In soccer, having a quality goalkeeper can be the difference between being a contender and finding yourself out of the qualification zone for Champions League. Across Europe, the top teams each boast top level goaltenders who are becoming increasingly valuable by the year. This list will comprise the top 10 transfer fees ever paid for a goalkeeper in soccer’s history.
A few themes will become apparent in this article. Firstly, that Italian teams value defensive soccer and because of that, they comprise a large portion of the list. It is interesting to see which leagues value this position more than others – and in the case of the Serie A, they definitely value it the most.
Secondly, the transfer fees for goalkeepers are substantially less than they would be for attacking players. Gareth Bale, for example, was recently transferred for a huge sum of £80 million which translates to about $130 million US. This can be explained by the fact that the goalkeeper is a less glamorous position in soccer, and teams like to buy marquee players with the intention of using them for marketing purposes and selling jerseys.
Thirdly, as compared to the attacking positions for which there are huge transfer fees recorded each year, the members of this list come from different decades.
10. Hugo Lloris – Lyon to Tottenham – $17.7 Million
Hugo Lloris was no stranger to big money deals when he made his way from Lyon to North London to join the Spurs, having already been purchased for €7.5 million (which translates to $12.1 million) by Lyon from the small club of Nizza in France. In 2012, the Spurs dished out a huge €11 million ($17.7 million) to land the large French keeper and he has not disappointed since. In the Premier League, where several goalkeepers fail to earn their paycheck (I’m looking at you Joe Hart!), Lloris stands above them all in terms of consistency. He has also has begun to start for the French national team which recently secured a birth in the World Cup. So, Lloris will be able to prove his worth on the largest stage of them all next year in Brazil.
9. Petr Cech – Rennes to Chelsea – $18.6 Million
The helmet-wearing goalie from the Czech Republic is now a fixture on his national team and in the Chelsea net. He has made himself worthy of the hefty fee Chelsea paid for him in the summer of 2004. When Petr Cech first arrived at the London-based club, he was expected to slowly learn behind Carlo Cudicini, who was their first choice keeper at the time. Cudicini injured his elbow and Cech never gave him back the job, earning a clean sheet against Manchester United in his first premier league game. Since then, Cech has gone on to win the Champions League, Europa League, 3 Premier league titles, 4 FA cups and has been named Czech footballer of the year on 6 occasions. It is safe to say that Petr Cech was definitely worth £11.5 million (nearly $18.6 million) all those years ago.
8. Sebastien Frey – Cannes to Inter – $20.2 Million
Sebastien Frey is the third goalie on this list to transfer from a smaller French team to a European giant. In the summer of 1998, after two promising years with the French club Cannes, Inter (on the advice of club legend Walter Zenga) decided to spent a huge £12.5 million ($20.2 million) fee on the previously unknown keeper. Frey came into the club as the number 3 goalkeeper and never really found a way to break into the first team. He was loaned out to Verona for a year, and when he came back Inter had already purchased another keeper in Francesco Toldo – who will become relevant further down the list. He was then sold to Parma in another deal that also made this list. Frey has been a capable keeper in his career, albeit an expensive one, and some may wonder if Inter was foolish to give up on the young player so quickly.
7. Angelo Peruzzi – Inter to Lazio – $25.8 Million
If you believed the last entry on the list had a confusing story to follow, the next two entries will definitely top that. Inter has proven to be loose with their purse strings in terms of goalkeepers, and international goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi was no exception. Before moving to Inter, Peruzzi was a huge success with Roma and Juventus, winning Serie A goalkeeper of the year and the Serie A title 3 times and claiming the Champions league title once. He was then sold to Inter in a move that will be discussed in just a second. After one decent year with Inter, they quickly shipped him to Lazio in 2000 as the revolving door in the Inter net kept turning. Peruzzi likely would’ve lived up to his £16 million ($25.8 million) fee had he been given the chance.
6. Angelo Peruzzi – Juventus to Inter – $26.6 Million
Hey, this guy looks familiar. Peruzzi makes the list once more as the Italian international was on the move a lot at the end of the last century. After a few successful years at La Vecchia Signora, Juventus decided to sell their goalkeeper, two years before they splurged on the legendary Gigi Buffon. They received £16.5 million ($26.6 million) for Peruzzi, and Inter sold him the year later at a loss of £500,000 ($807,229). Inter then used this money on the aforementioned Francesco Toldo who will pop up on this list later on.
5. David De Gea – Atletico Madrid to Manchester United – $28.2 Million
The young Spanish keeper began his career at the old age of 10 in the Atletico Madrid youth clubs. David De Gea worked his way up and began playing as a senior with the club at the ripe age of 18. Some fantastic performances for Atletico opened the eyes of European giants Manchester United who were looking to replace legendary Dutch keeper Edwin Van der Sar. In the summer of 2011, United spent a whopping £17.5 million ($28.2 million) on the young keeper and anticipated he would be their number one for the next 15 years. The first season did not go as planned, as De Gea lost his starting job to Anders Lindegaard for a large portion of the season. When Lindegaard got hurt, De Gea reclaimed his position and has never looked back. However, he hasn’t been able to really break into the senior Spanish side as he’ll have to wait for stalwarts Iker Casillas and Victor Valdes to retire or take a large dip in form.
4. Sebastien Frey – Inter to Parma – $29.8 Million
The French keeper re-emerges on this list after already appearing at number 8. After his struggles at Inter, he was quickly moved along to Parma for a fee of £18.5 million ($29.8 million) where he would replace the legendary Gigi Buffon who had moved on to Juventus. He had a decent 4 years with the team before an economic crisis within the club forced his sale to Fiorentina for a fee of only £5.1 ($8.2 million). After a variety of teams each spent millions on him, the French keeper (who is now in the later stages of his career) is currently playing at Bursaspor in Turkey.
3. Francesco Toldo – Fiorentina to Inter – $37.9 Million
After all the confusion and money spent on Peruzzi and Frey, Inter finally settled down with Italy international Francesco Toldo in nets. He was their first choice keeper until 2005 when they signed Julio Cesar who then led them to Champions League success, though Toldo remained as his backup. He had some decent years with Inter and even started for the Italian national team at Euro 2000 after Gigi Buffon broke his hand 8 days before the tournament. Toldo really never lived up to his huge transfer fee of £23.5 ($37.9 million), though he was a solid player.
2. Manuel Neuer – Schalke 04 to Bayern Munich – $39.5 Million
The only German entry on the list is Manuel Neuer, the first choice goalkeeper for Bayern Munich and the German national team. Neuer was signed from Schalke under harsh criticism from their fans, as they could not believe that he would sign for a rival club. It was easy to see why Die Konigsblauen agreed to the deal, as Bayern offered a whopping £24 million ($39.5 million). Neuer has gone on to become an elite talent in goal for Bayern, leading them to a Bundesliga and Champions league title. The sky is truly the limit for this young goalkeeper, as he is only 27, playing on the strongest team in Europe and one of the strongest teams internationally. He is definitely worthy of his large transfer fee and may become one the most successful keepers in soccer history.
1. Gianluigi Buffon – Parma to Juventus – $76.6 Million
The most expensive transfer fee for a goalkeeper by a large margin belongs to one of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation, Gianluigi Buffon. His first full season as a starter was in 1997 with Parma and he helped them qualify for the illustrious Champions League tournament. In his fourth season at Parma he helped them to win the UEFA cup (now the Europa League) which was a huge accomplishment for a small Italian club. He then moved on to Juventus for a world-record fee of £47.5 million ($76.6 million) where he replaced legendary keeper Edwin Van der Sar. He was an immediate success as they won the Serie A in his first season. Buffon showed his dedication to the club by remaining with them after they were relegated to a lower division due to a match fixing scandal. He was rewarded by being named team captain after club legend Alessandro Del Piero retired in 2011. All in all, Buffon has won a World Cup, 4 Serie A titles, one UEFA Cup and numerous other personal accolades. The face of the Italian national team and Juventus is only missing the Champions League from his incredible resume and is fully worthy of his huge transfer fee.