikes in his last 117 outings is astonishing for someone who isn't an out-and-out striker.


7. Kevin De Bruyne to Manchester City - £68.40 million

The footballing world knew that De Bruyne was a world-class talent when City snapped him up from Wolfsburg, but nobody could have predicted the impact he'd have on English football.

Chelsea were left ruing the fact they ever sold him after the Belgian won two Premier League titles in four seasons and now looks on course to win a long-deserved PFA Player of the Year award.

Newcastle United v Manchester City - Premier League

6. Kylian Mbappe to Paris Saint-Germain - £130.50 million

The fact this transfer ranks in sixth place when the player is just 20 years old and moved for the second largest fee in history tells you everything about how remarkable Mbappe truly is.

The World Cup winner has already scored 70 goals in 100 appearances, outshining his teammate Neymar in the process, and will continue to be a world-beater at PSG for years to come.


5. Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool - £76.19 million

Has a defender ever made such a massive impact after moving to a club? We're unsure, because Van Dijk turned Liverpool from a quivering defensive wreck to Golden Glove winners in a year.

The Dutchman went the whole of last season without being dribbled past in club football, narrowly missed out on a Ballon d'Or victory and is clearly now the world's best defender.

Liverpool FC v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League

4. Neymar to Barcelona - £79.38 million

Moving from South American football to one of Europe's biggest clubs is never easy and it took just one season for Neymar to find his feet before becoming the world-beater we know today.

Over one hundred goals, 59 assists - 41 of which were for his 'MSN' partners - and a Champions League triumph made for a spectacular four-season spell that should lasted far longer.


3. Zinedine Zidane to Real Madrid - £69.75 million

Real started the 2001-02 season by signing one of the greatest players in history and finished it with him scoring a historic volley in the Champions League final.

And after that legendary goal against Bayer Leverkusen, Zidane barely put a foot wrong in more than 200 outings - falling just short of 50 goals - and will forever be regarded as a club legend.

Real Madrid French Zinedine Zidane celeb

2. Luis Suarez to Barcelona - £73.55 million

This transfer doesn't get the respect it deserves. Suarez has racked up 187 goals to become the club's fourth all-time top scorer and formed part of the greatest front three in football history.

But it's his mind-blowing 2016-16 season, where he outscored Lionel Messi with 59 strikes to win the European Golden Shoe, that will live longest in the memory.


1. Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid - £84.60 million

Arguably the greatest transfer in the history of football. At the time, £80million looked a serious risk, but Ronaldo quickly calmed the nerves and it looks like an absolute bargain ten years later.

The incomparable Portuguese notched up 450 goals in just 438 matches, won four of his five Ballon d'Or trophies at the club, scored 61 times in one season and bagged four Champions League titles.


Ronaldo claims number one

Take a breath, you've made it.

While you can debate almost every single ranking on this monumental transfer list, we're pretty sure that Ronaldo's 2009 move to Real Madrid is the worthy winner and it will likely remain that way.

Aside from perhaps Lionel Messi, who has never moved for a transfer fee, Ronaldo is the greatest player of the modern era and it therefore seems logical that one of his moves tops the podium.

But in a world where similar fees are being dished out for world-beaters and flops, be warned that the next time your club splashes £50 million, it doesn't mean they'll play as prettily as every penny.

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benze
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