It is known, in some circles, as the most wonderful time of the footballing calendar, the portion of the year that is also referred to as the “silly season.” The summer transfer windows are when the majority of massive, not to mention juicy and newsworthy, signings and transactions occur in the top football leagues around the world. There has, in the springtime months leading up to the opening of the 2015 summer transfer window, been speculation that July and August could be relatively quiet on the transfer front when compared with deals that took place in 2013 and 2014. We shall see.
The myth that big-time professional sports league such as the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and others are not business endeavors as much as they are about entertaining the masses was crushed long ago. Clubs that participate in top-flight football leagues are worth millions upon millions – in some cases even billions – of dollars. It is, thus, reasonable that supporters who pay their hard-earned money to watch matches live and in-person demand that their clubs spend reasonable amounts of cash during the summer months in order to improve squads.
It is practically a guarantee that the sport will see yet another world record transfer fee in the next five years. Think back, if you will, to 2010. Anybody would have suggested at that time that Gareth Bale would top the fees once fetched by the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo would have been laughed out of the room. All it takes is season or two of breakout performances from a player to make him a highly-coveted commodity for organizations that are able and more than willing to spend whatever possible each and every year to keep fans happy.
Note: The transfer fees depicted in this piece are from when the transactions took place. Inflation was not accounted for in the posting of this piece. It must also be noted that calculating transfer fees is not an exact science since clubs are able to keep that information private per regulations. Neymar’s move to Barcelona has come under such scrutiny over the years, as an example, that it is not mentioned in this piece since the true amount remains unknown to the public as of June 2015. The fee that Real Madrid paid to Tottenham Hotspur for the services of Gareth Bale has also been questioned, but enough work has been done over the years to claim him to be, at this time, the most-expensive transfer in history.
20. Gaizka Mendieta: Valencia to Lazio for £29 ($44.8) million in 2001
Some transfers prove to benefit both parties, while others are remembered for being more one-sided transactions. Gaizka Mendieta was, in his time, a skilled attacking player was sought after by multiple clubs in 2001 when he made the move abroad from Valencia to Lazio. Mendieta never found the same type of form when playing with the Serie A side, and loan spells with Barcelona and Middlesbrough finished out his term with Lazio before he joined ‘Boro on a permanent basis. He also allegedly spent some time as a secret DJ, working in clubs located in Italy, Spain and in England.
19. Ronaldo: Inter Milan to Real Madrid for £30 ($46.35) million in 2002
There is a cliché put out there about certain athletes that they have never met an employer or seen a uniform/jersey/kit that they did not like. One could say that about Ronaldo, a true living legend of the sport and widely recognized as one of the greatest overall players in the history of the sport. Ronaldo was one to routinely put his own history well into the background when considering his futures, being willing to feature for Inter Milan and AC Milan. Rivalries meant little to him back in 2002, as the former Barcelona man agreed to link up with Spanish giants Real Madrid.
18. Rui Costa: Fiorentina to AC Milan: Fiorentina to AC Milan for £30 ($46.35) million in 2001
Nicknamed “The Maestro,” Rui Costa was a midfielder respected for his ability to perform as a deep-lying play-maker and also a box-to-box midfielder. Costa has been named in multiple Teams of the Decade over the years because of his play in Portugal, Italy and competitions such as the Champions League. He is one of the most-respected players to ever wear the AC Milan shirt, and the club has honored him by placing Costa in its Hall of Fame. Those looking to relive the glory days of Costa can do so in video game form via editions of FIFA Ultimate Team.
17. Hernán Crespo: Parma to Lazio for £35.5 ($54.84) million in 2000
The deal that involved Hernán Crespo making the switch from Parma to Lazio in the summer of 2000 is one of several transactions mentioned in this piece that have come under some scrutiny. Lazio reportedly put together a package that involved a cash payment and also players Matias Almeyda and Sergio Conceicao. The worth of the entire package is one that cannot be confirmed, with estimations of the valuation being between £35.5-40 million. Crespo’s time with Lazio would not last long regardless of how much it cost due to the club’s financial issues. He signed for Inter in the summer of 2002.
16. Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid for £37 ($57.16) million in 2000
Luis Figo was widely regarded as one of the best wingers in all of world football during his prime. There are, however, pockets of fans who will only remember him for this transfer and not for the magic that he produced while out on the pitch. Figo happily allowed Real Madrid to trigger a release clause in his contract that gave him the chance to link up with the Barca rivals in the summer of 2000. This made him Public Enemy No. 1 in the opinions of Barcelona supporters who referred to Figo as a traitor and a Judas to the cause.
15. James Rodriguez: FC Porto to AS Monaco for £38.5 ($59.48) million in 2013
Get used to seeing James Rodriguez on this list, as this is not the last time that his name will be mentioned in this piece. Before Rodriguez was becoming a superstar while performing on the biggest stage of all of world football and before he had a famous unveiling at one of the most-famous stadiums on the planet, he was sold to AC Monaco in a deal that the Ligue 1 side probably hoped had landed it a star for the future. Nothing lasts forever, however, and Monaco would not have to wait long to be reminded of that as it pertained to Rodriguez’s time spent with that club.
14. Mesut Ozil: Real Madrid to Arsenal for £42.4 ($65.5) million in 2013
How you feel about this transfer is likely determined by the club that you support or how about you value certain positions. It would be inaccurate to say that Ozil has been a hit for the Gunners from day one of his career with the club, as there have unquestionably been some bumps along the road. Ozil has nevertheless been there to help Arsenal end a long trophy drought, and the club has since hoisted the FA Cup in back-to-back years after the former Real Madrid star joined up with the Premier League outfit. Was Ozil truly worth the money spent? That is for you to determine on your own.
13. Zinedine Zidane: Juventus to Real Madrid for £46 ($71.07) million in 2001
There are some who will not be able to remember Zinedine Zidane without thinking about that headbutt that he delivered to the chest Marco Materazzi at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. That is a shame, as “Zizou” has rightfully so been described as one of the best overall players of his era and in the history of the sport. Zidane did it all during his legendary career, winning personal honors such as Player of the Year on multiple occasions and also hoisting numerous club trophies. It will likely be sooner rather than later when Zidane is serving as a coach of a top-tier side. Don’t make him angry, players.
12. Carlos Tevez: To Manchester City for £47 (72.61) million in 2009
It has been over six years since the wheels were put into motion for Carlos Tevez to link up with Manchester City. City rivals Manchester United reportedly gave Tevez permission to seek the move of his choice in June of that year, and thus City scooped the forward up for the fee of £47 million. City would later deny that valuation, however, leaving the details of the transaction a mystery to all on the outside. Tevez would go on to enjoy great success with the blue Manchester side before linking up with Serie A kings Juventus in the summer of 2013.
11. Fernando Torres: Liverpool to Chelsea for £50 ($77.24) million in 2011
It has been called one of the worst, maybe the worst, transfer in the history of the Premier League. Fernando Torres had earned the right to play for a club such as Chelsea and to participate in the Champions League back in 2011, but his move to the Blues will be remembered more so for some horrific misses and an inability to hit the back of the net than for being a positive step for Chelsea. Remember, Chelsea fans, that you can always reflect on that Champions League goal that Torres buried against Barcelona.
10. David Luiz: Chelsea to PSG for £50 ($77.24) million in 2014
David Luiz has been a polarizing figure throughout the world of football for a variety of reasons. Some managers, for starters, have not been sure if Luiz should be played as a defensive midfielder or as a center back. Then, there have been some instances where Luiz has gone to ground far too easily before faking an injury in attempts to buy calls. Luiz has proven himself to have the physical tools to feature for top-tier clubs and also one of the best footballing nations in the world (Brazil). The 28-year-old will still have plenty of opportunities to silence critics in the future.
9. Radamel Falcao: Atletico Madrid to Monaco for £51 ($78.79) million in 2013
Manchester United fans may struggle to wrap their minds around it, but there was once a time when Radamel Falcao was seen as one of the best acquisitions in all of world football. Falcao was a hit for Atletico, but his time at Monaco was limited due to a pair of knocks, including a serious knee injury that kept him out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. United had hoped to get the best of Falcao upon obtaining his services via a loan for the 2014-15 season. That was not the case, however, as Falcao found himself relegated to the youth team for a time because he was so lackluster with the senior side.
8. Edinson Cavani: Napoli to PSG for £55 ($84.97) million in 2013
Edinson Cavani was believed to be a target of several clubs looking to sign the talented striker in the summer of 2013 when Cavani was seeking out Champions League football and the wages that come up such a contract. Paris Saint-Germain won the bidding for his signature, and Cavani repaid the Ligue 1 outfit with two positive campaigns. Rumors have since emerged that Cavani could once again be on the move, specifically if PSG actually believe that they have a chance to sign Cristiano Ronaldo in 2015. Odds are, however, that Cavani will try to fight for his spot in the PSQ squad.
7. Kaka: AC Milan to Real Madrid for £56 ($86.51) million in 2009
Real Madrid fans were reasonably excited upon learning that the Brazilian legend would be joining the club from AC Milan in 2009. The experiment did not work out for Real, however, as Kaka would become an afterthought a few years after ink dried on his contract. He would eventually make a return to Milan on a free, a transaction that set him up for what could be the final major move of his career. Kaka became the next big name to sign for a Major League Soccer club in 2015, joining Orlando City Soccer Club for that team’s expansion MLS campaign.
6. Angel Di Maria: Real Madrid to Manchester United for £59.7 ($92.23) million in 2014
How would one rate the debut season of Angel Di Maria at Manchester United? We may get the answer to that question in the summer of 2015. Rumors emerged even before the end of the 2014-15 Premier League campaign that Di Maria could be eying an exit from the Manchester outfit, but such a rumored desired move may not be possible. Conflicting reports are out there that Real Madrid wisely put a clause in Di Maria’s contract that he could not, upon moving to United, link up with Barcelona at some point down the road. Then again, United may choose to retain Di Maria for another season.
5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Inter Milan to Barcelona for £40 ($61.80) million and Samuel Eto’o in 2009
The resume of Zlatan Ibrahimovic reads as a Who’s Who of massive clubs. Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, Milan and Paris Saint-Germain: Ibrahimovic has played for them all. The great irony with his move from Inter to Barcelona is that the transfer that included Samuel Eto’o as a piece of the transaction is that those two men could soon again be linked together. Both Ibrahimovic and Eto’o have been rumored to be interested in signing for Major League Soccer before they call time on their careers. It would be only fitting if both joined MLS during the same summer.
4. James Rodriguez: Monaco to Real Madrid for £63 ($97.33) million in 2014
Unless you are a football junky who lives and breathes watching the sport and who follows every league, the name James Rodriguez was probably either unknown to you or lost in the so-called Rolodex of footballing personalities kept in your memory at the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Rodriguez was a household name by the middle of July of that summer, however, and his play on the world’s stage earned him notice from that club that had, that spring lifted the Champions League trophy. Rodriguez was a bright spot for Real in his first La Liga season, and all indications are that he will continue to blossom while playing for the Spanish giants.
3. Luis Suarez: Liverpool to Barcelona for £75 ($115.87) million in 2014
The transgressions committed by Luis Suarez over the years were well documented, and that was even before he bit an opponent during a 2014 FIFA World Cup match. That was at least the third time that Suarez was guilty of that crime during a competitive encounter, and FIFA responded by handing him a lengthy suspension that went into the start of the European calendar. Barcelona nevertheless went through with the rumored transfer, and the former Liverpool front man made good and helped Barca win the treble (Copa del Rey, La Liga and Champions League crowns) in his debut campaign with the club.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo: Manchester United to Real Madrid for £80 ($123.59) million in 2009
Say whatever you will about the state of modern football and about fans being priced out of attending matches. Nobody can question that Real Madrid got their money’s worth and then some over the years. Cristiano Ronaldo evolved into the best player in the world while featuring for the La Liga club, and Ronaldo will, when he hangs up his boots for good, be regarded as one of the best overall players to ever play the game. A unique talent matched by only one man during his time, Ronaldo could fetch an even bigger transfer fee in the future when he decides that it is time to move on from Real.
1. Gareth Bale: Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid for £86 ($132.86) million on 2013
The career of Gareth Bale has been a fascinating roller coaster ride. Bale was believed to be on the chopping block at Tottenham Hotspur until some breakout performances during Champions League play made manager Harry Redknapp and the rest of the world take notice. It was under Andre Villas-Boas when Bale became the top player in the Premier League, and Real Madrid came calling in the summer of 2013. Bale went on to net game-winners in the Copa del Rey Final and then the Champions League Final in his first season with Real. His second campaign at the club was not as successful, however, and there have been rumors that Manchester United could pursue his signature in the summer of 2015.