January means that is the time for soccer transfers. The winter window isn’t as huge as the summer, as it is shorter but soccer fans are excited about players moving clubs.
So far in the transfer window, it has been quiet. No big soccer transfers have been made yet and there have been mainly smaller transfers and loans in Europe. Some notable ones that have happened are striker Timo Werner being loaned from the Bundesliga’s RB Leipzig to Tottenham Hotspur and former Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson leaving Al-Ettifaq of the Saudi Pro League six months after signing there. He signed with Ajax in the Netherlands.
Since it is the offseason, MLS clubs are making moves this month including the Vancouver Whitecaps, who shouldn’t be done after signing two MLS free agents.
As the years have gone by, soccer transfers have gotten bigger and bigger. Nowadays, players are often going for fees that are the same amount of money as your local lottery. But soccer, like any sport, is a business and owners of the big clubs help pay big money for star players.
Let’s look at the top 10 most expensive soccer transfers of all time. We are using Transfermarkt’s list and the prices are in Euros and will determine whether they were a success or a flop.
#10: Declan Rice from West Ham United to Arsenal in July of 2023 for 116.60 million Euros
Declan Rice joined West Ham United’s academy at the age of 14 after being released by Chelsea’s academy. The persistent and determined defensive midfielder rose through the academy ranks.
Rice made his debut on the final day of the 2016-17 season against Burnley. He then played his first full season with the Hammers the following year. He eventually became captain of West Ham and was a big part of their Europa Conference League title win in 2023. That was the club’s first trophy in 43 years.
He even got call-ups for the England National Team and was part of the squad that was runner-up in Euro 2020 and the squad that lost to France in the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup.
Rice became praised for his work ethic and tackling abilities. It was clear that he was going to leave West Ham for a top Premier League side. For years, he was linked to clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.
In the summer of 2023, there was a race between Manchester City and Arsenal for his signature. The latter won and Rice became Arsenal’s most expensive signing.
So far, it’s been mostly good for the 25-year-old in North London. Rice has been a key part of Arsenal’s midfield and brought the Gooners early season success. However, Rice and Arsenal have struggled as of late and currently sit in fourth in the Premier League table. In December, they were first. That goes to show that Arsenal still have a lot of work to do if they want to win the Premier League. Rice is just one piece of the puzzle.
The verdict: Too early to call
#9: Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid to Juventus for 117 million Euros in July 2018
Cristiano Ronaldo is viewed by many as the greatest men’s soccer player of all time. He became the most expensive player of all time when he joined Real Madrid from Man United in 2009 for 94 million Euros.
It was at Real Madrid where he experienced the most success. Ronaldo won four Ballon D’ors, three European Golden Shoes, four Champions Leagues, two La Liga titles and so much more. He became Real Madrid’s all-time leading scorer and the all-time leading scorer of the Champions League.
But in the summer of 2018, Ronaldo left Real Madrid mainly due to a strained relationship with club president Florentino Perez. He signed for Italian giants Juventus and was the most expensive player over 30 (He was 33 at the time) and it was an Italian transfer record. It was the biggest out of all soccer transfers of he summer.
Ronaldo continued to score goals and do his signature “SIU” celebration in Turin. He scored 101 goals with Juventus and won two Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia and two Suppercoppa Italias. The Portuguese superstar was the Serie A player of the year in 2019 and 2020 and was the top scorer in the 2020-21 season.
Ronaldo was successful at Juventus. But there was one thing missing: The Champions League.
Juventus has not won the UCL since 1996. The main reason they signed Ronaldo was for him to lead them to the promised land. They got knocked out in the quarter-finals in Ronaldo’s first season and in the round of 16 in the next two.
As successful as Ronaldo was at Juventus, they relied on him way too much and failed to build a good team around him. In the long term, signing Ronaldo marked the beginning of the slow, gradual decline of the Juventus dynasty. He left Juventus to return to Man United in August of 2021 during the wild month of soccer transfers.
The verdict: Success
#8: Jack Grealish from Aston Villa to Manchester City for 117.50 million Euros in August 2021
Speaking of August 2021, it was a big month for soccer transfers. One of those involved England international Jack Grealish.
Grealish joined the Aston Villa academy at six years old. In 2014, he made his debut for the club coming on as a substitute for Ryan Bertrand. That was a 4-0 loss against his future club, Manchester City.
Grealish rose to the ranks at Aston Villa and stayed with the club when they got relegated to the English Championship in 2016. The three seasons in the second division were beneficial to Grealish as he slowly matured and eventually became captain. He was part of the Championship PFA Team of the Year for 2018-19.
Aston Villa were promoted to the Premier League after the 2018-19 season and Grealish continued to gain individual success. That included winning Aston Villa player of the season in 2019-20.
When Man City bought Grealish, it was the most expensive British soccer transfer of all time. (At the time) Grealish had a slow start and he even admitted it was tough to adapt to Man City. Despite scoring just three goals and getting three assists in league play his first season at the Etihad, he helped Man City win the Premier League title.
His next season was even better as he had a total of 12 goal contributions in the Premier League and won the Treble (Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League) with Man City. Grealish then went on a massive drinking bender after winning the Champions League which prompted many memes on the Internet.
Grealish has proven to be one of the world’s best wingers with his excellent dribbling and ball control.
This season Grealish and Man City have already won the UEFA Super Cup, FA Community Shield and FIFA Club World Cup. They are also contenders to win the Premier League and Champions League again. Grealish has proven to be a key part of Pep Guardiola’s dominant side. Manchester City are always a huge side when it comes to soccer transfers, and Grealish has worked out just fine.
The verdict: Success
#7: Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid to FC Barcelona for 120 million Euros in July 2019
When FC Barcelona signed Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid, they knew they were signing one of the best players in the world. H
Griezmann won the Europa League with Atletico Madrid in 2018 and won the World Cup with France a few months later. In 2015-16, he was named La Liga’s Player Of The Year. That year, Griezmann finished third in Ballon d’Or voting behind Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He also finished third in 2018 behind Luca Modric and Ronaldo.
There was lots to like about Griezmann. He is a versatile forward who can play striker, both wings and even as an attacking midfielder. The Frenchman is a goal scorer, and a creator, and brings a ton of technical skills, a high work rate and solid soccer IQ. To sum him up, Griezmann is a jack-of-all-trades attacker.
At Atletico Madrid, He scored at least 15 goals in his five seasons in league play. He was their star player, the face of the club. Atletico Madrid fans felt betrayed when Griezmann signed for one of their biggest rivals.
But at Barcelona, he was a shadow of his former self. In his five seasons at Atletico, Griezmann had 123 goal contributions in league play. At Barcelona, he only had 33.
Part of the reason was that Griezmann played on the left wing with Luis Suarez and Messi. But Griezmann was more comfortable on the right wing or as a striker. Barca fans were hoping Griezmann, Messi and Suarez would gel together but the chemistry never materialized. Griezmann’s favoured position was occupied by Messi which didn’t help. Despite his technical ability, Griezmann was never a pacy player and he struggled with cutting inside and playmaking from the left wing.
It was clear it wasn’t a fit. After his first season at Camp Nou, Barcelona was forced to let Suarez leave on a free to accommodate him. To make things worse, Suarez signed for Atletico Madrid and helped them win their first La Liga title since 2014. That is a trophy that Griezmann is still yet to win.
But Griezmann’s second season at Barcelona wasn’t much better. Sure, he had 20 goal contributions in 2020-21, which was seven more than the previous year. He had his moments which included two goals and an assist in Barcelona’s 5-3 comeback win over Granada in the Copa Del Rey quarterfinal (Barcelona would go on to win the trophy in which Griezmann scored in a 4-0 win over Atletico Bilbao in the final) but it was clear, that things weren’t working out.
In August of 2021, Griezmann was loaned back to Atletico Madrid. His first season back there saw him only get seven goal contributions in league play, which was the lowest of his career. However, he scored big goals against Liverpool and AC Milan in the Champions League. Atletico Madrid extended the loan for the 2022-23 season and made the transfer permanent in October of 2022. They paid Barcelona 20 million Euros. 100 million less than what he was originally sold for. Talk about shrewd business from Atletico.
It’s safe to say Griezmann is back to being one of the best in the world. The 2022-23 season saw him put up 15 goal contributions in La Liga, the highest of his career to date. With 16 assists, he had the most in La Liga and was tied with Messi and Man City’s Kevin De Bruyne for the most assists across the top five European leagues.
On January 10, Griezmann passed the late Luis Aragonés with his 174th goal (in all competitions) for Atletico Madrid and became their all-time leading scorer. He currently has 11 goals and three assists in league play this season. Griezmann has been playing alongside Alvaro Morata as a striker duo and that system suits him much better.
Griezmann should have never joined Barcelona. He came into a system that he didn’t fit in. He was the right signing at the wrong time for them. At Camp Nou, he was known for being underwhelming and looking like a homeless person with his hair grown out. But it seems Atletico Madrid truly is where belongs.
The Verdict: Flop
#6: Enzo Fernandez from Benfica to Chelsea for 121 million Euros in January of 2023
Enzo Fernandez’s rise was meteoric.
He rose through the ranks of the academy of River Plate, one of the top teams in Argentina. On March 4, 2020, the young central midfielder made his debut for River Plate in a 3-0 loss to LDU Quito. The following season, he was loaned out to fellow Argentinian Primera Division side Defensa y Justicia. There, Fernandez impressed and helped Defensa y Justicia win the 2020 Copa Sudamericana.
Fernandez returned to River Plate for the 2021-22 season and became a starter. He scored eight goals and six assists in just 19 games and it was clear that a European club would come calling sooner or later. That club turned out to be Portuguese giants Benfica and they signed Fernandez for 10 million Euros. The Argentinan impressed early on winning the Premiera League Player Of The Month award in August and again in October and November.
But it was at the 2022 World Cup where Fernandez’s stock (or stonks as I like to say) grew. He was a key part in Argentina’s triumph winning the tournament’s Best Young Player award. Many were wowed by his dribbling and long and short passes.
Chelsea came calling in January of 2023, but Benfica refused to sell him for less than his 121 million Euro release clause. After hours of negotiations on Deadline Day, Chelsea paid the massive fee and the 22-year-old left Benfica after just six months for West London. Fernandez is Chelsea’s record signing and is the biggest transfer by a British club.
Almost a year later, Fernandez’s time at Chelsea has been met with a lot of scrutiny. That is mainly due to his transfer fee and the fact Chelsea has not achieved success since his arrival. They finished 12th in the Premier League in 2022-23 and manager Graham Potter was sacked in April after just eight months in charge. Chelsea legend Frank Lampard was brought in as interim manager but only won one out of his 11 matches in charge. Fernandez’s fellow countryman Mauricio Pochettino was named manager in the summer. Chelsea are currently 10th in the Premier League and many fans are calling for Pochettino to be sacked.
There were times when Fernandez looked underwhelming. It doesn’t help that he has dealt with injuries and Pochettino has been playing him higher up the pitch which has been limiting his abilities. However, he has shown how important he is to Chelsea. Fernandez is currently in the 97th percentile in terms of progressive passes according to his FootballReference profile.
Fernandez’s passing has given Chelsea lots of service…but the forwards often miss their chances or screw it up before they take the shot. What Chelsea and Fernandez obviously need is a clinical striker.
Fernandez has formed a partnership in the midfield with 22-year-old Moises Caicedo, who joined Chelsea from Brighton and Hove Albion for 116 million Euros. Caicedo is a defensive midfielder and with him next to Fernandez, he doesn’t have to worry about tackling and ball-winning and can focus on playmaking.
It is easy to forget that Fernandez is still young. At just 23, he has accomplished so much already but he is entering his prime. Fernandez will be a huge part of Chelsea for years to come and this is just the beginning.
The verdict: Too early to call
#5: João Félix from Benfica to Atletico Madrid for 127.20 million Euros in July of 2019
We talked about Benfica and Atletico Madrid in the last two entries, so it is fitting they both come together for this one.
João Félix was a very exciting prospect and had the potential to be a world-class player. It was apparent when he joined the Benfica academy transferring from Portugese rivals Porto. Félix rose rapidly through the youth ranks and was on the first team in the 2018-19 season. The Portuguese player can play striker, both wings and even as an attacking midfielder. Félix brings a lot of skill and creativity and can score goals and assist them.
His first season as a pro soccer player was a massive success. Benfica won the Primera Liga and Félix was a huge part of it as he scored 15 goals (Tied for fourth in the league) and managed nine assists. He even scored a hat trick against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League becoming the youngest player to score a hat trick in that competition at just 19 years old. Félix was named the Primeira Liga’s Best Young Player of The Year and would win the Golden Boy award. That is a prestigious award given to the best player in 2021 in Europe.
It turns out that was Félix’s only season at Benfica. Many top European clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Juventus and Barcelona were interested in him. However, Atletico Madrid got their hands on him.
Given how high the transfer fee was for a player who played just one season of first-team football, the expectations for Félix were high.
He managed six goals and one assist in his first season in Spain. That wasn’t bad but he had a tough time fitting into Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone’s system. He was played as a right winger or a second striker and Simeone wanted him to press which is not one of his traits. Félix would show flashes of brilliance but would often have dry spells. That would become a theme.
The following season, Atletico Madrid won La Liga. But Félix would struggle with injuries, COVID-19 and inconsistency. He was also outshone by Suarez, Ángel Correa, Yannick Carrasco and Thomas Lemar in the attack. Félix managed seven goals and five assists in La Liga but it was clear he was not living up to expectations.
More injuries followed for Félix in the 2021-22 season and his relationship with Simeone was starting to deteriorate. But he managed 10 goals and 6 assists in all competitions and was named Atletico Madrid’s Player Of the Season.
2022-23 saw Félix and Simeone’s relationship get worse. The likes of Griezmann and Morata saw him become an afterthought in attack. Félix would mainly come off the bench and not start as much and when he did play, he did not look effective. It was clear he wanted to leave Atletico Madrid. However, they only wanted to sell the former Golden Boy winner for a massive fee. But no club was willing to pay big money for Félix. However, one did but that was a loan move and that was Chelsea.
In January of 2023, despite links with Arsenal, The Blues paid eleven million pounds for Félix’s six-month loan. He looked good in his debut against Fulham as he carried the attack. But he was sent off after 58 minutes for a reckless tackle on Ken Tete as Chelsea lost 1-0 to their West London rivals. Félix was a bright spot in a disastrous season for Chelsea as he managed four goals but, you guessed it, he looked good at some times and very frustrating during other times. Perhaps Félix’s best moment at Chelsea was this hilarious video of him trying to pronounce EA Sports.
Pochettino and the Chelsea board both agreed to not sign Félix permanently. It made sense. Other than his inconsistency, Chelsea had other plans as they brought in Christopher Nkunku, Nicolas Jackson and Cole Palmer for their attack.
But Félix did not want to go back to Atletico Madrid and he was not shy about it. He got into a heated argument with Atlético sporting director Andrea Berta and was sent to train with the reserve team. Then, in an interview with transfer insider Fabrizio Romano, he stated he wanted to join Barcelona and he got his wish on Deadline Day.
Félix has been better at Barcelona. He is starting more games and has been showing off his creativity from the left wing. It’s been a disappointing season for Barcelona as they currently sit in fourth in La Liga but Félix has been a bright spot.
He was not the player he was at Benfica when he signed for Atletico Madrid and still isn’t quite there at Barcelona. The move to Atletico was too early for him and he should’ve stayed another year to develop his game. There is no denying Félix has talent but he doesn’t use it right. For example, he sometimes makes poor decisions like trying to take on three defenders instead of passing. It looks like he is reviving his career at Barcelona but there is a lot of work still needed to be done.
The verdict: Not bad enough to be called a flop but not good enough to be a success. Disappointment.
#4: Ousmane Dembélé from Borussia Dortmund to FC Barcelona for 135 million Euros in August 2017
Borussia Dortmund have had some great young talent over the years. They were bought at cheap prices and sold for gargantuan ones. Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho and Jude Bellingham come to mind.
Dortmund also had Ousmane Dembélé. They bought him from Ligue 1 side Rennes for 35 million pounds in May of 2016. The French winger was one of the world’s brightest young talents. He was great with both his left and right foot, was fast, agile and was a clinical finisher.
Dembélé was successful at Dortmund. He had six goals and 11 assists in the Bundesliga and helped Dortmund finish third. Dembélé assisted Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal in the DFB-Pokal semi-final against Bayern Munich and scored the winner in the 74th minute. He would score in Dortmund’s 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the final. Dembélé was named to the Bundesliga Team of the Season and was named the Rookie of the Year.
However, that was Dembélé’s only season in Germany. Barcelona came calling as they needed to replace Neymar. They signed Dembélé to the monstrous fee stated above.
Now this was a huge gamble mainly because they paid a large amount for a player who only had two seasons of professional soccer. But Barcelona was betting on his potential and hoping he would be the heir to Neymar. Then Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said Dembélé was better than Neymar at Barcelona in 2019.
But that was a preposterous statement because Dembélé was not the same player he was at Dortmund at Camp Nou. There is one massive reason: Injuries.
Before joining Barcelona, Dembélé never got injured. But after he joined Barcelona, he missed a total of 141 matches for club and country, His hamstring was the biggest problem. Dembélé was out from September 17, 2017, to January 1, 2018, because of his hamstring. He would also miss the start of the 2019-20 season because of it and injured it again in February and missed the rest of the season.
On the pitch, Dembélé showed flashes but that was mostly it. He managed 82 goal contributions in all competitions for Barcelona which isn’t bad at all. But he was clearly not the heir to Neymar or worth the money they paid him for.
In July of 2023, Dembélé left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain. The French giants paid 50 million Euros for him. So far, Dembélé has just one goal and seven assists. He’s once again showing glimpses and the good news is that he hasn’t gotten injured yet. Perhaps, he will revive his career at PSG, who knows?
But Dembélé spent more time injured than on the pitch at Barcelona, so he was one of their worst signings.
The verdict: Flop
However, there was someone worse than him and Griezmann…
#3: Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool to Barcelona for 135 million Euros
Philippe Coutinho was one of those players that were fun to watch no matter which team you cheer for.
The Brazilian signed for Liverpool for 8.5 million Euros in January 2013. He instantly became a hit with Liverpool fans. Coutinho was called “The Little Magician” by the Liverpool faithful.
He did indeed create magic for Liverpool. The attacking midfielder/winger amazed fans with his dribbling, agility and speed. Coutinho easily found his teammates in the box with his excellent crosses and often cut inside to score goals himself. He also scored many goals from free kicks.
Coutinho was part of the PFA Team of the Year in 2014-15 and was named Liverpool’s Player of the Season by both the players and fans that year and the next. Liverpool was in a transition period at the time and club legend Steven Gerrard left for LA Galaxy of MLS and Jurgen Klopp was brought in to replace Brendan Rodgers who was fired in October 2015. Despite this, Coutinho shone and was seen as the player who would lead them through the transition and be the player of the future as he was 23 years old at the time Rodgers was sacked.
In the summer of 2017, Coutinho was heavily linked with a move to Barcelona. But Liverpool did not want to sell him and even rejected three bids from the Catalonian club and Coutinho even submitted a transfer request.
The little magician eventually got his move to Barcelona in January 2018. He even called it his dream move. But the dream turned out to be a nightmare for Coutinho.
He started decently with eight goals and five assists in league play and helped Barcelona win the La Liga title. But it was clear the magic was running out.
Coutinho had big shoes to fill. Neymar left for PSG the previous summer and after the 2017-18 season, Andres Iniesta left Barcelona after 16 years and signed with Vissel Kobe in Japan. However, Coutinho was not like any of them.
Then manager Ernesto Valverde put Coutinho on the left wing because that was the position he mostly played in at Liverpool until Mohamed Salah signed with them in 2017. But at Liverpool, Coutinho played in a 4-4-3 under Klopp while Valverde played a 4-4-2 at Barcelona and played on the right wing. Valverde went back to the 4-4-3 for the 2018-19 season and put Coutinho back on the left wing. However, he was to fill the void of Neymar by playing more inwards instead of out wide which never suited him.
Like Griezmann a few years later, he went from being the main man to part of the supporting cast. Also like Greizmann, he could not fit in with Suarez and Messi.
Klopp really wanted Coutinho to stay at Liverpool and reportedly said to him:
“Stay here and they will end up building a statue in your honour. Go somewhere else, to Barcelona, to Bayern Munich, to Real Madrid, and you will be just another player. Here, you can be something more.”
Coutinho should have listened to Klopp’s words. Barcelona was Messi’s club and everything ran through him. It also didn’t help that Barcelona was on the decline: Neymar left, Iniesta eventually left, Xavi and Dani Alves left and Champions League-winning manager Luis Enrique left.
The magic was gone for Coutinho. He was not the same player he was at Liverpool and would look lost and timid on the pitch. Often, he would disappear for long stretches or try to do too much with the ball. Coutinho’s confidence shrunk, especially due to the pressure from fans and the media over his transfer fee. In 2017-18, he had 19 goal contributions in all competitions. The little magician had put on a disappearing act that seemed to have never ended.
As for Liverpool, they used the funds from Coutinho’s sale to bring in Alison Becker, Virgil Van Dijk and Fabinho. They were key parts in Liverpool’s Champions League win in 2019 (They famously beat Coutinho and Barcelona in the semi-finals) and their first title of the Premier League era a year later.
In the summer of 2019, Coutinho joined Bayern Munich on a one-year loan. Under Hansi Flick, he was decent. Coutinho helped Bayern Munich win the Continental Treble: The Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League. He managed 20 goal contributions including two goals in the infamous 8-2 win over Barcelona in the Champions League.
Coutinho returned to Barcelona the following season but continued to struggle under Ronald Koeman and later Xavi. In January of 2022, he was sent to Aston Villa on a six-month loan and it eventually became a permanent transfer and left Barcelona will a total of only 39 goal contributions. He managed five goals and eight assists in all competitions during his loan spell and showed flashes of the player he once was. The following season, he only managed one goal in all competitions. Yes, that’s right, one goal in 923 total minutes.
In September of 2023, Coutinho was sent out on loan again. This time it was to Al-Duhail of the Qatari Stars League. He has two goals and six appearances for Al-Duhail at the time of this writing.
To say Coutinho was a failure at Barcelona is an understatement. It was a massive failure but that would still be an understatement. The player who once was a world-class player and called The Little Magician at Liverpool has fallen off so much that he now plays in Qatar seven years after leaving Liverpool. It is sad to see and write about.
He never fit in at Barcelona. In fact, he should’ve stayed at Liverpool. He couldn’t handle the pressure and the systems of Barcelona and he couldn’t replicate his Liverpool magic. To make things worse for Barcelona, the transfers of Coutinho, Greizmann Dembélé and many others put Barcelona into financial turmoil. As a result, they were forced to let Messi leave on a free transfer in 2021.
The verdict: Flop
#2: Kylian Mbappe from AS Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain for 180 million Euros
From a young age, Kylian Mbappe was a special player.
He first played at AS Bondy as a kid where his father Wilfried coached. Even at just six years old, he looked like a star player in the making. Mbappe later joined the Clairfontaine Academy, which is a famous soccer academy in France that focuses on training young talent. Many other players who graduated from Clairfontaine include Theirry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, Blaise Matuidi and Raphael Guerreiro. He is a complete forward who displays elite speed, agility and finishing.
Mbappe’s talent was put on notice by top European clubs. Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool wanted to sign him for their academies. When Mbappe was 11, he was invited by Real Madrid to visit their facilities and train with their under-12s. When he was 14, Chelsea invited him to play for their youth team against Charlton Atheltic. That same year, he signed with Ligue 1’s AS Monaco’s academy and rose through their youth ranks.
Mbappe made his first team debut on December 2, 2015, against SM Caen at just 16 years old. He was Monaco’s youngest debutant surpassing Henry.
The 2016-17 season was successful for both Mbappe and Monaco as he managed 32 goal contributions across all competitions. Monaco beat Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund to reach the Champions League semi-finals where they eventually lost to Juventus. Monaco also surprisingly won their first Ligue 1 title since 2000 ending PSG’s five-year reign. Mbappe would also win the Golden Boy Award that year,
But in the summer of 2017, PSG is where Mbappe went. Mbappe signed for his hometown club as the most expensive teenager of all time and the most expensive domestic transfer of all time.
At PSG, Mbappe has won five Ligue 1 titles, four Coup De Frances, and two (now defunct) Coupe de la Ligues. He has been named the Ligue 1 Player of the Year four times and has established himself as the face of PSG and one of the best players in the world. In seven seasons at PSG, he currently has 332 goal contributions.
He also won the 2018 World Cup with France, including scoring in the final against Croatia at just 19. Mbappe was been widely seen to be the best player in the world once Messi and Ronaldo retire.
But there is one thing Mbappe has not won yet: The Champions League. Even before Mbappe, PSG was notorious for crashing out of the Champions League early and still do with him. The closest they ever got to winning the Champions League was losing the 2020 final to Bayern Munich.
As good as Mbappe has been for PSG, his ego has skyrocketed and it has been a big reason why PSG has been a dysfunctional club. Mbappe has been linked heavily with a move to Real Madrid for what feels like forever. Perhaps summer 2024 is when it finally happens? His contract will run out and he could leave PSG on a free.
The verdict: Success
#1: Neymar from FC Barcelona to PSG for 222 million Euros
Out of all soccer transfers will likely never be topped. Almost seven years later, Neymar’s move to PSG is the most expensive transfer of all time.
Dating back to his days as a teenager in the Santos academy, it was clear that Neymar JR was one of soccer’s brightest young stars. Primarily a winger, Neymar’s dribbling, passing, foot tricks, touches and goals have brought fans out of their seats for years. He looked like a future Ballon d’Or winner in the making.
The Brazilian made the move to Barcelona in May of 2013. He was a massive success there as he, Messi and Suarez formed the famous MSN trio and they led Barcelona to the continental treble (La Liga, Copa Del Rey and of course, the Champions League) in the 2014-15 season.
But MSN lasted only three seasons and Neymar wanted to challenge himself. As good as he was at Barcelona, he was always in the shadow of Messi. So in the summer of 2017, Neymar made the big money move to Paris.
He did enjoy success there. Neymar won six Ligue 1 titles, three Coupe De Frances and two Coupe de la Ligues. In his six seasons at PSG, Neymar made 185 goal contributions and was named the Ligue 1 Player of the Year for the 2017-18 season.
But as successful as Neymar was, there was controversy surrounding him in the French capital. He was often injured and missed 119 matches for PSG over six years. Neymar would often miss big matches, especially around February or March when PSG would play in the Champions League knockouts.
Neymar’s professionalism and attitude have been criticized throughout his career but there was lots of it when he was at PSG. For instance, he would often be seen partying late at night or playing late night poker and fans and media have questioned his commitment to PSG. After PSG lost in the first leg to Bayern Munich in the Champions League round of 16 in February of 2023, Neymar was spotted at a Paris McDonalds and participating in a poker tournament the day after the game. Of course, PSG fans were furious and many wanted him to leave the club.
They were so fed up, that they would boo him and Messi during games. Some fans even showed up to his house and chanted: “Neymar, get out!”
In the summer of 2023, they got their wish. Neymar was linked to clubs such as Chelsea, Man United, and Barcelona and was even linked with a move to MLS. But the talented Brazilian signed with Al Hilal of the (Insert 442oons sound effect here) Saudi Pro League for 90 million Euros and is earning about 150 million Euros a year over there. He left Europe at just the age of 31.
Once again, injuries have plagued Neymar as he has only played five games and is out for the season with a torn ACL which he sustained playing for Brazil last October.
It is hard to answer whether Neymar’s transfer to PSG was a success with a simple answer. On one hand, he looked like a world-class player, scoring plenty of goals and winning plenty of trophies. But it is hard not to forget the fact that PSG still has not won the Champions League and Neymar failed to deliver in that competition. That and the numerous injuries plus off-pitch controversies also can’t be forgotten.
Neymar left Barcelona to get out of Messi’s shadow and be the face of his own team. But at PSG, he was in the shadow of Mbappe and later Messi when he arrived in 2021. As good as he was in Paris, he was never the main man.
Neymar is one of the best players in the world but he could’ve been the best. The move to PSG was for him to flourish and hopefully win a Ballon d’Or. But it never happened. The expectations for Neymar were higher than the sky when he signed for PSG and even before that. The expectations were high for him when he was playing for Santos’ academy in Sao Paolo.
Neymar is a wonderful player to watch and one of the most creative, technical, electric and gifted players of all time. But unfortunately, he never lived up to his high expectations, especially at PSG.
The move to PSG turned out to be the wrong move for Neymar. Had he stayed at Barcelona, maybe he would’ve won more Champions Leagues with Messi and Suarez. Maybe he could’ve joined a Premier League club instead and became the main man there and won the Ballon d’Or. Maybe but the lights were too bright for Neymar at PSG. It also would’ve helped if he didn’t play poker or party as much in Paris but he was still an amazing player. But he wasn’t the best.
There is one sentence that was often used by the soccer media world when Neymar left PSG for Al Hilal. It is best used to describe Neymar at PSG and it could even describe his whole career: The Prince Who Never Became King.
The verdict: A success but not successful enough
In the world of soccer, inflation and the fact that many clubs are owned by billionaires are the two big reasons why soccer transfers are higher than ever. Some work out others don’t. With those high transfer fees, come high expectations. Some have defied those expectations while others couldn’t handle it.
If you made it this far, (which I hope you did) thanks for reading this article. I never intended it to be this long but I am proud of the way it turned out. You guys know how much I love soccer and I could talk about it for hours.
I spent days researching this piece. I read countless articles, watched hours of YouTube on these players ranging from their game footage to commentary on them and looked at a ton of stats. Once again, thank you for reading.
Expect more soccer content for this site, ranging from Whitecaps, MLS, Europe and so much more from myself and Nathan Durec. James Tomlin has lots of exciting plans for the site and Nathan and I are planning big things for the soccer section so articles like this will happen often, but hopefully not as long as this one.