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The Most Expensive Premier League Transfers Of All Time: Top 10

The Most Expensive Premier League Transfers Of All Time: Top 10

The Premier League is the most wealthy football league on the planet. With bumper broadcasting deals, hugely profitable commercial partnerships, and investment from some of the richest people in the world, English football's top tier is almost unrecognisable compared to the old First Division that existed from 1888 until 1992, when England's top teams decided to break away to form the Premier League.

In recent years, English clubs have had an increasing capacity for big spending; the Premier League transfer record has been broken dozens of times since the formation of the league, when it was reported that Liverpool's John Barnes was the division's highest-earning player (on £10,000 per week). Nowadays, the kind of cash that is being splashed in order to bring world-class ballers to the EPL is jaw-dropping. In this article, we'll be taking you through the most high-profile examples, charting the most expensive Premier League transfers in history.

How Has Premier League Spending Increased In Recent Years?

The performance of English clubs in Europe during the 2023/24 season was disappointing; for the first time in four years, there were no English sides in any major European final. However, when you look past the most recent campaign, you see a pattern of dominance from English teams in recent years.

The Champions League was won by Manchester City in 2023, Chelsea in 2021, and Liverpool in 2019, and two of those winners triumphed against fellow EPL sides in the final. Moreover, the Premier League has become the prime destination for many of Europe's most talented young players, with English clubs enjoying unprecedented power in the transfer market.

This is largely thanks to the division's financial might. The Premier League has marketed itself as a global 'product' more successfully than any other league, securing huge broadcasting rights deals in the United States, Australia, China, India and various other countries across the world.

Its teams have been taken over by billionaires from Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, the US and more, and tons of money has been pumped in as a result. Just 15 years ago, the British transfer record was £32.5m (€37.9m), paid by Manchester City for Robinho, but in the last three seasons alone, seven different players have been brought to England for fees surpassing €90m. 

Premier League spending has increased across the board, with newly promoted clubs splashing out big on new players each summer, as well as the richest clubs in the division. Over the last decade, the total expenditure of the 20 teams currently in the Premier League was a whopping €17.6 billion (roughly $18.87bn or £15bn). Most of that cash was spent by the league's so-called 'Big Six' clubs. But who is the most expensive Premier League transfer made during this period?

Most Expensive Premier League Transfers: The Top 10

While Premier League clubs have been spending big ever since the league's inception, the vast majority of the top 10 most expensive transfers ever have been made in the last few years, as the league's wealth has continued to increase.

#10. Jaden Sancho and Darwin Nunez: €85 million ($92 million)

Darwin Nunez's first two seasons in the Premier League have been a mixed bag, with some incredible moments of skill contrasting with other less impressive displays. However, the acquisition of the promising Uruguayan international from Benfica has broadly been seen as a positive move, which given the hefty fee Liverpool paid for the striker (estimated to be €85m or roughly £73m), is a testament to Nunez's ability.

Jaden Sancho, on the other hand, has faced repeated roadblocks since his move back to England in 2021/22 for a fee equalling Darwin's. Despite the scintillating Bundesliga form that persuaded United to spend big bucks to bring him from Dortmund to Manchester, Sancho has mostly struggled in the Premier League and ended up being iced out of the first team and loaned back to BVB, where he's thriving once more.

#9. Harry Maguire: €87 million ($93.5 million)

Harry Maguire's dominant performances for Leicester City and England (particularly at the 2018 World Cup) prompted Manchester United to spend big on the bulky centre-back, whose passing range, aerial ability and leadership skills have made him one of the England national team's most trusted operators in recent years.

However, there's no denying that Maguire is another expensive Manchester United player who has struggled for form during his time at Old Trafford, facing heavy criticism from home and away fans at points. While he's helped lead the Red Devils to a League Cup win, a Europa League final and two FA Cup finals since joining in 2019, whether his €87m transfer represents value for money is very much up for debate.

#8. Josko Gvardiol: €90 million ($96.5 million)

Manchester City's recruitment and player development over the past few years has been second to none; not only do they have a knack for spotting talent, the management of that talent and gradual blooding of younger players in Pep Guardiola's first team has been impeccable.

Croatian international Josko Gvardiol is another example of that trend, although he's found his feet quicker than most; after spending his first few months getting used to Guardiola's system, he emerged in the second half of the 2023/24 season as one of City's strongest assets, showing exactly why they were prepared to shell out a near-record-breaking fee for a defender (topped only by Maguire) in order to prise him from Bundesliga side RB Leipzig in August 2023.

#7. Antony: €95 million ($102 million)

It's still early days for Antony at Manchester United, but it's fair to say things haven't gone particularly smoothly so far. Aside from all the Brazilian international's controversial off-the-pitch circumstances (which we won't go into here), the 24-year-old has found it difficult to put together consistent performances and notch regular goal contributions in the Premier League.

There's a huge amount of pressure on his shoulders given that Antony's move from Ajax in 2022 made him the most expensive deadline day signing ever, but the Brazil winger has repeatedly failed to live up to those high expectations. 

#6. Paul Pogba: €105 million ($112.5 million)

The oldest transfer on this list by a good few years, Pogba's 2016/17 summer move to Manchester United was a big deal. Announced in an adidas-sponsored music video collaborating with heavyweight UK rapper Stormzy, it was a glamorous affair that the Red Devils hoped would mark a turning point in their fortunes after years of underwhelming performances in the Premier League.

But while Pogba impressed in many individual games for United, he never consistently showed his quality in the English top flight or reached the levels expected of a €105 million player. After a six-year spell at the club that was impacted heavily by injury and struggles for form, he eventually departed in 2022 to join Juventus. Since then, he's made only a handful of appearances for the Serie A club, and is currently serving a doping ban.

#5. Romelu Lukaku: €113 million ($121 million)

Chelsea have been one of the biggest-spending clubs in the world in recent years, particularly since the arrival of ambitious American owner Todd Boehly in 2022. However, it was before Boehly's time that the club made the decision to spend an estimated £97 million (€113 million) on Belgian international Romelu Lukaku. The signing from Inter made Lukaku the most expensive player of all time in terms of accumulated fees, but it didn't take long for things to derail, with the striker speaking out in the press against manager Thomas Tuchel and eventually prompting the club to send him out on loan to Serie A sides Internazionale and Roma. There's still a chance he'll be brought back into the fold at Chelsea, but right now their third-most expensive signing ever looks like a massive waste of money.

#4. Moises Caicedo: €116 million ($124.5 million)

One player Chelsea will be hoping proves a better investment than Lukaku is Columbia international Moises Caicedo, who joined the club from Brighton & Hove Albion in August 2023 after a contentious bidding war with Liverpool. The reported fee was said to be £115m including add-ons, a remarkably high figure for a man who at the time had made less than 50 appearances in the Premier League.

That being said, Caicedo's potential is huge; he's an intelligent central midfielder who plays with intensity, speed, industry, creativity and vision. The 22-year-old signed an eight-year-deal with the Blues, and they'll be hoping he delivers during that lengthy stay.

#3. Declan Rice: €116.6 million ($125.25 million)

Throughout 2023/24, Declan Rice has shown himself to be the final piece in the puzzle for Arteta's Arsenal side, adding dynamism, strength and quality to a midfield that needed it ,and taking the young Gunners side to the next level. The huge €116.6 million transfer fee it took to seize Rice from West Ham United already seems like value for money, and the England international has plenty of years ahead of him at the North London club if things all go according to plan.

While many of the signings on this list have turned out disappointingly, it seems as though Declan Rice was an investment that was worth making.

#2. Jack Grealish: €117.5 million ($126 million)

It took Jack Grealish a little bit of time to get going at Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola's complex, intricately developed tactical system a tough one to adjust to initially. However, since his summer 2021 signing for a whopping fee of around £100 million, Grealish has steadily made himself a core part of the Man City first team. His clever movement, dribbling ability and potency in the penalty area have made him a fan favourite, and he's contributed to several trophy wins already. 

#1. Enzo Fernandez: €121 million ($129.75 million)

Benfica's solid, combative, technically gifted central midfielder Enzo Fernandez had already attracted plenty of attention from other European clubs before he headed to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. However, his role in leading Argentina to glory at the tournament certainly increased his value in the transfer market.

Benfica weren't keen on selling Fernandez at first, but when Chelsea offered a staggering €121 million transfer fee in January 2023, the offer was too much to refuse, and the Portuguese side decided to cash in. Enzo has since slotted into the Chelsea first team during a period of real upheaval, and while he's showed serious promise, it will take a lot to justify that massive transfer fee. As it stands, Enzo Fernandez is the most expensive Premier League player in history.

A big factor behind all this increased spending in the Premier League is the growing number of billionaire owners operating in the English top flight. If you'd like to find out more about exactly who owns each EPL club, check out our introduction to every single Premier League owner.