When Charlie Roberts joined Manchester United for £600 (valued at €91,000 in 2022) in 1904, the club was heavily criticised for paying such a high amount for a 21-year-old youngster.
Over a century later, when Aurelien Tchouameni, a 22-year-old French midfielder joined Real Madrid, the amount involved was reported to be over 100 million euros.
Transfers have come a long way in 118 years.
In the 21st century, the boom began with Lazio eyeing Hernan Crespo as a replacement for Christian Vieri, who had left for Internazionale in 1999 for the then-record transfer fee of €49m.
Since then, there have been several phases that have contributed to a market where a transfer fee of €180m, that of Kylian Mbappe to PSG is no more a transfer record.
While Real Madrid remained a constant presence in the transfer record sheets in its quest for the new generation of galacticos, transfer fees in England and France burgeoned after Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain saw a change in their ownerships.
Here are the record transfers across Europe in this century, with the summer window open, featuring two marquee transfers of Erling Haaland to Manchester City and Darwin Nunez to Liverpool in the Premier League.
2000: Hernan Crespo to Lazio — €55m
Crespo joined Lazio from Parma for the then-record transfer fee of €55m, brought in to replace the team’s key striker Vieri. In his two-year stay at the Serie A side, the forward scored 26 goals in his debut season despite the side failing to defend the league title.
Hernan Crespo in action for Lazio against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League in 2001. – GETTY IMAGES
The Argentine followed Vieri’s steps, joining Inter a couple of years later, while his transfer record was soon overtaken by the shock transfer of Luis Figo.
READ | Portugal’s best skipper – Luis Figo
2000: Luis Figo to Real Madrid — €60m
The Portuguese star’s switch from FC Barcelona to arch-rival Real Madrid for a sum of €60m, made him a hero and villain in different parts of Spain. In addition to countless death threats and a infamous pig head from the Blaugrana faithful, Figo held in his possession the transfer record.
Figo would go on to stay at the capital side for five seasons, winning two La Liga titles and the 2002 Champions League title, the latter of which he won courtesy of the man who would replace him at the top of the transfer record pile – Zinedine Zidane.
2002: Zinedine Zidane to Real Madrid — €77.5m
Within a year, Real Madrid pushed the mark it set for Figo by bringing in French midfield maestro, Zinedine Zidane from Juventus for €77.5m.
Zidane’s stint as a player would be forever marked by the audacious left-footed volley he pulled to win the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen.
His record as a Madrid player would eventually be dwarfed by his accomplishments as a manager there, as he would go on to guide the Los Blancos to an unprecedented hat-trick of Champions League wins.
RELATED | Zinedine Zidane, more than a smiling motivator for Real Madrid
For nearly eight years after his initial arrival to Madrid, Zidane reigned as the most expensive player of all time until Real Madrid reinitiated their Galacticos policy and broke its own record by bringing a certain Portuguese who would go on to define an era of football – Cristiano Ronaldo.
2009: Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid — €94m
Weeks after Real Madrid reeled in the signing of Brazilian magician Kaka, it broke the bank again by acquiring Cristiano Ronaldo for €94m from Manchester United to top the Zidane transfer.
Ronaldo’s time at Madrid was laden with goals as he ended up as the all-time greatest goal scorer for the side. The left-winger also helped his side to two La Liga trophies and four Champions League crowns.
His title as the costliest footballer of all time, though, would be taken away from him by a man who would play an equally important role in Real Madrid’s era of dominance – Gareth Bale.
2013: Gareth Bale to Real Madrid — €100.8m
Gareth Bale swapped the whites of Tottenham Hotspurs for Real Madrid in 2013 for a princely sum of €100.8m.
The Welsh right-winger would play an integral part in the club’s success, scoring in two Champions League finals, including an outrageous overhead kick against Liverpool in 2018.
Though Bale’s legacy as a Madrid player suffered some serious damage in the last few seasons due to various factors, he would, in all probability, would leave the side as a serial winner with multiple domestic and European titles.
ALSO READ | Why is Gareth Bale booed by Real Madrid fans: ‘Parasite’ or unsung legend?
2016: Paul Pogba to Manchester United — €105m
Paul Pogba has always been a polarising figure. His critics have always been on the lookout for reasons to look beyond his many obvious talents.
In the summer of 2016, it was his price tag of €105m, the record-breaking amount Manchester United forked out to Juventus to bring back its former academy graduate.
The French midfielder played a key role in guiding the side to winning its first European trophy in the post-Ferguson era, the Europa League in the 2016-2017 season — the last silverware won by the club to date.
The 2018 World Cup winner, however, has failed to justify his hefty transfer fee since and bid farewell to the Manchester side for the second time with 39 goals and 51 assists to his name for the club.
2017: Neymar to Paris St. Germain — €222m
In 2017, PSG’s attempt to take over European football received its biggest boost when Barcelona’s Brazilian winger, Neymar, chose to switch his allegiance to the French giant.
Neymar would end up costing his new owners a previously unimaginable price of €222m.
Though domestic trophies came aplenty, the Champions League title continues to be elusive for Neymar at PSG, despite the Parisian’s further additions — Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma — to the squad.