There is no escaping the reality of the situation. Club football on its biggest stages is mostly about money, and the clubs that can splash the most cash usually succeed more often than not.
It is not a coincidence that the two true giants of Spanish football dominate this list. Those clubs account for the top six most expensive transfers in history. One team, in particular, occupies three of the top four slots.
That club just so happens to possess a squad that could, during the upcoming season, be close to unbeatable.
Here are the 10 biggest transfers in the history of world football.
10. Neymar to Barcelona: £48m ($80.79 million)
Santos had two offers for Neymar back in May of 2013: One from Real Madrid, and one from Barcelona. Barca was always Neymar’s club of choice, and he completed the switch in early June of that same year.
The transfer was not without controversy. Barcelona were eventually compelled to release the exact figure of the Neymar fee, and the club also paid an additional 13,550,830 Euros to “cover any potential interpretation made concerning the contracts signed in the transfer process for Neymar.”
So was Neymar worth all of the trouble and money? The jury remains out on that, as the 22-year-old netted 15 goals in his debut season, one in which Barcelona seemingly fell far behind Real Madrid in the battle for supremacy among the two Spanish giants.
9. Fernando Torres to Chelsea / David Luiz to Paris Saint-Germain: £50m ($84.16 million)
The future seemed bright for Torres when he joined Chelsea in 2011. He buried 81 goals at the senior level for Liverpool, and he had also impressed in national team duty for Spain. It’s all since gone wrong for Torres minus a few sparkling moments, however, as he has since become a punch line due to multiple notorious misses. The perception around world football now is that Chelsea could not give Torres away for a fraction of the price that the club once paid for the Spanish international.
Luiz has, over the years, proven to be one of the more versatile defensive players in the Premier League. Capable of playing at the back or in a midfield role, Luiz can, when fully fit and fully motivated, be a top-tier box-to-box player, and PSG were so impressed that they paid £50m for the Brazilian international last month.
Then came the 2014 FIFA World Cup, during which Luiz and just about all of his teammates were lackluster. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho may be laughing all the way to the bank, as early returns show that he and CFC may have made out like bandits.
8. Radamel Falcao to Monaco: £51m ($85.84 million)
Monaco had to believe that they were getting a real gem last summer in the former Atletico Madrid striker. That could still be the case, of course, as Falcao has shown a nose for goal at the club and international levels.
His Ligue 1 career has not yet gone to his liking. Fitness issues slowed him down in the fall, and he then suffered a serious injury last January. That injury sidelined him for the rest of the season, and it also prevented him from playing in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The 28-year-old will be looking to begin a turnaround starting in August. He is reportedly at 100 percent and ready to begin the campaign.
7. Edinson Cavani to PSG: £55m ($92.57 million)
Cavani is in the second tier of talented footballers. He isn’t at the level of a Ronaldo or a Messi, but the 27-year-old Uruguayan is unquestionably a tremendous front man who could star for just about any club on the planet. Cavani buried 104 goals for Napoli over three seasons, and PSG chose to splash a mammoth amount of cash on the striker last summer.
He did not disappoint. Cavani found the back of the net 25 times, impressive considering that he lost close to a month of his campaign because of a thigh injury. There were, before the start of this summer, whispers that Barcelona could look to acquire Cavani.
That, as will be documented later in this piece, proved to be unnecessary.
6. Kaka to Real Madrid: £56m ($94.26 million)
Kaka is, no disrespect meant to the player, one of the bigger flops on this list. The former Player of the Year joined Real in the summer of 2009, and he had himself a solid if not great opening campaign with the club.
Things never got better for the Brazil international while in Spain. He became increasingly isolated while playing under former boss Jose Mourinho, and Real acquiring Tottenham Hotspur star Gareth Bale last summer (more on that later) made Kaka surplus to requirements, so much so that Real let him return to AC Milan on a free transfer.
5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Barcelona: £59m ($99.31 million)
The only adequate way to describe Zlatan is that he is, well, Zlatan. Ibra has, to put it delicately, never met a club that he didn’t like.
Malmö. Ajax. Juventus. Inter. Barca. Milan. PSG. All are on the resume of the extremely entertaining striker who has, throughout his career, buried some memorable highlight reel goals.
Any club who acquires Ibra had better know what it is getting. It’s getting an incredible finisher who is a box office draw and will sell shirts, one who could also decide, at any time, to move on to his next so-called “childhood club.”
Ibrahimovic has hinted that he could retire as a Major League Soccer player. The North American top-flight could only be so lucky.
4. James Rodríguez to Real Madrid: £63m ($106.04 million)
No footballer, perhaps no professional athlete other than Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, is having as good a summer as is Rodríguez. Rodríguez entered Brazil and the beginning of the 2014 FIFA World Cup as an undeniably talented player who can feature as an attacking midfielder or out on the wing.
Now, less than a month after the tournament’s conclusion, he is one of the most expensive buys in world football history.
Rodríguez was possibly the best player at the World Cup, worthy of Golden Ball honors. He notched six goals and two assists across five matches for Colombia. A must for any reputable World Cup XI, Rodríguez put pen to paper on a six-year deal with the Spanish giants following the tournament.
3. Luis Suarez to Barcelona: £75m ($126,24 million)
Sports, like life, are often unfair.
Suarez has racially abused an opponent during a Premier League match. He has bitten opposing players on no fewer than three occasions, the most recent of such crimes coming at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. That chomp got Suarez banned for four months, but there is speculation that the punishment could get reduced; all because Suarez is maybe the best overall striker on the planet today, which is why Barca gave Liverpool £75m for him this summer.
Suarez, one of the more reviled footballers in the game, gets to live in beautiful Spain, and he gets to play for one of the greatest clubs in the world. I say it again:
Life isn’t fair.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid: £80m ($134.65 million)
Three words can be used to summarize what was once the most expensive transfer in world football history: Money well spent.
Ronaldo has, at the club level, done it all since joining Real. He has won La Liga. He has twice won the Copa del Rey. He and his Real teammates hoisted the Champions League trophy last May, thanks largely to the man who sits atop this list.
Ronaldo is, in July 2014, the best footballer on the planet.
The 29-year-old Portuguese international is a superstar in every sense of the word. An all-time great as well as a cover model, Ronaldo has done well to expand his brand to a global audience, and he is, other than one David Beckham, maybe the most recognized footballer walking today.
1. Gareth Bale to Real Madrid: £86m ($144.75 million)
Poor li’l Gareth Bale from Wales cannot escape the “flop” label. He was a flop at Tottenham back in 2009. Then, after Real Madrid spent a world-record fee on the Spurs star, Bale struggled to immediately become a game-changer for the Spanish outfit.
I’d say things have since worked out alright for player and for club.
Bale found the back of the net 22 times in his debut season with Real. His goal in the Copa del Rey Final was one that will live on for generations to come. Bale would outdo that finish when he buried the match-winner in the Champions League Final.
Not too shabby for a “flop.”