Ronaldo, Neymar, Mbappe: The most overpriced transfer of every season since 2007/08

PSG's Neymar and Mbappe.

The summer transfer window has officially slammed shut and boy was it a busy few months in the Premier League.

Almost £2 billion was splurged by English top-flight teams this year with many of the transfer fees, while undoubtedly spent on top, top players, leaving fans to think: ‘is he really worth that much?’

Take Manchester United signing Antony, for example; he’s a thoroughly exciting player who could go onto be a real success in the Premier League, but should the Red Devils really have parted with £85.5 million for his services?

The dilemma of overpriced transfers

At the end of the day, almost everyone would agree that United paid over the odds to get the deal done, but overpaying isn’t always necessarily a bad thing in the beautiful game.

Let’s face it, Liverpool paid more for Virgil van Dijk than anyone thought they should have done at the time, but that once brazen-looking £75 million fee has since been made to look like loose change down the back of the sofa.

All this is to say that overpaying in the transfer window can either be a forward-thinking masterstroke or a world-class way of burning money.

Here at GIVEMESPORT, we’ve already worked out the most overpriced XI of the summer transfer window, but now we want to look at how confident or not clubs should feel about their gambles.

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Most overpriced transfer each seasonn

How? Well, by calling upon Transfermarkt data to find out the most overpriced transfer from every single season since 2007/08 to discover how many of them were worth overpaying for and how many of them were a complete waste of money.

There’s no subjectivity involved here, it’s all done by how much the transfer fee paid for the player went above their calculated market value at the time of the move.

Got it? Right then, well, let’s take a walk down memory lane to see each season’s most overpriced transfer and decide whether paying over the odds was the right way to go or not.

2007/08: Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid to Liverpool) – £7.20 million difference

Transfer fee: £34.20 million

Market value at the time: £27.00 million

It’s a strong start, isn’t it? In these simpler times of smaller transfer fees, Liverpool didn’t really pay too much over the odds and they got plenty of bang for their bucks as ‘El Nino’ notched 81 goals in just 142 games for the club.

Torres signs for Liverpool.
Football – Liverpool – Fernando Torres Press Conference – Anfield – 4/7/07 Fernando Torres and Liverpool Manager Rafael Benitez Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Keith Williams

2008/09: Dimitar Berbatov (Tottenham Hotspur to Manchester United) – £10.80 million difference

Transfer fee: £34.20 million

Market value at the time: £23.40 million

A tougher one, this. Berbatov blew hot and cold at Old Trafford, either thriving or wilting with seldom anything in between.

But we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt because his 2010/11 season where he won the Premier League Golden Boot and scored three hat-tricks, including a five-goal haul against Blackburn Rovers, was truly something special.

2009/10: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United to Real Madrid) – £30.60 million difference

Transfer fee: £84.60 million

Market value at the time: £54.00 million

Worth. Every. Single. Penny.

Ronaldo unveiled at Real Madrid.
Real Madrid’s new Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo plays with a ball during his presentation at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, July 6, 2009. REUTERS/Francisco Seco (SPAIN SPORT SOCCER)

2010/11: Fernando Torres (Liverpool to Chelsea) – £7.65 million difference

Transfer fee: £52.65 million

Market value at the time: £45.00 million

A second appearance in the space of just a few seasons for Torres and fans might be surprised to learn that the overpayment wasn’t even higher because the British record transfer fee certainly turned heads at the time.

However, as we all know, the leap of faith didn’t pay dividends as Torres never looked the same at Stamford Bridge and left with a miserable record of just 20 Premier League goals in 110 outings.

2011/12: Radamel Falcao (FC Porto to Atletico Madrid) – £13.50 million difference

Transfer fee: £36.00 million

Market value at the time: £22.50 million

Yup, this was a great move. Falcao was so lethal at the Vicente Calderón Stadium that he finished fifth in the 2012 Ballon d’Or, plundering 34 and 36 goals respectively in his two seasons under Diego Simeone.

Falcao in his Atletico Madrid days.
Football – Atletico Madrid – UEFA Europa League Final Training – National Stadium, Bucharest, Romania – 8/5/12 Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao during training Mandatory Credit: Action Images / John Sibley Livepic

2012/13: Javi Martinez (Athletic Bilbao to Bayern Munich) – £9.00 million difference

Transfer fee: £36.00 million

Market value at the time: £27.00 million

One of the least glamorous transfers on the list, it must be said, but Bayern got plenty of mileage out of their investment as Martinez played almost 300 times for the club and won two Champions League titles.

2013/14: Neymar (Santos to Barcelona) – £34.20 million difference

Transfer fee: £79.20 million

Market value at the time: £45.00 million

So far, so good, right? Maybe overpaying is the way forward because Barcelona were right to splash ‘too much’ cash to secure Neymar’s services as he formed an unstoppable trio with Lionel Messi and…

Neymar clapping at Barcelona.
Neymar (Barcelona), JUNE 3, 2013 – Football / Soccer : FC Barcelona’s new signing player Neymar during his presentation at Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by D.Nakashima/AFLO)

2014/15: Luis Suarez (Liverpool to Barcelona) – £26.75 million difference

Transfer fee: £73.55 million

Market value at the time: £46.80 million

Yup, another calculated risk by the Blaugrana as they took on a recently banned Suarez, only to reap the rewards in his first full season as he won the European Golden Shoe with a head-spinning 59 goals in just 53 games.

2015/16: Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg to Manchester City) – £27.90 million difference

Transfer fee: £68.40 million

Market value at the time: £40.50 million

We’re on a roll! Many journalists and pundits alike questioned City’s decision to spend big on De Bruyne after his trials and tribulations at Chelsea, but this transfer fee frankly looks like pittance all these years later.

There’s an argument to be made that ‘KDB’ should have a place in the Premier League’s greatest ever XI as he boasts a menacing 89 assists, four titles and back-to-back PFA Players’ Player of the Year award wins.

Man City's De Bruyne passing.
Football – Crystal Palace v Manchester City – Barclays Premier League – Selhurst Park – 12/9/15 Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne in action Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or “live” services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

2016/17: Paul Pogba (Juventus to Manchester United) – £31.50 million difference

Transfer fee: £94.50 million

Market value at the time: £63.00million

Ah… ok, so we have our first debatable transfer in a little while as United let Pogba go for free, signed him for a world-record fee and then him go again for free. In return, they only ever really got the Frenchman at his best in fits and starts.

2017/18: Neymar (Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain) – £109.80 million difference

Transfer fee: £199.80 million

Market value at the time: £90.00 million

Another tricky one to judge, to be honest, but Neymar has still done more good than not at the Parc des Princes with his record reading at 109 goals in 150 games even if they probably overpaid in hindsight.

Neymar in his early PSG days.
Soccer Football – Coupe de la Ligue Quarter Final – Amiens SC vs Paris St Germain – Stade de la Licorne, Amiens, France – January 10, 2018 Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar in action REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

2018/19: Kylian Mbappe (AS Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain) – £54.00 million difference

Transfer fee: £162.00 million

Market value at the time: £108.00 million

The same can’t be said about PSG’s acquisition of Mbappe, however, because the future Ballon d’Or winner looks set to become the club’s all-time record goalscorer and he’s still only 23 years old. Madness.

2019/20: Joao Felix (Benfica to Atletico Madrid) – £51.48 million difference

Transfer fee: £114.48 million

Market value at the time: £63.00 million

We’re still waiting to see Fellix consistently deliver the world-class performances that we know he can produce week in, week out, because three seasons of uncertainty means £114.48 million has the potential to look like money wasted.

Atletico's Felix celebrates.
Soccer Football – Champions League – Group D – Atletico Madrid v Lokomotiv Moscow – Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain – December 11, 2019 Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Juan Medina

2020/21: Ruben Dias (Benfica to Manchester City) – £32.94 million difference

Transfer fee: £64.44 million

Market value at the time: £31.50 million

For all the overpayment that Pep Guardiola has indulged in when it comes to signing defenders for City, Dias is the least egregious of the bunch as he went onto win the Premier League Player of the Season award in his first year.

2021/22: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa to Manchester City) – £47.25 million difference

Transfer fee: £105.75 million

Market value at the time: £58.50 million

However, the same can’t be said for Grealish who – despite having talent to burn – has hitherto looked surplus to requirements at City despite his British record transfer fee, amassing just five goal contributions across the 2021/22 campaign.

Grealish wins the Premier League.
Soccer Football – Premier League – Manchester City v Aston Villa – Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain – May 22, 2022 Manchester City’s Jack Grealish celebrates with the trophy after winning the Premier League REUTERS/Hannah Mckay EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club /league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

2022/23: Antony (Ajax to Manchester United) – £54.00 million difference

Transfer fee: £85.50 million

Market value at the time: £31.50 million

And that brings us to the present day. Poor Antony certainly has a lot to live up to because of his eye-watering transfer fee and United really, really need him to perform in order to justify paying £54 million more than he’s worth.

Antony in his Ajax days.
Soccer Football – Champions League – Group C – Borussia Dortmund v Ajax Amsterdam – Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, Germany – November 3, 2021 Ajax Amsterdam’s Antony celebrates with the man of the match trophy after the match REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

More positives than negatives

So, for the most part, paying over the odds really can work out.

Clubs are clearly pretty good at identifying the quality and potential in a player to such an extent that they don’t mind paying too much in the short term if it ensures that they have a world-class players in their ranks for the long term.

In other words, the likes of Antony, Wesley Fofana and Alexander Isak will just have to hope that they’re more Mbappe, Ronaldo and De Bruyne than Felix, Pogba and Grealish – easy, right?

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