What a life it must be to be able to choose between which elite football club you want to play for – knowing both are willing to break the British transfer record just to sign you. It’s somewhat surprising given that Moises Caicedo, the Brighton midfielder, is far from a household name around the globe, but he does have proven Premier League form and, at the age of 21, also has time on his side.
It was reported that Liverpool had a £111 million bid for Caicedo accepted by the Seagulls – comfortably the record transfer fee involving a British club, and some £30 million more than Real Madrid paid Manchester United for a prime Cristiano Ronaldo. Quite a hefty sum, you might agree, for a player with only one full Premier League season under his belt.
It’s proof of the madcap transfer spending in English football that Chelsea, no strangers to throwing money around, of course, are willing to outbid the Reds for the Ecuadorian. Whatever happens, it seems likely that Caicedo will become the 67th player to break the British record transfer fee – an accolade first enjoyed by one Willie Groves when he joined Aston Villa from West Brom for a handsome £100 in 1893.
In the 130 years or so that have followed, there’s been five transfers (and counting) involving British clubs that have surpassed the £80 million mark and become the record transfer in the domestic game.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United to Real Madrid, £80 Million)
It’s amazing that, when viewed through the prism of transfer spending today, the £80 million Real Madrid paid Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo was an absolute snip of a price. CR7, only 24 at the time in 2009, had scored 91 goals in his previous three seasons at Old Trafford, helping United to a trio of Premier League titles and a Champions League victory in 2008.
Ronaldo would then help Real to the La Liga title and four Champions Leagues, establishing the Galacticos as the most dominant force in European football. All told, he scored 450 goals for Madrid at a rate of better than a goal per game – a truly astonishing statistic and proof that, despite the ludicrousness of such a statement, that the £80 million was money well spent.
Gareth Bale (Tottenham to Real Madrid, £85.3 million)
Four years after breaking the British transfer record in their pursuit of Ronaldo, Real Madrid returned to UK shores to poach the services of Gareth Bale. That was a relationship that, by the end, dissolved into barely-disguised apathy between player and club, but while bright eyed and bushy tailed Bale made hay while the sun shone on Madrid.
With 106 goals and countless assists, Bale formed part of a devastating frontline alongside Ronaldo and Karim Benzema at the Bernabeu – helping Real to three La Liga titles and five Champions Leagues, including his remarkable winner in the 2018 edition of the latter against Liverpool. Again, despite the preposterousness of it all, when you consider the silverware gained you’d have to argue that Bale was worth every penny of that £85.3 million to Real Madrid.
Paul Pogba (Juventus to Manchester United, £89 million)
Ah, Paul. A player that Manchester United released for free in 2012 came back to haunt them, in a fashion, when they then spent £89 million to re-secure his services just four years later.
Undoubtedly talented, Pogba’s aloof demeanour and frustrating ability to appear as if he’d rather be doing anything other than playing football has driven some of his managers to distraction – not least José Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, his paymasters at United.
A World Cup winner and four-time Serie A champion, it just never really happened for Pogba in English football – United left to count the cost of one of the most grievous over-spends ever witnessed in the beautiful game.
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool to Barcelona, £105 million)
When you scroll through some of the legendary names that have owned the British record transfer title, it’s somewhat incongruous to remember that Philippe Coutinho is also on the list. The diminutive forward is a seriously good player, but he’s not world class and certainly won’t be remembered as an all-time Premier League great.
But Barcelona were convinced enough to stump up £105 million for the Liverpool man in 2018, and he would leave behind a trophy-less stint on Merseyside for two La Liga titles with the Spanish giants.
Enzo Fernández (Benfica to Chelsea, £106.7 million)
Only time will tell how good Enzo Fernández really is, but the £106.7 million paid by Chelsea for the defensive midfielder was indicative of the lost marbles that bedevilled owner Todd Boehly during his monumental overspend during the 2022/23 season.
A World Cup winner, Fernández showed tremendous form at the Qatar showpiece for Argentina – displaying prowess at both ends of the pitch and maturity beyond his young years to capture the Best Young Player award. But plenty of players have been signed due to their World Cup buzz and there’s plenty of examples of duds and flops – whether Fernandez can truly live up to the billing as a £106 million man remains to be seen.