The TotallyMoney Transfer Index: January update
Are mid-season signings good value for money?
Bolstering your squad in January can be a risk. Without the opportunity for a full pre-season, some players will struggle to settle. But others can provide a much-needed boost, lifting a team out of the relegation zone or spurring teammates on towards European qualification.
TotallyMoney have pulled together an XI of the most expensive January transfers from our Transfer Index, which adjusts fees for inflation in the football market.
It shows that just one player signed by clubs this January would make the line-up: new Chelsea winger Christian Pulisic. The American will be hoping to avoid the pitfalls of some of his predecessors at his new club – the January XI contains three other Blues’ players, and only one of them could be considered a real success.
While David Luiz, despite his well-known eccentricities, has gone on to make over 200 appearances across two spells at the club, Fernando Torres and Scott Parker proved less convincing additions to the Chelsea ranks.
The expensive January XI
GK - Shay Given
Newcastle to Manchester City – 2009: £8,100,000; now: £17,918,687
LB - Aymeric Laporte
Athletic to Manchester City – 2018: £58,500,000; now: £49,289,169
CB - Virgil van Dijk
Southampton to Liverpool FC – 2018: £70,920,000; now: £59,753,638
CB - David Luiz
Benfica to Chelsea FC – 2011: £22,500,000; now: £47,285,059
RB - Ashley Young
Watford to Aston Villa – 2007: £11,880,000; now: £38,448,881
CM - Scott Parker
Charlton to Chelsea FC – 2004: £12,600,000; now: £42,342,755
CM - Juan Mata
Chelsea to Manchester United – 2014: £40,260,000; now: £69,651,225
LW - José Antonio Reyes
Sevilla FC to Arsenal FC – 2004: £18,000,000; now: £60,489,649
RW - Christian Pulisic
Bor. Dortmund to Chelsea FC – 2019: £57,600,000; now: £57,600,000
ST - Fernando Torres
Liverpool to Chelsea FC – 2011: £52,650,000; now: £110,647,037
ST - Andy Carroll
Newcastle to Liverpool FC – 2011: £36,900,000; now: £77,547,496
Someone missing? Don’t worry — our interactive table has the full list.
What would the Premier League’s biggest stars cost now?
Imagine how much today’s fancy ball-playing defenders would struggle with the sheer physical onslaught of Alan Shearer in his prime.
He scored 260 Premier League goals, against hard-as-nails defenders like Stuart “Psycho” Pearce, not your wilting flowers ball playing defenders of today.
But how much would Big Al cost in the current market?
TotallyMoney has analysed over 4,000 transfers from 27 years of Premier League history, to get you the answer to just this question.
We call it the Transfer Index, and it allows you to see how much any signing since 1992 would cost today.
So whether you’re dreaming of the miraculous saves, inspired leadership or brutal tackles of yesteryear legends, you’re in the right place.
Stade Rennais to Chelsea – 2004: £11,700,000; now: £36,911,098
Any manager worth his salt will tell you to build from the back. So we will, and we’ll begin with the best.
Nobody has more Premier League clean sheets than Petr Čech. He’s recorded 202 so far, and could squeeze a couple more in before retiring at the end of this season.
A colossus between the sticks, the 6’5” Czech ’keeper cost £11.7 million in 2004, when he signed for Chelsea as a 22 year old.
The Transfer Index shows us that figure would now be nearly £37m – still a bargain for one of the best of his generation.
Čech kept 21 clean sheets in his first season at Chelsea, as Jose Mourinho’s side rampaged to the Blues’ first title in 50 years.
Altogether, in 11 years at Stamford Bridge, Čech managed 162 shutouts, winning four Premier League titles, four FA Cups and a Champions League.
He left for Arsenal in 2015, but his old spot at Chelsea looks to be back in good hands now.
The number one in Maurizio Sarri’s side is also number one on our list of expensive goalkeepers: even adjusting for inflation, no other goalkeeper has cost more than £72m-man Kepa Arrizabalaga.
West Ham United to Leeds United – 2000: £23,400,000; now: £76,075,577
Leeds United to Manchester United – 2002: £41,400,000; now: £126,183,267
Next, you want a commanding and authoritative centre-back – and they don’t come much better than Rio Ferdinand.
Occupying both first and third place on our list of most expensive centre-backs, Ferdinand won one Intertoto Cup at West Ham, a feat he would go on to slightly surpass later with Manchester United.
First, there was a stint with free-spending Leeds, who shelled out £23m for the 21-year-old defender in 2000 – £76m today.
He spent two seasons at Elland Road, before all that spending caught up with the Yorkshire side in 2002.
As they went into freefall, other clubs poached their top talent: Jonathan Woodgate (2002: £12.2m, 2019: £37m) and Robbie Keane (2002: £9.5m, 2019: £29m) joined Newcastle and Spurs respectively that year.
But Manchester United had their eyes on a composed, ball-playing defender who would be a mainstay of their side for the next decade, and were willing to pay for it.
They spent £41m on 23-year-old Ferdinand, £126m today.
It was money well spent: while at Old Trafford, he racked up six Premier League titles, and captained the side to the 2007-08 Champions League trophy.
Real Sociedad to Liverpool – 2004: £14,400,000; now: £45,429,044
Time for real footballing brains, a player to link defence and attack, to tie it all together. Time for Xabi Alonso.
Just 22 when new Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez plucked him from Spanish side Real Sociedad in the summer of 2004, Alonso would go on to pick up the Champions League with his teammates the following May.
The only other major honour he collected during his five years at Anfield was the FA Cup in 2006.
But to measure his achievements in trophies is to miss the point. With a superb passing range, Alonso was the perfect foil for Steven Gerrard’s forward runs. The joy the midfield pair brought Reds fans was surely worth his £14.4m fee alone.
Now that fee would be £45m – not bad for a midfielder who went on to win the 2008 and 2012 European Championships, and the 2010 World Cup, with Spain.
In 2009, Alonso left Liverpool for pastures new, turning out for European giants Real Madrid and Bayern Munich before retiring in 2017.
Leeds United to Manchester United – 1992: £1,620,000; now: £27,324,388
Have you gone a quarter of a century without winning a league title? Do you have unrivalled man management skills, able to handle the most challenging of characters? Then do what Alex Ferguson did, and sign Eric Cantona.
Cantona, born in a cave (yes, really) in Marseilles, had a mixed career before Fergie’s greatest gamble brought him to Old Trafford.
The 25-year-old had already played for six clubs in his native France before signing for Leeds United in early 1992. He collected a league title there, the last before the start of the Premier League era, and moved again the next winter.
Sir Alex had failed with a £3m bid for Sheffield Wednesday’s David Hirst, so settled for Cantona instead – bringing him in for £1.6m, £27m today.
Paul Ince later recalled that when Cantona walked into the club, it was as if he said: “I’m Eric, and I'm here to win the title for you.”
And so he promptly did. United won the league the same year, their first since 1967. And then the double the next year.
One more FA Cup and two more Premier Leagues followed, before King Eric retired, suddenly and unexpectedly, at the age of 30 in 1997.
Sporting CP to Manchester United – 2003: £17,100,000; now: £57,465,167
Forever fated to be part of a “Messi or Ronaldo: who’s the greatest?” discussion, Cristiano Ronaldo was once a slightly ungainly teenager in an oversized United shirt.
Alex Ferguson signed the 18 year old for Manchester United in 2003, on his players’ recommendation, after they had suffered a 3-1 defeat to the Portuguese’s Sporting side.
He cost £17.1m – a huge £57m today, but a figure which would prove to be a financial and sporting bargain.
In six seasons at Old Trafford, Ronaldo scored 84 league goals in 196 games, winning three Premier League titles, two League Cups, one FA Cup, one Champions League and the Club World Cup.He left in the summer of 2009 to join Real Madrid, as the newly crowned Ballon D’Or winner, for a world record fee of £84.6m.
That fee would be a scarcely believable £218m today, but Ronaldo would repay Los Blancos handsomely, delivering four Champions Leagues, and securing a further four Ballons D’Or for himself in the process.
Throughout, he put in performances unrivalled in the modern era – except, that is, by a certain diminutive Argentinian plying his trade up in Barcelona…
Southampton to Blackburn Rovers – 1992: £4,050,000; now: £68,310,969
Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle United – 1996: £18,900,000; now: £110,700,814
Finally, then, we arrive as close to a guarantee of Premier League goals as you get.
Alan Shearer was playing for Southampton when he first burst onto the scene in 1988 – scoring a hat-trick on his full debut against Arsenal.
Four years later, at the dawn of the Premier League, the 21 year old packed up his viciously struck penalties, powerful neck muscles and flailing elbows, and made his move north.
Avoiding the lure of Manchester United (spoiler: things would work out all right for them anyway), he pitched up at nouveau riche Blackburn Rovers, joining them for £4m in 1992, £68m today.
There, he would pick up the only major trophy of his career, winning the 1994-95 league title while scoring a joint-Premier League record 34 goals in the process.
Aged 25, he went on to shatter the world record transfer fee in 1996, joining his hometown club Newcastle United for £18.9m – more than £110m today.
Unable to end the Magpies’ long trophy drought, he did go on to break numerous Premier League goal-scoring records: the most goals (260), the most hat-tricks (11), the most penalties (56) and the most goals in one match (five), all still belong to him.
Is spending a guarantee of success?
Topping the TotallyMoney Transfer Index, Andriy Shevchenko shows that you don’t always get a return on your investment in football.
He came with serious pedigree, having scored 175 goals in 296 games for AC Milan in the notoriously goal-shy Italian top flight, but failed to replicate that form for Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea side.
He cost a British record fee of £39.5m in 2006 – nearly £128m today – but scored just nine league goals in 48 appearances.
Even Fernando Torres managed more than that at Chelsea, though he did get more of a chance. The Spanish striker joined from Liverpool for £53m in January 2011, more than £110m today.
Despite a one-in-two goals-to-games ratio at Liverpool, Torres went on to score just 20 league goals in 110 appearances for Chelsea.
Ferguson wasn’t averse to the occasional misguided purchase either. Anderson was just 19 when he joined Manchester United from Porto in 2007, the Brazilian midfielder commanding a fee of £29m – £72m today.
For that money, at that age, you’re buying potential – and Anderson didn’t deliver, scoring just five goals in 105 league appearances during eight years at Old Trafford.
The driving factors behind rocketing fees
Football transfer fees have exploded in recent years, but why?
TV rights deals have swelled clubs’ coffers. The first Premier League broadcasting deal saw Sky secure rights for five seasons, from 1992 to 1997, for £304m. The most recent, for 2019 to 2022, cost broadcasters more than £5 billion.
Meanwhile, clubs have devised ever more creative ways to bring in money through sponsorship: Manchester United alone have more than 50 deals, from shirt sponsors to their official pharmaceutical partner for Korea and Vietnam.
That’s all before owners’ fortunes are taken into account. Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich started a trend for ultra-rich foreign owners of English teams, and the majority of the league’s clubs are now backed by investors from abroad.
Most notable are Manchester City’s owners Abu Dhabi United Group, who have a portfolio of clubs across Europe, Australia and the Americas.
If the world was like football
In 1992-93, the Premier League’s first season, the average transfer fee paid for a player was around £800,000. This season, it is £13.6m – a near 17-fold increase. Puts your concerns about the cost of a Freddo these days into perspective, doesn’t it?
So what would everyday items cost today if they had increased by the same amount?
In 1992, the average price of a pint of milk was 34p. If it had risen at the same price as football transfer fees, it would now be a whopping £5.73 – enough to make you think twice about a second bowl of cereal.
Maybe you should reach for a sandwich instead. The average loaf of white bread cost 53p in 1992, and has more than doubled to £1.06 today.
But that’s nothing compared to what would have happened if bread was priced like footballers – if so, a loaf would now set you back £8.94.
Surely, nowhere in life do prices rise like they do for houses. In August 1992, the average UK property cost £55,000 – by the end of last year, it was over £230,000.
Well, footballers’ fees do rise like that, and then some. If house prices increased at the same rate as footballers’ since 1992, then the average property would now set you back £933,000.
Better get on top of those finances then – so why not start right here, at TotallyMoney.com?
- Transfer fees: transfermarkt.com