World football transfer record
This is a list of the progression of the world football transfer record when measured in British pounds. The concept of transfers in football dates back to the introduction of professionalism into the sport. The transfer of WIllie Groves from West Bromwich Albion to Aston Villa in 1893 occurred just eight years after the introduction of professionalism by The FA in 1885. Today, the record is held by Gareth Bale, who, in 2013 became the first player to cost €100m when he transferred from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid.
Transfer record progression
The first player to ever be transferred for a fee of over £100 was Scottish striker Willie Groves when he made the switch from West Bromwich Albion to Aston Villa in 1893, eight years after the legalisation of professionalism in the sport. It took just twelve years for the figure to become £1000, when Sunderland striker Alf Common moved to Middlesbrough.
It wasn't until 1928 that the first five-figure transfer took place. David Jack of Bolton Wanderers was the subject of interest from Arsenal, and in order to negotiate the fee down, Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman got the Bolton representatives drunk. Arsenal paid £10,890 after Bolton had asked for £13k, which was double the previous record made when Sunderland signed Burnley's Bob Kelly a fee of for £6,500.
The first player from outside Great Britain to break the record was Bernabé Ferreyra, a player known as La Fiera for his powerful shot. His 1932 transfer from Tigre to River Plate cost £23k, and the record would last for 17 years (the longest the record has lasted) until it was broken by Manchester United's sale of Johnny Morris to Derby County for £24k in March 1949. The record was broken seven further times between 1949 and 1961, when Luis Suárez was sold by FC Barcelona to Inter Milan for £152k, becoming the first ever player sold for more than £100k.
In 1968, Pietro Anastasi became the first £500k player when Juventus purchased him from Varese, which was followed seven years later with Giuseppe Savoldi becoming the first million pound player when he transferred from Bologna to Napoli.
The only player to twice be transferred for world record fees is Diego Maradona. His transfers from Boca Juniors to Barcelona for £3m, and then to Napoli for £5m, both broke the record in 1982 and 1984 respectively.
In the space of 61 days in 1992, three transfers broke the record, all by Italian clubs: Jean-Pierre Papin transferred from Marseille to A.C. Milan, becoming the first ever £10m player. Almost immediately, rivals Juventus topped that with the signing of Gianluca Vialli for a fee of £12m from Sampdoria. Milan then completed the signing of Gianluigi Lentini for a fee of £13m which stood as the record for three years.
The 1996 transfer of Alan Shearer from Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle United, for a fee of £15m, kickstarted a year-by-year succession of record breaking transfers: Ronaldo moved the following year to Inter Milan from FC Barcelona for a fee of £17m, which was followed in 1998 by the shock transfer of his fellow countryman Denílson from São Paulo to Real Betis for a fee of approximately £21m.
In 1999 and 2000, Italian clubs returned to their record-breaking ways, with Christian Vieri transferring from Lazio to Inter Milan for £28m, while Hernán Crespo's transfer from Parma to Lazio ensured he became the first player to cost more than £30m. The transfer prompted the BBC to ask "has the world gone mad"?
It took two weeks for the record to be broken when Luís Figo made a controversial £37m move from Barcelona to rivals Real Madrid. Since then, Real Madrid have always held the record, with the only players to subsequently break the record being Zinedine Zidane in 2001 when signed for £46m from Juventus, the £80m transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United in 2009, and Gareth Bale in 2013, who became the first player to cost €100m when he transferred from Tottenham Hotspur.
Comparison of fees in different nations is complicated by varying exchange rates. This table uses British Pound Sterling for older and comparison fees and Euro for newer transfers as the unit of currency. .
Number of records by country
|Country||Player records||Record selling||Record buying|
Number of records by continent
|Continent||Player records||Record selling||Record buying|
- List of most expensive association football transfers
- Transfer (association football)
- Progression of British football transfer fee record
A. a The Juventus FC web site reported the total fee was exactly 150 billion lira. The Juventus FC financial statement for 2002 describes this as approximately €75m. Using the official base exchange rate for lira to pounds for that time (9 July 2001), this is exactly £46,589,576.90 in pounds sterling, reported in Britain variously between £46m and £47m at the time.
B. b For comparisons, this list uses a valuation of the fee converted to British pounds at the time of the transfer. Zidane's fee in 2001 was 150 billion lira, then equivalent to €77.5m. This appears to be 30% larger than Figo's €60m fee. That comparison in Euros is coincidentally valid because the British pound and the Euro didn't mutually vary much in the intervening year. Kaká's transfer fee of €65m was eight years later in 2009. Due to the valuation method used in this list, Zidane's fee in "2001-Euros" cannot be compared numerically with Kaká's fee in "2009-Euros". In this context, they are different units of currency, and must be converted to the valuation currency first. This paradox is inherent to multiple currency comparisons across time, regardless of the currency and conversion time-frame are chosen as the standard for valuation.
C. c Conversion by British journalists; the actual offer was made and concluded at €94m.
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