World record footballer transfer fees since 1990: from Roberto Baggio to Neymar

Kylian Mbappe has been heavily linked with a move to Al-Hilal for a world record transfer fee
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World record transfer fees have always been a big deal in football since William Groves’ £100 move to Aston Villa back in 1893.

In the years that have followed the sport has grown in prominence to be a worldwide phenomenon with transfer fees also pushed to new heights in each decade since.

The late great Trevor Francis was one example of this and his move to Nottingham Forest raised eyebrows when he became the first British footballer to move for £1m back in 1979.

In today’s game it is very common for players to be moved for seven figure fees and Saudi giants Al-Hilal took the sport to a new level again with an incredible £259m transfer fee to buy world superstar Kylian Mbappe.

If the transfer is successful, the Frenchman will become the most expensive footballer in the history of the sport and he will work out three times more expensive that the former world record holder, Gareth Bale, who moved to Real Madrid for a fee of £86m back in 2013.

With that in mind we have taken a look at all of the world record transfers since 1990 and assessed whether they have been successful.

How many footballers have broken the world record transfer fee since 1990?

Over the last 33 years the world record transfer fee has been broken on 17 different occasions and a total of 16 different footballers have held the status of being the most expensive player on the planet.

Brazilian striker Ronaldo is the only player in this period to break the record on more than one occasion. He joins a select group of icons to achieve the feat in the history of the sport and Diego Maradona, David Jack and Alf Common are the only other players to have held the record more than once.

World record transfer fees since 1990

1990: Roberto Baggio: Fiorentina to Juventus (£8m)

Roberto Baggio enjoyed huge success at Juventus. (Getty Images)Roberto Baggio enjoyed huge success at Juventus. (Getty Images)
Roberto Baggio enjoyed huge success at Juventus. (Getty Images)

The name Roberto Baggio will remind many people of the nostalgic PC game Roberto Baggio’s Magical Kicks which was played by school children around the country during the early 21st century.

However, he was also one of the finest strikers in the world of football and the 1990 World Cup semi-finalist arrived at Juventus from rivals Fiorentina for a fee of £8m.

The Italian became the most expensive footballer on the planet and he lived up to the hype during a successful five season spell in Turin, lifting the Serie A title, Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup whilst also narrowly missing out on the 1994 Ballon d’Or.

1992: Jean-Pierre Papin: Marseille to AC Milan (£10m)

Jean-Pierre Papin was viewed as one of the best strikers of the 1990s. (Getty Images)Jean-Pierre Papin was viewed as one of the best strikers of the 1990s. (Getty Images)
Jean-Pierre Papin was viewed as one of the best strikers of the 1990s. (Getty Images)

Jean-Pierre Papin caught the attention of Italian giants AC Milan after a prolific six season spell with Marseille which saw him lift four Ligue 1 titles and a Champions League final.

The 1991 Ballon d’Or winner was the first player to exceed the £10 million mark but he struggled to establish himself as a first team regular due to injuries.

Papin was also negatively impacted by the three-foreigner rule in Italy at the time and he had to compete with other high profile players such as Frank Rijkaard, Marco Van Basten and Marcel Desailly.

He scored a total of 18 league goals in Serie A across two seasons, lifting two league titles and one Champions League.

1992: Gianluca Vialli: Sampdoria to Juventus (£12.5m)

Gianluca Vialli was signed to play alongside Roberto Baggio. (Getty Images)Gianluca Vialli was signed to play alongside Roberto Baggio. (Getty Images)
Gianluca Vialli was signed to play alongside Roberto Baggio. (Getty Images)

Jean Pierre Papin’s reign as the most expensive footballer on the planet was short lived and just weeks later Juventus smashed the transfer record again with a deal to buy Gianluca Vialli from Sampdoria.

The Italian forward arrived with excellent credentials and he had recently guided Sampdoria to their first ever Champions League final.

Vialli stayed with Juventus for a total of four seasons and he lifted the Serie A title, Coppa Italia, Uefa Cup and Champions League before departing for Chelsea.

1992: Gianluigi Lentini: Torino to AC Milan (£13m)

Gianluigi Lentini made the move from Torino to AC Milan in an era where Italy dominated the transfer market. (YouTube)Gianluigi Lentini made the move from Torino to AC Milan in an era where Italy dominated the transfer market. (YouTube)
Gianluigi Lentini made the move from Torino to AC Milan in an era where Italy dominated the transfer market. (YouTube)

Italian football was booming in the 1990s and Gianluigi Lentini remarkably became the third player in 1992 to break the world transfer record.

Lentini was viewed as a hot prospect with flair, pace, strength and leadership with the ability to play on either wing.

The winger impressed in his first season at the San Siro and was a key component in the team which won the 1993 league title.

That same summer Lentini was involved in a car accident whilst driving a Porsche 911 and he was placed in an induced coma for two days, with a fractured skull and  damaged eye socket.

Lentini returned at the end of the 1993/94 season and played a sporadic role in helping his side to a league and Champions League double. But he struggled to establish himself as a first team regular due to the effects of his injuries and he left the club in 1996 after his contract expired.

1996: Ronaldo: PSV to Barcelona (£13.2m)

Ronaldo enjoyed the most prolific season of his career under Bobby Robson at Barcelona. (Getty Images)Ronaldo enjoyed the most prolific season of his career under Bobby Robson at Barcelona. (Getty Images)
Ronaldo enjoyed the most prolific season of his career under Bobby Robson at Barcelona. (Getty Images)

Ronaldo emerged in the 1990s as one of the hottest young prospects in world football and he arrived at Barcelona for a fee of £13.2m after an excellent two year spell with PSV.

The striker was a key component of Bobby Robson’s team during his one season at the Nou Camp and he enjoyed the most prolific season of his career with 34 league goals.

The Brazilian, nicknamed The Phenomenon, also lifted the Copa Del Rey, Supercopa de Espana and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup during his short stay with the Catalonia giants.

1996: Alan Shearer: Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle (£15m)

Alan Shearer is Newcastle United's all-time leading goalscorer. (Getty Images)Alan Shearer is Newcastle United's all-time leading goalscorer. (Getty Images)
Alan Shearer is Newcastle United's all-time leading goalscorer. (Getty Images)

Kevin Keegan famously described Newcastle as one of the most ambitious teams in football at the time, following the world record signing of Alan Shearer.

The Tyneside club saw off competition from Manchester United and Juventus for the striker to sign the Euro 96 golden-boot winner for a fee of £15m.

Shearer went on to become both Newcastle and the Premier League’s all-time leading goalscorer during his 10-year stay in the North East but he failed to win any silverware, losing back-to-back FA Cup finals in 1998 and 1999.

1997: Ronaldo: Barcelona to Inter Milan (£19.5m)

Ronaldo broke the world record transfer fee for a second time when he arrived at Inter Milan. (Getty Images)Ronaldo broke the world record transfer fee for a second time when he arrived at Inter Milan. (Getty Images)
Ronaldo broke the world record transfer fee for a second time when he arrived at Inter Milan. (Getty Images)

Brazilian superstar Ronaldo broke the world record transfer figure for the second time in two summers when he arrived at the San Siro for £19.5m.

Ronaldo was among the top scorers in Serie A in his debut season with 25 goals and he also lifted the UEFA Cup.

The forward was awarded the Ballon d’Or in 1997 and shone on the world stage for his country in the 1998 World Cup.

However, he was largely sidelined by injuries in three of his final four years before joining Real Madrid.

1998: Denilson: São Paulo to Real Betis (£21.5m)

Denilson arrived at Real Betis for a world record fee. (Getty Images)Denilson arrived at Real Betis for a world record fee. (Getty Images)
Denilson arrived at Real Betis for a world record fee. (Getty Images)

Denilson followed in the footsteps of Brazilian team mate Ronaldo when he smashed the world transfer record by joining Real Betis for £21.5m.

The forward had shown huge signs of promise for both Sao Paulo and the Brazil national team and was seen as a star for the future.

However, he struggled to meet expectations and was part of the team which were relegated from the top-flight in 2000.

He stayed with Andulusian club for a further five seasons as they returned to the top-flight and won the Copa Del Rey, but he was mainly used as a fringe player during this period.

1999: Christian Vieiri: Lazio to Inter Milan (£32.5m)

Christian Vieri enjoyed a successful six year stint with Inter Milan. (Getty Images)Christian Vieri enjoyed a successful six year stint with Inter Milan. (Getty Images)
Christian Vieri enjoyed a successful six year stint with Inter Milan. (Getty Images)

Christian Vieiri’s transfer to Inter Milan was one which attracted excitement around the whole of Europe as they prepared for the prospect of a partnership with Ronaldo.

But the duo rarely played together due to injuries throughout this time.

Overall Vieri was one of Inter Milan’s top scorers during his six year stay at the club and he was the league’s Golden Boot winner in 2002/03 with 24 goals.

He won the Copa Italia in his final season at the club before controversially joining city-rivals AC Milan on a free transfer.

2000: Hernan Crespo: Parma to Lazio (£35m)

Hernan Crespo won the golden boot in his first season at Lazio. (Getty Images)Hernan Crespo won the golden boot in his first season at Lazio. (Getty Images)
Hernan Crespo won the golden boot in his first season at Lazio. (Getty Images)

Sven Goran Eriksson’s Lazio used a large chunk of the Christian Vieri transfer fee to sign Argentine striker Hernan Crespo for £35m.

Crespo hit the ground running in his first season in Italy and he was the league’s golden-boot winner with 26 goals as his side finished third, also winning the Supercoppa Italiana.

The forward struggled with injuries in his second season and joined Inter Milan in 2002.

2000: Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid (£37 million)

Luis Figo famously left Barcelona to join Real Madrid. (Getty Images)Luis Figo famously left Barcelona to join Real Madrid. (Getty Images)
Luis Figo famously left Barcelona to join Real Madrid. (Getty Images)

Luis Figo’s transfer from Barcelona to Real Madrid is viewed as one the most controversial and talked about moves of all time. So much so that it has even inspired its own Netflix documentary.

The Portuguese superstar was viewed as a legend during his time at Barcelona and he was a member of a team which lifted two La Liga titles.

Figo was described by Barcelona fans as Judas and some sections of the fanbase threw bottles and coins at the wingers head during his first El Clasico.

The winger rubbed further salt in the wounds by being a huge success at the Bernabeu and he lifted two league titles and a Champions League during his stay in the Spanish capital.

2001: Zinedine Zidane: Juventus to Real Madrid (£46.6m)

Zinedine Zidane enjoyed a hugely successful playing and managerial career with Real Madrid. (Getty Images)Zinedine Zidane enjoyed a hugely successful playing and managerial career with Real Madrid. (Getty Images)
Zinedine Zidane enjoyed a hugely successful playing and managerial career with Real Madrid. (Getty Images)

Zinedine Zidane was the jewel in Real Madrid’s crown as they assembled a team of Galacticos.

The world and European champion arrived at the Bernabeu from Juventus for a fee of £46.6m and he went on to establish himself as one of the club’s greatest ever players during his five year stay.

The French superstar won one La Liga title, one Champions League and two Supercopa de Espana before retiring in 2006.

Zidane’s record stood for a total of eight years and was still in place three years after his retirement from football.

2009: Kaka: AC Milan to Real Madrid (£56m)

Kaka arrived at Real Madrid for £56m. (Getty Images)Kaka arrived at Real Madrid for £56m. (Getty Images)
Kaka arrived at Real Madrid for £56m. (Getty Images)

Eight years passed before the transfer record was broken and once again it was Real Madrid who splashed the cash.

The Spanish giants were desperately trying to dethrone Pep Guardiola’s dominant Barcelona who had dominated the sport both in Europe and domestically.

Kaka’s signing was a huge statement of intent and the 2007 Ballon d’Or winner was viewed as one of most exciting midfielders on the planet after a six-year stay with AC Milan.

The Brazilian lifted one La Liga title and one Copa Del Rey during his five-year stay in Madrid, but he struggled to produce his best form due to injury issues.

2009: Cristiano Ronaldo: Manchester United and Real Madrid: (£80 million)

Cristiano Ronaldo is Real Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer. (Getty Images)Cristiano Ronaldo is Real Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer. (Getty Images)
Cristiano Ronaldo is Real Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer. (Getty Images)

After Zinedine Zidane’s transfer record lasting eight years, it was suddenly smashed twice in the space of a month when Real Madrid signed Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo was one of the most coveted players in world football at the time and he had been an integral part in the Manchester United team which had won three consecutive league titles and the 2008 Champions League.

He arrived as one of the best wingers on the planet and went on to become a clinical centre forward. Ronaldo left Madrid as the club’s all time leading goalscorer and he lifted two La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues and two Copa Del Rey cups.

He remarkably left Real Madrid for a profit at 33-years of age when he signed for Juventus for £99m.

2013: Gareth Bale: Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid (£85.1m)

Gareth Bale lifted five Champions League titles during his time at Real Madrid. (Getty Images)Gareth Bale lifted five Champions League titles during his time at Real Madrid. (Getty Images)
Gareth Bale lifted five Champions League titles during his time at Real Madrid. (Getty Images)

Real Madrid have been renowned for big money signings in the 21st century and they added further firepower to their attack with the signing of Gareth Bale in 2013.

The Welsh winger enjoyed great success in his time at Real Madrid and was part of a team which lifted four La Liga titles, one Copa Del Rey and five Champions Leagues.

Bale was a key player for many of these years and he scored in two separate Champions League finals. However, he fell down the pecking order during his final two seasons at the club due to a fall out with manager Zinedine Zidane.

2016: Paul Pogba: Juventus to Manchester United: (£89m)

Paul Pogba rejoined Man Utd from Juventus for a world record fee. (Getty Images)Paul Pogba rejoined Man Utd from Juventus for a world record fee. (Getty Images)
Paul Pogba rejoined Man Utd from Juventus for a world record fee. (Getty Images)

Manchester United were the first English club to break the world transfer record for 20 years when they secured the signature of former player Paul Pogba.

The Frenchman had thrived during his four-year stay in Italy and was viewed as one of the best midfielders in world football.

Pogba’s six year stay at Old Trafford was largely affected by injuries and inconsistency and he struggled on the whole to hit the same heights as his Juventus days.

The midfielder's best season came in 2018/19 when he scored 13 Premier League goals and it was the only season he hit double figures in the top-flight.

2017: Neymar: Barcelona to PSG: (£200m)

Neymar's move from Barcelona to PSG has had a profound impact on the inflation of transfer fees throughout world football. (Getty Images)Neymar's move from Barcelona to PSG has had a profound impact on the inflation of transfer fees throughout world football. (Getty Images)
Neymar's move from Barcelona to PSG has had a profound impact on the inflation of transfer fees throughout world football. (Getty Images)

Neymar’s move from Barcelona to PSG has had a profound impact on the inflation of transfer fees throughout world football.

The Brazilian arrived at PSG for a fee of £200m which more than doubled the previous transfer record.

Neymar has won five Ligue 1 titles during his stay in the French capital, along with three Coupe De France and three Coupe de la Ligue titles. 

However, he has struggled to make the desired impact on the pitch due to injury issues and his future at the club remains uncertain. 

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