Ronaldo, Neymar, Mbappe: The 10 most expensive signings in each position ranked


The summer transfer window opens tomorrow (Friday 10 June).

Clubs will officially be able to start signing players and announcing them.

It’s set to be a very interesting summer indeed.

But clubs should be cautious. Spending loads of money on one player doesn’t always guarantee success.

To prove just that, Gabriele Marcotti has analysed the 10 most expensive signings ever in each position and graded them out of five for ESPN.

Are big transfers worth it? You’d have to say no judging by the fact there are more 1/5s than 5/5s…

All figures have been sourced through Transfermarkt and signings made last summer aren’t included due to only being at their club for less than 12 months. All rankings per Marcotti and ESPN.


1. Kepa Arrizabalaga, 23
Athletic Bilbao to Chelsea, €80m, 2018
Grade: 1/5

2. Alisson, 25
Roma to Liverpool, €62.5m, 2018
Grade: 4/5

3. Gianluigi Buffon, 23
Parma to Juventus, €53m, 2001
Grade: 5/5

4. Ederson, 23
Benfica to Manchester City, €40m, 2017
Grade: 4/5

5. Thibaut Courtois, 26
Chelsea to Real Madrid, €35m, 2018
Grade: 4/5

6. Manuel Neuer, 25
Schalke to Bayern, €30m, 2011
Grade: 5/5

7. Jordan Pickford, 23
Sunderland to Everton, €28.5m, 2017
Grade: 4/5

8. Francesco Toldo, 29
Fiorentina to Inter, €26.5m, 2001
Grade: 3/5

9. Bernd Leno, 26
Bayer Leverkusen to Arsenal, €25m, 2018
Grade: 2/5

10. David de Gea, 20
Atletico Madrid to Manchester United, €25m, 2011
Grade: 4/5


It’s not a great start with the most expensive goalkeeper ever, Kepa, being ranked 1/5. He’s now the club’s second-string ‘keeper behind Edouard Mendy.

However, generally, if you spend big on a goalkeeper it tends to work out well. Alisson for €62.5m, Buffon for €53m, Ederson for €40m, Courtois for €35m, Neuer for €30m and Pickford for €28.5m have all been ranked either three of four out of five.

Toldo’s signing for Inter in 2001 has only been given three, while Leno’s move to Arsenal has seen the German fall behind Aaron Ramsdale in the pecking order – he’s got a 2/5.

De Gea rounds off the list with his €25m signing in 2011 given 4/5.

Chelsea's Kepa


1. Harry Maguire, 26
Leicester City to Manchester United, €87m, 2019
Grade: 1/5

2. Matthijs de Ligt, 19
Ajax to Juventus. €85.5m, 2019
Grade: 3/5

3. Virgil van Dijk, 26
Southampton to Liverpool, €84.6m, 2018
Grade: 4/5

4. Lucas Hernandez, 26
Atletico Madrid to Bayern, €80m, 2019
Grade: 2/5

5. Ruben Dias, 23
Benfica to Manchester City, €68m, 2020
Grade: 4/5

6. Aymeric Laporte, 23
Athletic Bilbao to Manchester City, €65m, 2018
Grade: 3/5

7. Benjamin Mendy, 23
Monaco to Manchester City, €57.5m, 2017
Grade: 1/5

8. John Stones, 22
Everton Manchester City, €55.6m, 2016
Grade: 3/5

9. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 21
Crystal Palace to Manchester United, €55m, 2019
Grade: 1/5

10. Kyle Walker, 27
Tottenham Hotspur to Manchester City, €52.5m, 2017
Grade: 3/5


Again, the most expensive player in the position has been given 1/5. This time, it’s Maguire’s €87m move to Manchester United.

De Ligt is only slightly behind in terms of expense but his switch from Ajax to Juventus has gone slightly better than Maguire’s at 3/5.

Van Dijk can perhaps consider himself unfortunate to only get 4/5 with his €84.6m move to Liverpool being a resounding success.

Hernandez only gets a 2/10 at Bayern Munich after his €80m transfer.

The remaining six defenders is made up of buys from Manchester clubs. Five of them were signed by City with Dias (4/5), Laporte (3/5), Mendy (1/5), Stones (3/5) and Walker (3/5) representing contrasting fortunes.

Meanwhile, Man Utd’s €55m signing of Wan-Bissaka has been ranked 1/5.

Harry Maguire


1. Paul Pogba, 23
Juventus to Manchester United, €105m, 2016
Grade: 1/5

2. Frenkie de Jong, 22
Ajax to Barcelona, €86m, 2019
Grade: 3/5

3. Zinedine Zidane, 30
Juventus to Real Madrid, €77.5m, 2002
Grade: 5/5

4. Kevin De Bruyne, 24
Wolfsburg to Manchester City, €76m, 2016
Grade: 4/5

5. James Rodriguez, 23
Monaco to Real Madrid, €75m, 2014
Grade: 1/5

6. Thomas Lemar, 22
Monaco to Atletico Madrid, €72m, 2018
Grade: 1/5

7. Kaka, 27
Milan to Real Madrid, €67m, 2009
Grade: 1/5

8. Bruno Fernandes, 26
Sporting CP to Manchester United, €63m, 2020
Grade: 3/5

9. Rodri, 23
Atletico Madrid to Manchester City, €62.7m, 2019
Grade: 3/5

=10. Tanguy Ndombele, 22
Lyon to Tottenham Hotspur, €60m, 2019
Grade: 1/5

=10. Naby Keita, 23
RB Leipzig to Liverpool, €60m, 2018
Grade: 2/5


Once again, the most expensive player has been given a 1/5 rating with Pogba having now left Man Utd six years after signing for €105m.

Ironically, the midfielder United are reportedly interested in replacing Pogba with is second on the list. De Jong’s €86m move to Barcelona hasn’t been a roaring success.

However, Zidane’s €77.5m switch to Real Madrid in 2002 has been given a 5/5 with De Bruyne picking up 4/5.

Three consecutive 1/5 ratings come next with James Rodriguez, Thomas Lemar and Kaka’s moves to the city of Madrid all being deemed unsuccessful.

Four Premier League signings round off the top 10.

Fernandes’ move to Man Utd in January 2020 for €63m has been given 3/5, along with Rodri’s move to Man City for a similar price.

Spurs signing Ndombele for €60m proved to be a complete and utter disaster, while Keita’s move to Liverpool for the same price has been given 2/5.

Man Utd's Paul Pogba


1. Neymar, 25
Barcelona to PSG, €222m, 2017
Grade: 2/5

2. Kylian Mbappe, 19
Monaco to PSG, €180m, 2017
Grade: 4/5

3. Ousmane Dembele, 20
Dortmund to Barcelona, €140m, 2017
Grade: 1/5

4. Philippe Coutinho, 25,
Liverpool to Barcelona, €135m, 2018
Grade: 1/5

5. Joao Felix, 19
Benfica to Atletico Madrid, €127.5m, 2019
Grade: 2/5

6. Antoine Griezmann, 28
Atletico to Barcelona, €120m, 2019
Grade: 1/5

7. Cristiano Ronaldo, 33
Real Madrid to Juventus, €117m, 2018
Grade: 3/5

8. Eden Hazard, 28
Chelsea to Real Madrid, €115m, 2019
Grade: 1/5

9. Gareth Bale, 24
Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid, €101m, 2014
Grade: 2/5

10. Cristiano Ronaldo, 24
Man United to Real Madrid, €94m, 2009
Grade: 5/5


Finally, a player that is the most expensive in their position isn’t a 1/5.

Instead, Neymar’s world-record move to PSG has been given 2/5. His PSG teammate, Mbappe, has been handed a 4/5 for his €180m move.

Dembele’s contract at Barcelona expires this summer and he could leave Camp Nou on a free transfer just five years after arriving for €140m. No wonder he’s been given 1/5.

Two further Barca signings have been given 1/5 with Coutinho’s €135m move and Griezmann’s €120m move proving to be a waste of money.

They sandwich Atletico Madrid signing Felix for €127.5m – a deal rated as 2/5.

Real Madrid are involved in the final four deals.

Firstly, Juventus signing Ronaldo for €117m in 2018 has been ranked 3/5.

However, Real’s signing of Eden Hazard for €115m has, deservedly, been given 1/5. Bale, meanwhile, has been given 2/5 despite his eight years of service at the Bernabeu.

We finish with one of the best signings in football history – Ronaldo signing for Real Madrid in 2009 for €94m. That wasn’t a bad deal for Los Blancos…

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