Football inflation denies Neymar title of most expensive ever transfer

By TotallyMoney
Sep 19th 2019

Neymar has lost his spot as the most expensive transfer ever, a calculation of “football inflation” from TotallyMoney shows.


Instead it is Gianluca Vialli – whose move from Sampdoria to Juventus in 1992 cost £12.5 million – who tops the rankings on TotallyMoney's Transfer Index. That fee is equivalent to £209 million today, meaning the Italian pips Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo to the title of most expensive transfer in “real” terms.


The research also shows that:

  • Just one of the top 10 signings is a move to a Premier League club: Rio Ferdinand’s move to Manchester United in 2002.
  • Real Madrid have four signings in the top 10, helping La Liga to its status as the league most likely to splash the cash.
  • Just two of the 10 most expensive transfers in “real” terms – those of Neymar to PSG and Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid – have taken place in the last decade.
  • The highest-ranking move this summer was all the way down in 46th place: João Félix’s move from Benfica to Atlético Madrid for £113 million.

How the transfer Index is calculated

The findings come from credit experts TotallyMoney’s Transfer Index. They have taken the 100 most expensive transfers each season in Europe’s big five leagues – England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France – since the dawn of the Premier League, to calculate “football inflation”.

The richest league in the world?

As well as revealing Vialli’s place at the top of the rankings, it shows that English football isn’t necessarily the financial powerhouse it seems.

In fact, Rio Ferdinand’s move to Manchester United from crisis-hit Leeds United in 2002 for £41.4 million, which would be worth £157 million today, is the only Premier League purchase in the top 10.

Spain’s spending power

Meanwhile, Real Madrid have four top-10 signings – Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Zinedine Zidane and the Brazilian Ronaldo.

Including Barcelona’s signing of Romário in 1993, it means the Spanish top flight takes five of the top 10 positions.

Italy is second, with Vialli’s transfer joined by Alen Boksic’s move to Lazio and AC Milan’s signing of Jean-Pierre Papin, both from Marseille.

Old money v new

Surprisingly, given the ever-increasing public profiles of top-flight footballers, only two of the 10 most expensive transfers – those of Neymar to PSG and Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid – have taken place in the last decade.

And the highest-ranking move this summer was all the way down in 46th place: João Félix’s move from Benfica to Atlético Madrid for £113 million.

A focus on attack

The data shows the premium clubs place on attacking talent – just two of the last 27 seasons have a defender as the most expensive signing.

One of those was Ferdinand’s move down the M62. The other was PSG’s capture of Thiago Silva from AC Milan in 2012, as the club’s Qatari owners started to exert their financial muscle. The Brazilian cost £37.8 million – worth £101 million today.

The most expensive goalkeeper, meanwhile, was down in 55th place – Gianluigi Buffon’s £47.6 million transfer from Parma to Juventus in 2001 makes him the top stopper on the list. The fee would be £108 million today – he is the only ‘keeper over £100 million.

At the other end of the scale are the flops. Fernando Torres’s move to Chelsea looks even more misguided when his fee is adjusted – costing £52.7 million in 2011, that would be £145 million today, putting him 15th on the Transfer Index.

10 most expensive players on TotallyMoney’s Transfer Index

  1. Gianluca Vialli: Sampdoria to Juventus – £14.9 million in 1992, £209 million today
  2. Neymar: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain – £200 million in 2017, £202 million today
  3. Cristiano Ronaldo: Manchester United to Real Madrid – £84.6 million in 2009, £195 million today
  4. Romário: PSV Eindhoven to FC Barcelona – £10.8 million in 1993, £167 million today
  5. Gareth Bale: Spurs to Real Madrid – £90.9 million in 2013, £167 million today
  6. Rio Ferdinand: Leeds to Manchester United – £41.4 million in 2002, £159 million today
  7. Zinédine Zidane: Juventus to Real Madrid – £69.8 million in 2001, £158 million today
  8. Ronaldo: Inter to Real Madrid – £40.5 million in 2002, £155 million today
  9. Alen Boksic: Marseille to SS Lazio – £9.9 million in 1993, £153 million today
  10. Jean-Pierre Papin: Marseille to AC Milan – £10.8 million in 1992, £152 million today

For more information, please contact James McCaffrey

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