The Premier League is widely regarded as one of the most universally popular in the game and its international appeal has convinced a wave of investors to plough their money into English football in recent years.
Big money transfer fees have become increasingly normalised with a seemingly endless stream of new owners scrapping for just a handful of places in European competitions.
There have been a total of 22 signings completed by Premier League outfits for fees that are equal to or in excess of £54m.
The Manchester giants, Liverpool and Chelsea make up the majority of these acquisitions, and here GIVEMESPORT analyse just how wise some of those decisions were.
Indeed, we’ve ranked the 22 most expensive signings in the history of the division, per Transfermarkt, from worst to best, based on how successful their stints were in relation to their transfer fee.
Take a look at how they rank below…
22. Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea £72m)
The most expensive goalkeeper in Premier League history provided little evidence to justify the £72m Chelsea spent to lure him from Athletic Bilbao.
Kepa’s torrid time between the sticks was so detrimental to the Blues’ progress that they’ve now brought Edouard Mendy in to replace him.
21. Angel Di Maria (Manchester United £67.5m)
It was simply a case of wrong place, wrong time for Angel Di Maria.
The Argentine is an incredibly gifted wide man and he’s proven his class since leaving Old Trafford for Paris Saint-Germain, but his £67.5m fee was ultimately a poor piece of business.
20. Naby Keita (Liverpool £54m)
There’s still time for Naby Keita to climb this list but to say his time at Liverpool has been underwhelming would be an understatement.
A year’s worth of clamour preceded his move to Anfield, but there has been a scarcity of evidence to suggest he’s anything other than an incredibly overpriced mistake.
19. Nicolas Pepe (£72m)
Nicolas Pepe has solidified the feeling that Ligue 1 form cannot be used as an indicator to judge potential suitability to the Premier League.
Like Keita there’s still time for Pepe to warrant his £72m price-tag, but he’s got plenty of work to do to prove he’s more than just an overhyped penalty merchant.
18. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea £59.4m)
Alvaro Morata is a peculiar centre-forward who didn’t quite take off at Chelsea.
The Spaniard started well at Stamford Bridge with some dazzling link-up play and prolific finishing, but his confidence rapidly faded and so too did the standard of his performances.
The Blues would have expected much more than 24 goals in 72 games from a £59.4m investment.
17. Rodri (Manchester City £56.43m)
Maybe there’s just no place for a Sergio Busquets-esque player in the Premier League.
Rodri is fundamentally a fantastic footballer, blessed with tidy feet, immaculate passing and astute awareness.
But there is simply no comparison between the level of defensive protection both he and Fernandinho offer.
The Brazilian’s mobility is sorely missed in City’s midfield, and at £56.43 it seems the budding Champions League winners have failed to recruit a suitable successor for Fernandinho.
16. Joao Cancelo (Manchester City £58.5m)
Joao Cancelo has really found his groove this season while operating at left-back in the absence of Benjamin Mendy.
On the front foot he has a keen eye for an incisive through ball, and offers versatility in both full back positions.
15. Kai Havertz (Chelsea £72m)
The jury is still out on Kai Havertz though it would be fair to describe his opening to life at Chelsea as mixed.
At just 21 years of age, though, the Germany international is bound to blossom into an elite star over time.
14. Paul Pogba (Manchester United £94.5m)
In many ways it’s not entirely Paul Pogba’s fault that he’s this far down the list.
After all, he didn’t ask United to pay £94.5m to re-sign him from Juventus and there’s no doubt he’s been mismanaged by Jose Mourinho and Old Gunnar Solskjaer.
However, he simply hasn’t found anything close to a consistent level of form and will go down as a rash investment from the head honchos at Old Trafford.
13. Ruben Dias (Manchester City £61.2m)
Ruben Dias is still something of an unknown entity but he’s made a strong start to his City career alongside Aymeric Laporte.
12. Anthony Martial (Manchester United £54m)
Anthony Martial’s position here may seem a touch generous to some but it’s important to remember how young the Frenchman actually is.
At 24 years of age he’s managed to rack up 236 appearances, scoring 74 and assisting 46.
He still has plenty of re-sale value and that gives him an extra boost here.
11. Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City £61.02m)
Riyad Mahrez is unplayable in full flow but City have only really seen him reach optimum level for one full season.
In the 2019/20 campaign he was a menace on the right flank and was City’s second best attacking player after Kevin De Bruyne.
However, that merely made up for a poor debut season and some worrying habits are beginning to creep back into his game again with City struggling for rhythm.
10. Harry Maguire (Manchester United £78.3m)
It turns out it takes more than mega money transfers to solve Man United’s problems.
Harry Maguire hasn’t had the Virgil van Dijk-esque effect the Red Devils were hoping for, but on his day he’s still the best they have to offer in central defence.
9. Tanguy Ndombele (Tottenham Hotspur £54m)
This time last season Tanguy Ndombele would have been a firm contender for bottom spot, and that just shows how quickly things can change in football.
From Spurs outcast to domineering lynchpin, Ndombele is a player transformed this season.
His unique style of choppy dribbling certainly catches the eye, but it’s his ability to add value in all three thirds that makes him such a special talent.
A huge asset for title-chasing Spurs.
8. Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United £76.23m)
Romelu Lukaku completes an all United podium as the third most expensive signing in Premier League history.
A return of 42 goals and 13 assists from 96 games is far from a disastrous return but the Red Devils faithful just never quite warmed to the Belgian’s physical style of play.
7. Christian Pulisic (Chelsea £57.6m)
Injuries have disrupted Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea career and we’re yet to really see the USA international put together a consistent run of form, but his sporadic bursts of first-team action have been a joy to watch.
A dynamic, rapid talent with the ability to find the net, Pulisic looks set to make a big impact in English football in the coming years.
6. Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City £58.5m)
Now we really enter the big leagues.
Laporte almost single-handedly transformed City’s defence following his move from Athletic Bilbao in 2018, helping the club to clinch back-to-back league titles and a historic treble.
His perplexing failure to break into the France squad is certainly no reflection on his domestic form.
5. Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang (Arsenal £57.38m)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s slow season should not overshadow what has been a potent time in north London.
With 75 goals in 124 games for the Gunners the Gabon international has been one of a small handful of bright sparks for the club since his arrival.
At £57.38m he’s been a superb signing.
4. Alisson (Liverpool £56.25m)
Liverpool were plagued by goalkeeping issues until they managed to snaffle Alisson from AS Roma.
The sizable £56.25m price-tag raised plenty of eyebrows but his reassuring presence, fantastic distribution and first-class shot stopping ability have had a truly transformative effect on Liverpool’s defence, helping them to secure both the Premier League and the Champions League.
3. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City £57.33m)
Raheem Sterling had a relatively slow start to his time at City but Guardiola’s influence has enabled him to rise into a bracket alongside the world’s elite.
The England international is closing in on the Premier League’s 100 club and has notched 107 goals in 263 games for the Citizens, showcasing both a poacher’s instinct and the ability to torment defenders with his weaving slaloms.
It’s also pertinent to note that his achievements have taken place amid a backdrop of vilification in the British media following his decision to move to the Etihad, and his triumph in the face of adversity makes his career even more impressive.
2. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool £76.19m)
Social media vultures had a field day when Liverpool signed Virgil van Dijk as football fans flocked to taunt the extravagance of the £76.19m agreement.
But that fee has proven to be one of the best pieces of business in Premier League history, with van Dijk’s performances and stoic leadership qualities underpinning much of the Reds’ recent success.
His long-term absence this season has the potential to render Liverpool trophyless in the 2020/21 campaign, and that acknowledgement attests to his immense influence at Anfield.
1. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City £68.4m)
Kevin De Bruyne pips van Dijk to top spot based on value for money and the fact he is comfortably the best player in the division.
The Belgian assassin is a god amongst men and plays the game in a way that draws unparalleled plaudits on a weekly basis.
City also made their decision to sign De Bruyne with the knowledge that Mourinho had allowed him to leave Chelsea for Wolfsburg in 2014, and that added context makes the deal all the more impressive.
It turns out that the Portuguese squandered one of the most talented players in the modern game.