Outside of championship tournaments and the usual end-of-season tension, there is no more exciting time to be a soccer fan than during the madness of a transfer period. The transition of rumour to fact goes through a much less rigorous process in the media than it does the rest of the year, as hundreds of news organizations try to get the proverbial scoop on which star players will be switching sides. Speculation linking single players to multiple teams plays up the drama as the public collectively wonders where they end up. Though shorter than the summer window, the January transfer window gives teams the opportunity to fine tune their squads as they head into the second half of the season. In a sense, the January transfers are the last opportunity for the coaching staff to make substantial changes to the team before running out the season. It’s crucial that the business done in January be successful, since the outcome of a bad trade can sometimes sink the remainder of the season under disastrous circumstances.
The top flight of Italian soccer, Serie A, experiences a relatively tame transfer fee in comparison to the rest of the soccer world, as the Italian teams are traditionally slightly more hesitant to ‘splash the cash’. However, there certainly isn’t any lack of blockbuster trades, as our list detailing the ten most expensive transfers in Serie A will demonstrate. Much like anywhere in sport, the famous names come with the biggest price tags, which can only be paid for by the richest clubs. Don’t be surprised to see the same teams breaking the transfer records, particularly a certain northern Italian city famous for the rivalry between its two internationally known teams. With that being said, let’s get started and see who broke the bank post-Christmas to get their targeted player.
10 #10 Iván Córdoba - Transfer Fee: €14,000,000 ($19 million USD)
Inter Milan were in the market for a defender to play center back, but instead wound up with a team legend. When the Nerazurri purchased the Colombian Iván Córdoba from Argentinian team San Lorenzo de Almagro for €14,000,000 in 2000, they filled an existing gap while sparking a fortuitous relationship. Córdoba would spend the rest of his career at Inter, becoming vice-captain and a club legend until his retirement at the end of the 2011/2012 season.
9 #9 Adriano - Transfer Fee: €15,000,000 ($20.4 million USD)
Inter Milan are featured again, this time for the €15,000,000 purchase of Brazilian striker Adriano (full name Adriano Leite Ribeiro) from fellow Serie A team Parma in 2004. He spent 5 seasons with Inter, and although he started out strong, his form quickly fizzled out. He struggled with fitness issues and alcoholism before he and Inter finally parted ways at the end of the 2008/2009 seasons, allowing Adriano to return to Brazil to play for his first club Flamengo.
8 #8 Alexandre Pato - Transfer Fee: €15,000,000 ($20.4 million USD)
The Milanese trend continues, this time with the sale of AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato to Brazilian club Corinthians for €15,000,000 in January 2013. Pato became an instant sensation in 2006 when he became the youngest person ever to score in a FIFA competition at 17 years of age, breaking the record held by Pelé. He joined AC Milan in 2007 and spent six seasons with the Rossoneri. His first 3 seasons were successful, but repeated injuries contributed to a decline in form. During his final season Pato logged only 7 appearances and 2 goals, but his still significant price tag was aided by past success and the fact he is still only 23 years old.
7 #7 Kakhaber Kaladze - Transfer Fee: €16,000,000 ($23.1 million USD)
AC Milan feature again on our list with their purchase of Kakhaber Kaladze from Ukrainian club Dynamo Kyiv for €16,000,000 in 2001. It proved to be a good fit for the Georgian-born defender, as he spent nearly a decade with Milan before spending his final two seasons with fellow Serie A club Genoa and retiring in 2012.
6 #6 Giampaolo Pazzini - Transfer Fee: €18,000,000 ($24.5 million USD)
For our next entry we go back across town to Inter Milan, whose purchase of native italian Giampaolo Pazzini from Sampdoria in 2011 helped them fill a noticeable gap in striking ability. Internazionale paid Sampdoria €18,000,000 for Pazzini’s services and got a decent return of 19 goals in 60 appearances. Inter decided they needed more firepower for the 2012/2013 season when they sold Pazzini to archrivals AC Milan.
5 #5 Andrea Ranocchia - Transfer Fee: €18,500,000 ($25.2 million USD)
Inter Milan had an extremely busy January in 2011; Pazzini was only one half of the equation. 22-year-old Italian defender Andrea Ranocchia also found himself targeted by Inter Milan halfway through the 2010/2011 season. The Nerazurri bought Ranocchia from Genoa for €18,500,000, finalizing their plan to shuffle the deck for the second half of the season.
4 #4 Mario Balotelli - Transfer Fee: €20,000,000 ($27.2 million USD)
Flamboyant striker Mario Balotelli had toyed with AC Milan in the past. Before signing with English club Manchester City in 2010, while playing for Inter Milan, he had gone so far as to appear on TV in an AC Milan jersey. Balotelli would indeed play for the Rossoneri, but not yet, as he signed with Man City in 2010. In January of 2013, after a successful stint with City, he came full circle and signed for AC Milan, who paid Manchester €20,000,000 for the services of the striker.
3 #3 Hidetoshi Nakata - Transfer Fee: €21,700,000 ($29.5 million USD)
The lone entry on our list that doesn’t involve a Milanese team is the sale of then 22-year-old Japanese midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata from AC Perugia (now AC Perugia Calcio) to AS Roma for €21,700,000 in 2000, in a deal that made Nakata one of the most famous (and well paid) Asian players in the world. Nakata helped Roma win the Scudetto before departing to Parma in August 2001.
2 #2 Clarence Seedorf - Transfer Fee: €24,500,000 ($33.3 million USD)
After spending 4 seasons with Spanish club Real Madrid, Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf found his way back into Serie A. In January 2000, Inter Milan decided to open their checkbooks to boost their performance in the latter half of the season. Inter bought Seedorf for €24,500,000 from Real Madrid, and he spent 2 seasons with them before going across town to join AC Milan.
1 #1 Christian Vieri - Transfer Fee: €45,000,000 ($61.2 million USD)
The second purchase of Inter Milan in the January transfer window of the 1999/2000 season was significantly bigger than the first. Italian striker Christian Vieri became the most expensive player in the world when Internazionale purchased his contract from Lazio. Vieri spent 5 and a half seasons with Inter, putting in very good performances and living up to his price tag. Although his moniker as the world’s most expensive player would eventually be surpassed, his transfer from Lazio to Inter remains be by far the most expensive January transfer in the history of Serie A.