Ronaldo, Mbappe, Neymar: The 22 most expensive signings in football history ranked

The summer transfer window is officially open and that means we can start expecting some lucrative player transfers in the coming weeks.

We’ve already seen Aurélien Tchouameni sign on the dotted line with Real Madrid in a deal worth £72 million, a figure that makes him the 24th most expensive signing ever.

Whereas it seems in the coming days we can expect Darwin Nunez to become a Liverpool player for a reported £68 million initial fee, with performance related bonuses potentially seeing that figure rise to as much as £85 million.

But how often do these enormous transfers actually go to plan? Well, we’ve been looking through some of the most expensive deals ever and you’d be surprised how infrequently they work out as expected.

Our research got us settled on the rather odd number of the 22 most expensive signings of all-time and we’ve ranked them from the worst deal ever, to the very best.

Check out what we came up with below.

All figures and therefore qualifying players are courtesy of transfermarkt.

Ranking the 22 most expensive signings in football history

22. Phillipe Coutinho (Liverpool to Barcelona) – £121.5m
21. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico to Barcelona) – £108m
20. Eden Hazard (Chelsea to Real Madrid) – £103.5m
19. Ousmane Dembele (Dortmund to Barcelona) – £126m

A Barcelona graveyard, Coutinho and Griezmann were both sold for a combined loss of over £150 million after their hugely expensive transfers ended in bitter disappointment.

Whereas Dembele could be set to leave the club on a free this summer despite joining for a mammoth £126 million fee.

Dembele Barcelona
Time is running out for Dembele to turn things around at Barcelona.

18. Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan to Chelsea) – £101.7m
17. Jadon Sancho (Dortmund to Man Utd) – £76.5m
16. Harry Maguire (Leicester to Man Utd) – £78.3m
15. Frenkie de Jong (Ajax to Barcelona) – £77.4m

So, the onus switches from Barcelona to United with two of the Red Devil’s marquee signings making an appearance.

Sancho still has time to turn his Old Trafford career around but his debut season was awful. Meanwhile, Maguire enjoyed a promising start in Manchester even being granted the captaincy, however his collapse in form over the past two seasons has earnt him a lowly 16th spot.

Lukaku also makes his first appearance on this list after flattering to deceive in his return to Chelsea.

14. Paul Pogba (Juventus to Man Utd) – £94.5m
13. Romelu Lukaku (Everton to Man Utd) – £76.23m
12. Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax to Juventus) – £76.95m
11. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa to Man City) – £105.75m

More Manchester action but this time from both sides of the city. Pogba will leave United this summer after a topsy-turvy second spell in red, whilst Lukaku’s time at Old Trafford delivered a solid return on the goal front, although his performances were often heavily criticised.

Grealish just misses out on the top ten after an okay debut campaign under Pep Guardiola. There is certainly potential in that partnership, even if we haven’t seen the best of it as of yet.

Jack Grealish Man City
LEEDS, ENGLAND – APRIL 30: Jack Grealish of Manchester City looks on during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Manchester City at Elland Road on April 30, 2022 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

10. Joao Felix (Benfica to Atletico) – £114.48m
9. Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli to Juventus) – £81m
8. Gareth Bale (Tottenham to Real Madrid) – £90.9m
7. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid to Juventus) – £105m
6. Neymar (Barcelona to PSG) – £199.8m

Okay, Felix and Higuain are similar to Grealish in that they probably get a C overall if we were to give them a grading on their time at Atletico and Juventus.

Neither set the world alight, Felix still has plenty of room to grow but Higuain’s goal return of 66 in 149 games is a decent ish record, and it would have been considerably better if he hadn’t dropped off massively after his second season.

But after them we have a big step up, jumping from Higuain all the way to five time Champions League winner Bale.

The Welshman experienced unimaginable success in Spain and it might be controversial ranking him eighth, however his personal numbers just don’t match up with the rest of these titans – not to mention that his lack of game time and level of performance over the past few seasons detracts from his overall impact.

Ronaldo at Juventus and Neymar at PSG both rank ahead of him, and for comparison, whilst Bale scored 106 goals in 258 games for Madrid, Ronaldo managed 101 in 134 for the Old Lady, meanwhile Neymar has racked up 100 goals and 60 assists in just 144 games for his Parisian club – not that it’s all about the stats, just an observation…

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Neymar in action for PSG
Neymar in action for PSG

5. Neymar (Santos to Barcelona) – £79.2m
4. Luis Suarez (Liverpool to Barcelona) – £73.55m
3. Virgil van Dijk (Southampton to Liverpool) – £76.1m
2. Kylian Mbappe (Monaco to PSG) – £162m
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd to Real Madrid) – £84.6m

Two of the deadly ‘MSN’ trio in Neymar and Suarez make the top five, both were scintillating when teaming up with Lionel Messi to sweep up trophy after trophy at Barcelona. The trio might even be the greatest attack ever.

Meanwhile, Liverpool’s Van Dijk just about makes the podium. That might be another controversial one but he’s been the best in the world in his position from the minute he signed for the Reds, and in all honesty, his nearest rivals have never even been close to reaching his levels.

Mbappe falls short to the mighty Ronaldo for the number one spot. The Frenchman’s been out of this world for PSG but there’s no surpassing what his hero Ronaldo did for Los Blancos.

I mean, 450 goals in 438 games is just unfair.

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