Football Transfers Through the Years

You may have heard something recently about a transfer involving a certain Brazilian superstar. Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior may have set a new record with his jaw-dropping £200,000,000 transfer from Barcelona to PSG, but he is only the latest in a string of transfer record-holders stretching back more than 100 years.

We are going to take you back in time, decade by decade, to look at each of the most expensive footballers over time. Starting with Neymar Jr, we will work back through the years to the very first recorded football transfer, which involved an altogether more modest sum of money changing hands.


2010s: Neymar Jr: Barcelona to  Paris Saint-Germain for £200,000,000

The talented Brazilian has been tempted to Paris by the big bucks as well as the prospect of being the main man for a change without Lionel Messi hogging the spotlight. He has already proved himself to be a major talent, and will hope to be able to bring Champion’s League success to PSG.


2000s: Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United to Real Madrid for £80,000,000

The young Cristiano dazzled fans at Old Trafford for a couple of years before being lured away by the big money at Madrid. Ronaldo has gone on to achieve even bigger and better things, making his name as an all-time great and occasional bad lad.




1990s: Christian Vieri from Lazio to Inter Milan for £32,100,000

Vieri played for no fewer than 12 different clubs over his distinguished 18-year career, although his peak years were at Inter between 1999 and 2005. Regarded as one of the greatest ever Italian strikers, he certainly proved value for money in Milan.


1980s: Netherlands Ruud Gullit from PSV Eindhoven to AC Milan for £6,000,000

Gullit played for Milan from 1987 to 1993, being named World Player of the Year twice during that period. The Dutchman also captained his nation to success at the European Championships in 1988.



1970s: Italy Paolo Rossi from Juventus to Vicenza for £1,750,000

An unusual transfer, in that the Italian striker moved to Serie B team Vicenza for 4 years, while still being co-owned by Juve. Rossi played for Juve from 1981 to ’85, a golden period during which he won 2 league titles, the Italian Cup, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, UEFA Super Cup and the European Cup, not to mention leading Italy to victory in the ’82 World Cup as top scorer.



1960s: Pietro Anastasi from Varese to Juventus for £500,000

Anastasi was regarded as one of the best strikers in Italy during his time at Juventus, winning 3 Serie A titles in his 8 years with the club.



1950s: Enrique Omar Sivori from River Plate to Juventus for £93,000

While Sivori’s move from River Plate contributed to the Argentine giants having to wait 18 years for another title, the fee did help to complete construction of their stadium. The striker played for both Argentina and Italy thanks to his Italian family, and is regarded as one of Juve’s all-time greats with 167 goals in 253 games. He still holds the Juve record for most goals in a single game with six in a 9-1 drubbing of AC Milan.


1940s: Johnny Morris from Manchester United to Derby County for £24,000

An unusual-looking transfer from today’s vantage point given the relative strengths of the clubs these days. Morris’ career was interrupted by WW2, but playing between 1949 and ’52 for Derby he scored 44 times in 130 games.




1930s: Bernabé Ferreyra from Tigre to River Plate for £23,000

Ferreyra was yet another forward on this list, and he repaid the transfer fee with a superb 187 goals from 185 games for the Argentine giants. This was the world record transfer fee for 17 years, a length of time unmatched to date.



1920s: David Jack from Bolton Wanderers to Arsenal for £10,890

Apart from being the first footballer to cost more than £10K, Jack was also the first player to score at Wembley, in the 1923 FA Cup Final which he won with Bolton. Apart from winning the Cup twice with Bolton, he won it again in 1930 with Arsenal and also picked up 3 league winner’s medals with the North London club.


1910s: Percy Dawson from Heart of Midlothian to Blackburn Rovers for £2,500

Dawson’s career was interrupted by WW1, but the forward did help Rovers to the league title in his first season with the club, and returned to the club when football resumed after the war.


1900s: Alf Common from Sunderland to Middlesbrough for £1,000

Forward Common won the league title with Sunderland before transferring to ‘Boro for the world record fee. He couldn’t repeat the trick there, although he did manage 65 goals in 178 appearances before moving again to (Woolwich) Arsenal.





1890s: Willie Groves from West Bromwich Albion to Aston Villa for £100

Groves was an ‘inside forward’ who played for a number of English and Scottish clubs, during which time his international record for Scotland read ‘played 3, scored 4’. Although he helped Villa to a league title, Groves only stayed with the club for 1 year due to a contract dispute.



Brazil had only been a republic for 4 years when the Groves transfer took place, and now a young Brazilian has set a transfer record that may not be broken for some time. If nothing else, the list above charts the way that the big money clubs in world football have moved from England, to Italy, to Spain and now to who knows where. Perhaps the new record transfer will see a 35-year-old Ronaldo moving to China or India? We’ll have to wait and see on that one, and whether the expensive Neymar gamble pays off or not.