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The most expensive transfers in history: PSG and Barcelona twice, how did the players fare?

Every year the football world moves on, transfer sums continue to skyrocket. Which five footballers in history have been the most expensive and how did these transfers work out?



Every year the football world moves on, transfer sums continue to skyrocket. Which five footballers in history have been the most expensive and how did these transfers work out?

When Cristiano Ronaldo transferred to Real Madrid for 100 million euros in 2009, it was a huge furore. A lot of people doubted that such an amount for a single player was adequate. But Ronaldo won everything he could in 9 years, topped almost all club statistics and even left for 117 million euros in 2018. Perfect business.

It’s just that not all transfers have been successful. Let’s take a look at five of the very most expensive transfers and assess whether they paid off.

5. João Félix – Atlético Madrid – €127 million

In terms of money, economically it wasn’t a loss, as Atlético cashed in €120 million from Barcelona for Antoine Griezmann, so they just sent the whole amount to Benfica Lisbon.

But in terms of on-field contribution, it is very difficult to judge whether the transfer of Félix was a good move. He was not at all suited to the style of Atlético Madrid that Diego Simeone wants to play.

He’s definitely not a defensive worker who relies only on breakaways. The 22-year-old striker is a typical Portuguese playmaker who is great with the ball and would fit perfectly in a team that keeps the ball for most of the game.

His engagement can certainly not be considered a flop, but it is no glory either. In his first season he had 34 games, 9 goals, 3 assists, but the performances were not great. In the next season in the autumn he finally got going and dragged Atlético to the title. In the spring, however, his performances dropped again and he even dropped out of the lineup a few times. He ended the season with a record of 42 games, 10 goals and 5 assists.

However, last season and at the beginning of this one, Félix was just a substitute, who also had a falling out with Simeon. So in the winter he went on loan to Chelsea for 15 million euros, and in the summer he will probably move permanently.

4. Ousmane Dembélé – Barcelona – 135 million euros

Every time Barcelona slap themselves in the pocket and pay over €100 million for a player, it turns out badly. It was similar at the start with Ousmane Dembélé. The French winger demanded attention with his performances at Dortmund, he talked his way out of a transfer to Catalonia, he even refused to attend training sessions at Borussia until the management let him go to Barcelona.

But throughout his time in Spain, injuries accompanied him. He spent more time in the sick bay than on the pitch, which is one of the reasons why he was unable to reach his full potential. But he had the potential to make it big. Extreme speed, great right and left foot, perfect dribbling.

In his first season he played only 17 games in the league, in the next one 29. In 2019/20 he played only 5 games, last year he played 30 games, scored 6 goals and assisted 3.

Dembélé’s lifestyle was also a big problem in Catalonia, with the player regularly eating in fast food restaurants and playing video games late into the night with friends at the start of his engagement. His morale is also not at a high level, in the Blaugranas cab his name is most often on the list of fines. Dembélé arrived late for his first training session under Xavi.

But last winter, something changed in Dembélé. Half a year before the end of his contract, he pulled himself together medically and began to put in his best performances in his time at Barcelona. This earned him a new contract and a solid place in Xavi’s starting lineup. One good year may not completely make up for four botched ones, but Dembélé is on the right track.

3. Philippe Coutinho – Barcelona – €135 million

Probably the biggest flop in Barcelona’s history. Coutinho came to Barcelona from Liverpool as one of the Premier League’s best players, only he never lit up the Camp Nou with his artistry.

He still had a fairly decent first half of the year after his arrival, scoring 8 goals and adding 5 assists in 18 league games. But from the next season onwards, his performances started to drop a lot. Regardless of the numbers, the play he showed remained well below expectations, a lot more was expected from the Brazilian chic in Catalonia. In 34 league games he scored 5 goals and added 2 assists.

So Barcelona sent him out on loan to Bayern Munich, only it didn’t know what a mistake it had made. In the quarter-finals of the Champions League they faced the Munich giant and Coutinho’s two goals crowned Barcelona’s 2:8 drubbing.

After his return to Barcelona, Ronald Koeman wanted to give him another chance, but frequent injuries did not let Coutinho on the pitch. When he recovered in the spring, the management didn’t let him back into the game, because in case of further starts they would have to pay a bonus to Liverpool. Thus, Coutinho started only 12 league games and scored 2 goals, and made two appearances in the Champions League.

Barcelona were looking for a way to get rid of Coutinho because he was burdening the club’s already decimated coffers with his kingly salary. Eventually he left for Aston Villa.

2. Kylian Mbappé – PSG – 145 million euros

Money well spent. 145 million for a then 18-year-old super talent that all of Europe wanted might have seemed a lot, but Mbappé paid it back with his performances and goals. Just look at his stats.

2017/18 – 44 games – 21 goals – 12 assists
2018/19 – 43 games – 39 goals – 13 assists
2019/20 – 37 games – 30 goals – 14 assists
2020/21 – 47 games – 42 goals – 11 assists
2021/22 – 46 games – 39 goals – 21 assists
*2022/23 – 33 games – 31 goals – 11 assists

Although PSG brought in Messi before last season, restoring the working duo of Neymar – Messi, both ex-Barcelona stars are overshadowed by Mbappé. The latter is not only the team’s top scorer but also has the most assists, making him PSG’s most productive player.

He helped PSG reach the Champions League final in 2019/20 and the semi-finals a year later. However, you can’t blame the failure on him, he was the team’s most productive player and top scorer in both seasons. He could not have done more.

The fact that Mbappé would leave for free might have cast a bad light on the whole transfer, as his contract ended last year and Real Madrid wanted to bring the youngster back at any cost. In the end, PSG kept him, but had to give him a €100 million bonus and the biggest salary in football history.

1. Neymar – PSG – 222 million euros

Neymar also came to PSG like Mbappé and scored a lot of goals, but his transfer is not positive anyway and for several reasons.

The first one is the huge amount of money. 222 million euros is a truly staggering price for which Neymar was expected to get more than just a league title. It was with that goal in mind that he came to Paris to finally win the Champions League for PSG. However, he missed the eighth finals several times due to injury, sometimes missing months.

On the other hand, the transfer can certainly not be described as a failure. In six seasons at PSG he scored 118 goals and added 71 assists. The failure in the Champions League cannot be blamed on him alone, PSG often paid the price for a weaker defence or midfield.

In addition, one must also look at the marketing side of things. Neymar has attracted a lot of fans to the Parisians, plus he has helped put them among the regular contenders to win the Champions League and raise PSG’s prestige in general.

Source: Transfermarkt

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