The evolution of football from just a sport to a commercial juggernaut has been fascinating, to say the least. There was once a time when footballers played the game while also having a day-job.
Now, however, footballers are among the richest sportspersons in the world and a look at how the transfer fees have escalated over the years explains that perfectly.
To give everyone an idea, here are the most expensive signings from each of the last five decades.
Note: A decade, in this article, is counted from the first year, meaning the 0th year isn’t counted. So, for example, this start of this decade is counted from January 1, 2011 instead of January 1, 2010.
5. Paolo Rossi – Vicenza to Juventus in 1976 for £1.75 Million (Inflation Adjusted: £12.3 Million)
Paolo Rossi is the most expensive player of the 70s. The Italian was bought for a then-record £1.75 million by Juventus. He went on to play 135 times for the Old Lady and scored 44 goals for them in the process.
His best moment came in 1982 when he won the World Cup with Italy and was also awarded the Golden Ball and Golden Boot. On top of that, the cherry on the cake came in the form of a Ballon d’Or win that year.
Not a bad investment after all, eh?
4. Roberto Baggio – Fiorentina to Juventus in 1990 for £8 Million (Inflation Adjusted: £17.9 Million)
Roberto Baggio was one of the best players of the last millennium. His divine grace with the ball at his feet earned him the nickname of Il Divin Codino, which means The Divine Ponytail.
A legend of Fiorentina, fans rioted on the streets of Florence when he was sold to Juventus.
Even though his heart always remained purple, he went on to become an icon for Juventus as well, scoring 115 goals from 200 matches in his time there.
He also won the Ballon d’Or in 1993 while still playing for the Old Lady.
3. Luis Figo – Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000 for £37 Million (Inflation Adjusted: £61.2 Million)
This was perhaps the most controversial transfer in the history of football. Luis Figo was an icon at Barcelona – the face of the club – but Florentino Perez, running for the presidency at Real, vowed to sign him from the Catalans if he was elected.
In the end, it is just what happened when the Spanish construction magnate was voted to power. He went on to play 239 times for Madrid and scored 57 goals for them while also winning the Ballon d’Or in 2000 as a Real Madrid player.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United to Real Madrid for £80 Million (Inflation Adjusted: £105.4 Million)
This is the transfer that broke the shackles and started the process of taking football transfers to where they are now. Nobody in their dreams expected any club to pay that much money for a single player and yet, with the benefit of hindsight, Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid for £80 million might just have been the bargain of the century.
The Portuguese shattered almost all scoring records with Real Madrid as he ended up as their all time top scorer, with 450 goals from just 438 games. He won four Ballon d’Or awards with the Galacticos and also won just as many Champions League titles with them.
Truly money well spent as the match was made in heaven.
1. Neymar – Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for £199 Million
And the deal that truly shifted the paradigm of football transfers is none other than Neymar’s move to Paris Saint-Germain. When Barcelona put Neymar’s release clause at £199 million, they never imagined that anyone would dare to pay that much.
However, PSG shattered Barcelona with their approach and signed him in 2017, making him the most expensive player of all time.
So far, he has been a decent player for the French giants, scoring 55 goals from 63 matches. His career in France though, has been marred by controversies and injuries, which might suggest that PSG should have spent their money elsewhere.
The most expensive transfers of the last five decades...