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Top 10 most expensive January transfers in football history

Published at :January 22, 2024 at 9:42 PM
Modified at :January 22, 2024 at 9:42 PM
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Manav Chowdhury

The most expensive players in winter transfer

Although clubs rarely enjoy making big signings midway through the season, that rarely seems to stop the biggest sides in the world from spending untold fortunes on players. The January transfer window isn’t the optimum time for clubs to splash the cash, with managers often reluctant at least publicly to spend big and risk disrupting their squad midseason.

Despite this perception, some of the biggest blockbuster deals in football history have occurred during the January transfer window, with some of the soccer world’s biggest names changing clubs midway through a campaign. It is a sign of great faith to spend such a huge amount of money on one player, but it carries with it the expectation that the player will reward that faith with performances and if they do not, fans will not be forgiving. 

Many great players have risen to the pressure of their transfer fee, but others have been crushed under the burden of expectations placed upon them. Here we look at the top ten most expensive winter transfers of all time:

10. Diego Costa – Chelsea to Atletico Madrid – €60M

Atletico Madrid re-signed Diego Costa from Chelsea in January 2018. The striker had earlier joined the London-based club in 2014 and returned to Spain after spending four years with the Blues. The Spanish outfit had to spend approximately €60m to sign the player back. However, his second stint with Atletico Madrid only lasted two years, as his contract was terminated by mutual consent on January 1, 2021. Currently, he plays in Serie A for Botafogo.

9. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Dortmund to Arsenal – €63.75M

In a significant mid-2017-18 season coup, Arsenal secured Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund for a then-club-record fee. The striker’s immediate impact was pivotal during a tumultuous period for the Gunners, showcasing prolific goal-scoring prowess. But unfortunately, as Mikel Arteta’s project evolved his departure unfolded. Currently, he is playing his trade in Ligue 1 with Marseille.

8. Christian Pulisic – Dortmund to Chelsea – €64M

Initially hailed as a potentially generation-defining talent by some optimistic Americans, Christian Pulisic made his mark in Europe with Borussia Dortmund before making a high-profile £57.6m move to Chelsea in January 2019, officially joining for the 2019-20 season.

Apart from an impressive post-COVID break run in the summer of 2020, Pulisic’s stint at Stamford Bridge has been largely forgettable. Despite the hype from the fans, falling short of the expectations that accompanied his early promise and the substantial transfer fee invested in his move to the Premier League. He is playing for AC Milan.

7. Ayemeric Laporte – Bilbao to Manchester City – €65M

Aymeric Laporte signed for Manchester City on January 30, 2018. Pep Guardiola signed the player from Athletic Bilbao to fortify his defence. The Cityzens paid the La Liga outfit upwards of €65m. He played a huge role in City’s title win in the 2018-19 season. Currently, he is playing for Saudi club Al-Nassr alongside Ronaldo.

6. Bruno Fernandes – Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United – €65M

Bruno Fernandes most expensive January transfers
Bruno was elected as Man United captain in 2023

In recent years, the vast majority of Manchester United’s significant business has been done in summer transfer windows. However, they broke that mould a few seasons ago when Bruno Fernandes was signed from Sporting Lisbon. In the subsequent time, he has continued to be the key cog in the machine at Old Trafford. He is a proper leader off and on the pitch. Probably the best United player in recent

5. Mykhailo Mudryk – Shakhtar to Chelsea – €70M

Despite strong indications of Mykhailo Mudryk’s imminent move to Arsenal in the January 2023 transfer window, an unforeseen twist occurred when Chelsea, not the Gunners, secured the deal. Under Mauricio Pochettino at Chelsea, Mudryk has displayed promise early on, but the Ukrainian midfielder has yet to fully justify his substantial price tag. The unexpected shift in destination adds intrigue to Mudryk’s journey, leaving observers curious about his development and impact at Chelsea as he strives to meet the expectations associated with his significant transfer fee.

4. Dusan Vlahovic – Florentina to Juventus – €83.5M

Dusan Vlahovic Juventus most expensive January transfers
Dusan Vlahovic is one of the top-rated forwards in the Serie A

Juventus have a history of luring Fiorentina’s top talents, including Roberto Baggio, Federico Bernardeschi, and Federico Chiesa, with Dusan Vlahovic joining this trend in 2022. While the Serbian striker made an immediate impact with a debut goal, his time at Juventus haven’t fulfilled his early promise. Hampered by Max Allegri’s conservative tactics, Vlahovic’s productivity has suffered, leading to persistent rumours of a potential departure.

3. Virgil van Dijk – Southampton to Liverpool – €94.65M

An eye-watering fee for a centre-back, but Reds fans will consider it money well spent after van Dijk ultimately played a key role in Liverpool ending their three-decade wait for the Premier League title. Questions were asked about the sizeable price tag but that was soon forgotten as he played a starring role in Liverpool’s sixth Champions League triumph. Immediately, he was an improvement on the Merseysiders’ centre-back options, oozing quality with his class on the ball and his athletic qualities. Currently, without a doubt, he is one of the best centre back in the world.

2. Enzo Fernandez – Benfica to Chelsea – €121M

Enzo Fernandez’s ascent from European anonymity to a €121M midfielder was meteoric, spurred by an impressive start at Benfica and a standout 2022 World Cup. Chelsea, led by Todd Boehly, saw him as their future midfield linchpin.

Despite undeniable talent and a crucial role in the national team, Enzo’s Chelsea tenure has been marred by frequent setbacks. The club’s dysfunction since his arrival has hindered the Premier League from witnessing his peak performance. While still a valuable asset, Enzo’s time in West London has yet to showcase his full potential amid the turbulent environment at Chelsea.

1. Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool to Barcelona – €135M

Van Dijk and Alisson may never have made their moves to Liverpool if it wasn’t for the most expensive January transfer of all time. Philippe Coutinho is the man who holds that record after moving to Camp Nou for €135M. Unfortunately for him and the Catalan giants, it will forever remain one of the worst transfers in history. Coutinho struggled to replicate his Liverpool success, straining Barcelona’s finances. Eventually, he was offloaded in 2022 and currently, he plays for Al-Duhail.

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