Top 10 biggest spenders in the transfer market since 2000

Social media and the back pages have been rife with transfer news over the past few weeks – dominated by similar names each week – but the question mark looming over the entirety of the window was when would it open and close?

It was revealed yesterday that the Premier League and EFL intend to open the summer transfer windows for ten weeks from July 27th to October 5th (pending FIFA approval), followed by a domestic window opening immediately after until the 16th.

In light of the news, we decided to take a look back at the ten biggest spenders in the transfer market since the turn of the millennium, ranked from lowest to highest, according to Transfermarket. 

 

  1. Atlético Madrid – €1.35bn

Transfers – 331

Attacking acquisitions – typically replacements for big exits – have been at the forefront of Atlético’s transfer market strategy in recent years.

Last summer’s acquisition of Joäo Felix for €126m played a significant role in their surge up this table past the likes of AC Milan and Spurs, but there are a number of other significant transfers which laid the groundwork.

Thomas Lemar, Diego Costa, Álvaro Morata and Antoine Greizmann make up the rest of their top five all-time most expensive signings, followed by Falcao, Jackson Martinez, Vitolo, Marcos Llorente and Kévin Gameiro.

  1. Liverpool – €1.48bn

Transfers – 369

A much more varied pool of players positional-wise than Atlético but once again the majority coming in the past few seasons, with the vast majority of their biggest moves being major successes.

Virgil van Dijk, by far the most expensive player on the list, and Alisson make up over £130m between them – arguably a worthwhile investment given their impact on the team in general and the club’s successes in the Champions League and Premier League of late.

Attacking star trio Mo Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino all feature in the club’s top ten most expensive signings too. 

Much is still to be seen in Naby Keïta and whether he will live up to the significant transfer fee invested in him, but Christian Benteke and Andy Carroll appear as arguably the worst value signings in Liverpool’s list of transfer dealings over £30m.

 

  1. PSG – €1.55bn

Transfers – 266

An expected inclusion in the top ten without any initial research given the £330m-plus investment in attacking stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappé. 

Edinson Cavani, Ángel Di María, Mauro Icardi and David Luiz make up the next four, commanding well over £40m each.

With only 266 transfers, PSG boast by far the least outside the top 3 with the next closest being the team in 6th place on 316, emphasising their meteoric rise up the table of late. 

 

  1. Inter Milan – €1.58bn

Transfers – 790

Biggest spenders with by far the most acquisitions in this time frame – €1.58bn on a whopping 790 transfers.

The spread of transfers over time is much more varied than the other teams so far, with the likes of Hernan Crespo and Francesco Toldo at the start of the millennium; Diego Milito and Ricardo Quaresma towards the start of the last decade & Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi and Joäo Mário much more recently.

 

  1. Manchester United – €1.78bn

Transfers – 316

It was only a matter of time until their name came up, right?

For the most part, Manchester United’s significant investments have been made in the last few seasons on the likes of Paul Pogba (having previously been on their books as a youth player), Harry Maguire and Romelu Lukaku, but they, like Inter Milan previously, have a number of early millennium acquisitions still featuring prominently. 

Rio Ferdinand, Juan Sebastián Verón and Wayne Rooney are among the names from earlier in the millennium still featuring in their top 20 signings. 

It would be fair to describe the most expensive signings as a mixed bag in terms of success, with many trophies being won between them but very few really living up to their potential. New recruit Bruno Fernandes, however, already looks a steal at just under £50m – especially when compared to the likes of Di Maria and Henrikh Mkhitaryan who joined the Red Devils with similar levels of hype previously.

  1. Juventus – €1.90bn

Transfers – 761

Home of the former most expensive player in the world – Crisitano Ronaldo. 

The Serie A champions have invested significantly of late to dramatically impact their place on the standings. Most significantly were Arthur, Matthijs de Ligt and Gonzalo Higuaín who combined for over £220m.

A number of early millennium signings – Gianluigi Buffon, Pavel Nedved, Lilian Thuram and Émerson – all feature within the Italian giants’ top 20 signings of all time. 

 

  1. Manchester City – €2.05bn

Transfers – 409

Over €2bn across 409 transfers and the overwhelming majority of note coming in the past decade.

Unlike many of the previous on this list, Manchester City’s record is not so extortionate (at least not topping £100m like a few) – with Kevin De Bruyne’s move from VfL Wolfsburg in the 2015/16 season for £68m topping their list. However, City have racked up a list of 18 players commanding north of £30m transfer fees and 13 of those generating £40m-plus fees. 

Their long list of expensive signings have predominantly been from Champions League regulars, bar the odd outlier within the top 20 in Wilfried Bony from Swansea and Gabriel Jesus from Palmeiras.

 

  1. Barcelona – €2.06bn

Transfers – 195

A club that could be foreseen as one that will need to invest even further once Lionel Messi eventually hangs up his boots, potentially thrusting them into the top two given the calibre of player required to fill the void left by his departure. 

In spite of the long list of stars that have played for the Catalan club over the years, it is Philippe Coutinho that currently holds the title of Barcelona’s record signing for north of £130m. Ousmane Dembélé and Antoine Griezmann join the Brazilian in the £100m-plus club.

Marc Overmars, Javier Saviola and Ronaldinho all feature within the top 20 as the highest valued transfers pre-2005. David Villa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dani Alves are the most expensive from the next five years featuring within the top 20 still. 

Barcelona boast the fewest number of transfers across the entire list with 195, averaging out at over €10m per player.

  1. Real Madrid – €2.14bn

Transfers – 201

It is quite the feat to be so high on the list and not have named a player over £100m but Real Madrid’s highest still stands as Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard at £90m, as per Transfermarkt, closely followed by Cristiano Ronaldo.

Like Manchester City in fourth, Real boast 13 players signed over £40m each and 21 (2 more than the Sky Blues) fetching over £30m. The vast majority are within the past decade, but the likes of Zinédine Zidane, Luís Figo, Ronaldo and David Beckham from the start of the millennium still feature within the club’s top 15 most expensive players. 

There has been significant investment in the past two windows on youth, with the likes of Luka Jovic, Éder Militäo, Rodrygo and Vinícius Júnior all ranking in the club’s top 12 most expensive signings of all time. 

 

  1. Chelsea – €2.16bn

Transfers – 471

Apart from their record signing Kepa, there is a visible centre forward and centre midfield focus in Chelsea’s most expensive signings – most notably featuring Álvaro Morata (for the second time on this list), Fernando Torres and Jorginho at over £50m each.

Chelsea only boast seven players over £40m compared to Real’s 13 but the Blues boast well over double the number of transfers within the same time frame – 471 to 201 – and 34 commanding over £20m each. 

Some of the expensive recruits have been much more successful than others, but Fernando Torres will go down as one of the highest profile transfer misses of all time, netting 45 times in 172 appearances for the club after a £50m outlay. Fernando’s fellow compatriot Álvaro Morata also struggled to make many fans in London, netting 24 times in 72 games before departing the club.

The club’s hierarchy will be hoping their new latest pricey striker addition in Timo Werner nets a much greater return for the club.

Which club do you think could break into the top 10 next and which club within the top 10 could you see leapfrogging Chelsea next? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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