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Heading into the 2010s, Cristiano Ronaldo’s €94 million move from Manchester United to Real Madrid was the world record transfer.
In the end, it was one of the Portuguese forward’s own team-mates who would surpass him as the world’s most expensive player in 2013 – as well as the first to be transferred for more than €100m.
A few years later, however, those records had been obliterated as Paris Saint-Germain shook up the market with two huge signings – one in excess of €200m.
PSG, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico, Juventus and Manchester City spent the largest sums overall in the 2010s. Here, a look at the biggest transfers between 2010 and 2019…
32. Edinson Cavani
(Image credit: Getty Images) Edinson Cavani became the sixth-most expensive player ever when he signed for Paris Saint-Germain from Napoli for €64 million in 2013.
The Uruguay forward was a big hit at PSG, going on to become the club’s all-time top scorer with 200 goals in 301 appearances across seven seasons. Cavani, whose record has since been surpassed by Kylian Mbappe, left for Manchester United in 2020.
31. Aymeric Laporte
(Image credit: Getty Images) Manchester City signed Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Club in 2018 for €65 million and the defender became a key part of Pep Guardiola’s back line for the next six seasons.
The Spain defender, who was born in France, made 180 appearances for City and won five Premier League titles during his time at the Etihad. He left to sign for Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia after City’s treble triumph in 2023/24.
30. Joao Cancelo
(Image credit: Getty Images) Joao Cancelo joined Manchester City from Juventus in 2019 in a deal worth €65 million, which included cash plus Danilo, who went in the opposite direction.
The transfer made the Portuguese the most expensive right-back in history and he impressed at City, but was loaned to Bayern Munich and then Barcelona in 2023 after reportedly falling out with Pep Guardiola over a lack of playing time.
29. Alvaro Morata
(Image credit: Getty Images) No club has signed more strikers over the past decade than Chelsea and in 2017, the Blues bought Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid in a €66 million deal.
Morata lasted just two seasons at Stamford Bridge, scoring a modest 24 goals in 72 games before loans at Atletico and Juventus. The Spain striker then moved to Atleti permanently in 2021.
28. Riyad Mahrez
(Image credit: Getty Images) Riyad Mahrez was a man in demand after starring for Leicester City in their Premier League title success in 2016/17 and the Algerian winger moved to Manchester City a year later.
Mahrez joined City in a €67.8 million transfer and spent five seasons with Pep Guardiola’s great side, scoring 78 goals in 236 appearances and leaving after the team’s treble triumph in 2022/23.
(Image credit: Getty Images) After a single season at Atletico Madrid, Rodri signed for Manchester City for €70 million in the summer of 2019.
Atletico had signed the Spanish international from Villarreal for €20m and the Rojiblancos made a huge profit on the player, who went on to become one of the best midfielders in the world at City and a key part of Pep Guardiola’s treble-winning team in 2022/23.
26. Thomas Lemar
(Image credit: Getty Images) Atletico Madrid paid €72 million to sign Thomas Lemar from Monaco in 2018, making him the Rojiblancos’ second most expensive player after Joao Felix.
Lemar was part of France’s World Cup-winning squad in 2018 and joined Atletico that summer. A La Liga winner in 2020/21, the midfielder has featured prominently under Diego Simeone but suffered a long-term injury in September 2023.
25. Romelu Lukaku
(Image credit: Getty Images) Inter broke their transfer record to sign Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United for €74 million in the summer of 2019.
The Belgian scored 64 goals in 95 games across two seasons and was a Serie A winner with Inter. After joining Chelsea in 2021, he returned to Inter on loan but later upset fans after it emerged he had welcomed interest from their rivals Juventus and AC Milan before joining Roma in a season-long deal in 2023/24.
24. Angel Di Maria
(Image credit: Getty Images) Angel Di Maria was Man of the Match as Real Madrid won the Champions League against Atletico in May 2014, but the Argentine was forced out following the arrival of James Rodriguez in the summer.
Sold to Manchester United in a €75 million deal, Di Maria was given the famous number 7 shirt at Old Trafford but struggled to make an impact and was sold to Paris Saint-Germain the following summer.
23. James Rodriguez
(Image credit: Getty Images) One of the stars of the 2014 World Cup where he finished as top scorer with six goals, James Rodriguez signed for Real Madrid in a €75 million deal from Monaco later that summer.
After a promising debut season at Real, the Colombian failed to hold down a first-team slot and was sent on a two-year loan to Bayern Munich before joining Everton in 2020.
22. Kevin De Bruyne
(Image credit: Getty Images) Kevin De Bruyne made just nine appearances for Chelsea before being sold to Wolfsburg in 2013, but returned to England after a successful spell in Germany.
The Belgian midfielder joined Manchester City for €76 million in a transfer which was questioned by many pundits, but went on to become one of the Premier League’s best ever players at the heart of Pep Guardiola’s great team and was key to the team’s treble triumph in 2022/23.
21. Kepa Arrizabalaga
(Image credit: Getty Images) Kepa Arrizabalaga became the most expensive goalkeeper in history when Chelsea paid Athletic Club €80 million for the Basque shot-stopper in 2018.
At the end of his first season, Kepa refused to come off in the League Cup final against Manchester City as Chelsea lost on penalties and was fined by the club, even though both he and manager Maurizio Sarri said it was a misunderstanding. The Spanish international struggled for form after that and was loaned to Real Madrid for the 2023/24 season.
20. Nicolas Pepe
(Image credit: Getty Images) Nicolas Pepe signed for Arsenal in a club-record deal for £72 million (€80M) from Lille in 2019, but the Ivory Coast winger struggled for consistency in north London.
After failing to hold down a first-team place under Mikel Arteta, Pepe spent a season on loan with Nice in 2022/23 and then signed with Turkish side Trabzonspor on a free transfer.
19. Lucas Hernandez
(Image credit: Getty Images) Bayern Munich broke their transfer record to sign France defender Lucas Hernandez from Atletico Madrid in 2019 for €80 million.
The World Cup winner went on to spend four seasons at the Allianz Arena, winning the Bundesliga in each of those. Hernandez then moved to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2023.
18. Luis Suarez
(Image credit: Getty Images) Luis Suarez joined Barcelona from Liverpool in an €81.72 million transfer in 2014, but the Uruguayan had to wait until late October for his debut due to a ban for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup.
Once he did, the Uruguayan quickly settled and went to form a formidable forward line alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar as Barça won the treble in his first season. He scored 59 goals in 2015/16 and 198 overall in 283 games before moving to Atletico Madrid in 2020.
17. Virgil van Dijk
(Image credit: Getty Images) Liverpool signed Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in January 2018 for a fee of £75 million (€84.65m) – a world record for a defender at the time.
The Dutch centre-back quickly became a key player for the Reds as Jurgen Klopp’s side won the Champions League in 2019 and a Premier League title the following year. One of the best defenders of his generation.
16. Romelu Lukaku
(Image credit: Getty Images) A day after Wayne Rooney left Manchester United to rejoin Everton, the Red Devils signed Romelu Lukaku from the Toffees for £75 million (€84.7m).
But the Belgian striker struggled for consistency at Old Trafford and despite hitting 42 goals in 96 games, he was sold to Inter after just two seasons at the club.
15. Matthijs de Ligt
(Image credit: Getty Images) After impressing for Ajax in their run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019, Matthijs de Ligt signed for Juventus in a deal worth €85.5 million.
The Dutch defender took time to adapt but ultimately impressed in his three seasons in Turin before leaving to join Bayern Munich in another big-money move in 2022.
14. Frenkie de Jong
(Image credit: Getty Images) Frenkie de Jong arrived at Barcelona amid much fanfare after starring in Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019, which included an impressive 4-1 win at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Following his €86 million move from the Amsterdam club, De Jong endured a difficult first season at Camp Nou, but later became a fan favourite and insisted on staying at Barça when the club wanted to sell him to Manchester United in 2022.
13. Harry Maguire
(Image credit: Getty Images) Harry Maguire became the world’s most expensive defender in July 2019 when he joined Manchester United from Leicester City in a deal worth around £80 million (€87m).
The Sheffield-born centre-back has faced heavy criticism from fans and the media since for his performances, but has still been picked on a consistent basis by England manager Gareth Southgate.
(Image credit: Getty Images) For months, Barcelona insisted they had signed Neymar for €17.1 million. Later, the club admitted that the total operation had in fact cost €88m.
That included a €40 million payment to the player’s parents and president Sandro Rosell ultimately resigned over irregularities in the transfer. On the pitch, Neymar was a hit for Barça and played a big role in the treble triumph in 2014/15. Two years later, though, he was off to Paris in an even more expensive transfer…
11. Gonzalo Higuain
(Image credit: Getty Images) Napoli fans were furious when Gonzalo Higuain left the club to join Juventus in a €90 million transfer in 2016.
The former Argentina striker scored 66 goals in 149 games for Juve across three seasons, with the 2018/19 campaign spent on loan at AC Milan and Chelsea. After departing in 2020 as a three-time Serie A winner, Higuain finished his career at Inter Miami.
10. Gareth Bale
(Image credit: Getty Images) Gareth Bale became the world’s most expensive player in 2013, surpassing Cristiano Ronaldo’s €94 million transfer as he joined Real Madrid in a €101m deal from Tottenham.
The Welsh winger enjoyed huge highs at the Spanish side, scoring memorable goals in big finals – including two in the 2018 win over Liverpool in Kyiv and an impressive winner versus Barcelona in the Copa del Rey showpiece in 2014. But he also faced severe criticism for his fitness issues and perceived preference for Wales games. He left in 2022 as a five-time Champions League winner and retired the following January.
9. Paul Pogba
(Image credit: Getty Images) Paul Pogba had been part of Manchester United’s youth academy between 2009 and 2012 and made a handful of appearances for the Red Devils in 2011/12, but the French midfielder left to join Juventus when his contract expired.
Four years later, United bought him back for £89.3 million (€105m), but the midfielder seldom seemed to hit the same heights at Old Trafford as he had with Juve or France in their 2018 World Cup win. After six seasons, he returned to Turin for a second spell, but was sidelined by serious injury and later a drugs ban.
8. Eden Hazard
(Image credit: Getty Images) Eden Hazard was linked with a move to Real Madrid for years and in 2018, the Belgian attacker did finally join Los Blancos.
But the €115 million transfer turned out to be a disaster as Hazard arrived overweight, suffered a series of injuries and never rediscovered his Chelsea form. After just 76 appearances and seven goals, he retired in 2023.
7. Cristiano Ronaldo
(Image credit: Getty Images) After helping Real Madrid win a third Champions League title in a row in 2018, Cristiano Ronaldo shocked fans by announcing his time might be up at the Spanish side.
Sure enough, it was. Ronaldo joined Juventus in a transfer totalling €117 million and went on to spend three seasons in Turin before returning to Manchester United in 2021. The Portuguese scored 101 goals for Juve and won two Serie A titles with the Bianconeri.
6. Antoine Griezmann
(Image credit: Getty Images) Antoine Griezmann signed for Barcelona for €120 million in 2019 after five successful seasons at Atletico Madrid.
The French forward’s time at Camp Nou was less impressive and he returned to Atletico after just two years – initially on loan in a move made permanent for a reported €20m in 2022.
5. Joao Felix
(Image credit: Getty Images) Portuguese attacker Joao Felix became one of the most expensive players in football history with his move from Benfica to Atletico Madrid in 2019.
Atletico paid an astonishing €127 million for the talented 19-year-old, but sent him out on loan to Chelsea and then Barcelona in 2023 after he failed to live up to his obvious potential in Madrid.
4. Ousmane Dembele
(Image credit: Getty Images) Signed by Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund in a €135 million deal after Neymar’s move to Paris Saint-Germain, Ousmane Dembele excited fans early on.
But the winger’s time at Camp Nou was interrupted by injuries and indiscipline. And just when it looked as if he was ready to put all of that behind him and become a key player at Barça for the long term, he left to sign for Paris Saint-Germain in 2023.
3. Philippe Coutinho
(Image credit: Getty Images) Philippe Coutinho was signed by Barcelona in the summer of 2017 as a replacement for Neymar, along with Ousmane Dembele, following his compatriot’s shock move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Coutinho arrived in a €135 million deal from Liverpool, but struggled to adapt at Camp Nou and went on loan to Bayern Munich, where he scored twice off the bench in an amazing 8-2 win over Barça in 2020. The Brazilian left for Aston Villa in 2021.
2. Kylian Mbappe
(Image credit: Getty Images) Kylian Mbappe was wanted by a number of Europe’s elite clubs after leading Monaco to the Ligue 1 title in 2016/17 at just 19 years old.
Mbappe ultimately chose Paris Saint-Germain and moved to the Parc des Princes initially on loan, with a €180 million transfer completed the following summer. He also won the World Cup with France in 2018 and is PSG’s all-time top scorer.
(Image credit: Getty Images) Neymar’s €222 million move to Paris Saint-Germain stunned Barcelona in 2017 – and sent shockwaves through the football world.
Just a few months earlier, the Brazilian had masterminded one of the greatest comebacks in football history as Barça overturned a 4-0 deficit with an epic 6-1 win against PSG at Camp Nou. The French club responded by paying his release clause, leaving the Catalan club powerless to prevent his exit. Neymar scored over 100 goals in six seasons at the Parc des Princes and won a string of trophies, but was unable to lead the club to glory in Europe. He left for Saudi Pro League side Al-Hilal in 2023.
*All figures via Transfermarkt