Ranked: The Premier League’s record-breaking transfers

Ranked: The Premier League’s record-breaking transfers

As you have no doubt heard, Jack Grealish has completed a big-money move away from boyhood club Aston Villa to reigning Premier League champions Manchester City.

In a deal valued at £100-million in what is yet another record-breaking transfer deal, eclipsing Paul Pogba’s £89-million move from Juventus back to Manchester United in 2016, it was the sixteenth time a transfer has broken the standing Premier League record.

Shearer, Keane, Bergkamp & more: Ranking the Premier League’s record-breaking transfers

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – MAY 23: Jack Grealish of Aston Villa claps the fans following the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park on May 23, 2021 in Birmingham, England. A limited number of fans will be allowed into Premier League stadiums as Coronavirus restrictions begin to ease in the UK. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

From Alan Shearer’s move from Southampton to Blackburn Rovers in 1992 to Grealish’s long-expected move from Villa Park this summer, we took a crack at ranking how each move stacks up against the rest of the list.

A variety of factors were considered and every angle of context is difficult to apply. How the player impacted the club, the trophy haul during their time at the club that broke the record for them, and the legacy they build during their stay were all considered. Only their Premier League careers were considered, and any European and international success was not factored in.

Without further delay, here are our rankings for each of the record-breaking transfers in Premier League history. And yes, I fully expect to get some flak for this.

Note: Jack Grealish will not be included on the list given that he has yet to feature for Manchester City 

15. Robinho | Real Madrid to Manchester City; £32.5m (2008)

Manchester City probably should have not gone out of their way to swoop in at the eleventh hour to steal Brazilian winger Robinho out of Chelsea’s clutches, but few would have expected the technically gifted sparkplug to bust as hard as he did in the blue half of Manchester.


MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM – JANUARY 11: Robinho of Manchester City looks on as a substitute during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers at the City of Manchester Stadium on January 11, 2010 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

After failing to sign a new deal at Real Madrid, the Brazilian international would end up at the City of Manchester stadium for just two seasons. In that time, he made only forty-one Premier League appearances while finding the back of the net on fourteen occasions, all of which came in his first season. But he would be loaned out to Santos halfway through the 2009-10 Premier League campaign after injuries limited his involvement at the club and subsequently saw his importance to the team drastically reduced before heading off to AC Milan the season after. Less than two full seasons at the club hardly repaid the effort City went through to acquire his services, with the club failing to secure any major honors during his time there.

14. Fernando Torres | Liverpool to Chelsea; £50m (2011)

At the time of Fernando Torres’ January deadline day move from Liverpool to Chelsea, two clubs would end up on the disappointing end of the stick. The Reds reinvested the financial windfall in Andy Carroll (yeah, you know how that panned out), while Torres failed to rekindle the form that saw him become one of the most feared strikers in the Premier League during his time at Anfield.

All told, the Spanish international made 110-appearances in the league for the Blues, scoring just 20-goals during his four-year spell at Stamford Bridge in which the club failed to achieve Premier League success. If other competitions factored into the list Torres perhaps would not be as frowned upon, with the Atlético Madrid youth product helping Chelsea secure an FA Cup, as well as wins in the Champions League and Europa League. Though he remained important for Spain in their Euro 2012 winning campaign, his move to Chelsea signaled a fall from grace from which he never recovered.

13. Stan Collymore | Nottingham Forest to Liverpool; £8.5m (1995)

A difficult one to judge, because Stan Collymore was hardly poor for Liverpool during his time at Anfield. At the time of his transfer back in 1995, Collymore had just come off a Premier League campaign with Nottingham Forest that saw him bag 22-goals in 37-appearances helping Forest to a third-place finish behind champions Blackburn Rovers and runner-up Manchester United.

His first season on Merseyside saw him end on 14-goals and form a credible partnership with Robbie Fowler, and he would follow up with a further 12-goals in the league the following season. But the emerging youth talent that was Michael Owen would put an end to Collymore’s Liverpool career before it truly got going, and the England international moved on to Aston Villa after just two seasons with the Reds.

12. Andriy Shevchenko | AC Milan to Chelsea; £30.6m (2006)

Well, this was upsetting to watch. You would struggle to find a single football fan across the globe that did not truly appreciate watching Andriy Shevchenko during his pump; not just with AC Milan, but during his influential spell with Dinamo Kyiv that saw him hit 16-goals in the Champions League between 1997-1999.

Truly, Shevchenko was unquestionably one of the top strikers in Europe during his time in Milan, but his big-money move to Chelsea in 2006 will surely go down as one of the most disappointing deals in Premier League history irrespective of the price that was paid. He would find the back of the net on just nine occasions in 48-appearances for the Blues, and his presence in the team did little to help Chelsea in their failed bids to secure a league title during his two years at the club with the club finishing as runner-up on both occasions.

11. Juan Sebastián Verón | SS Lazio to Manchester United; £28.1m (2001)

One of three deals perpetrated by Manchester United to break the Premier League transfer record in a 12-month period, Juan Sebastián Verón had been setting the world alight in Serie A for years between 1996-01 at Sampdoria, Parma, and Lazio before making the move to Old Trafford. But his influential presence that was so highly valued during his time in Italy would not take hold in the Premier League as he would last just two seasons before moving on to an even more disastrous spell at Chelsea in 2003.

Verón did play some part in United’s successful Premier League win in 2002-03, but at that time had already come to terms with an increasing struggle to cope with the requirements of the English top-flight compared to Italy. Though Sir Alex Ferguson continued to back the player despite his exit amidst criticism from both the media and the United fan base, Verón’s time as a Red Devil goes down as both a flop but also left many wondering what could have been for him if he settled.

10. Paul Pogba | Juventus to Manchester United; £89m (2016)

My first bid to envoke the wrath of a section of the readership comes with Paul Pogba being on the low-end of the list regarding transfer success. For starters, the fact that United had him on their books previously only to pay a staggering figure to regain his services goes down as a transfer blunder in of itself.

Shearer, Keane, Bergkamp & more: Ranking the Premier League’s record-breaking transfers

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 06: Paul Pogba of Manchester United reacts as he walks off the pitch after picking up an injury during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford on February 06, 2021 in Manchester, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

With that said, no one can deny just how talented of a footballer Pogba is. So silky in possession, and capable of sublime technical moments where he can command the midfield at will, the issue comes down to one prevailing factor; a lack of Premier League honors. United will always be one of the top spenders in the Premier League, but for the financial outlay involved in bringing him back to Old Trafford, the notion that they have yet to win the league during his five seasons at the club (despite some of the managerial issues suffered) on top of the other spending the club brass have sanctioned, is staggering. It is hard to argue against the notion that when you spent that much money on a player, you want trophies added to the cabinet and in that light, Pogba, unfortunately, has to be included where he is.

9. Rio Ferdinand | West Ham United to Leeds United; £18m (2000)

Potentially another placement that may rustle some feathers, Rio Ferdinand’s first of two record-breaking transfers comes in at number nine simply because of the lack of longevity of the deal. At the time, his move to Leeds United from West Ham United involved the world-record fee involving a defender; no small achievement.

Ferdinand became a massive figure at Elland Road in just two years, helping the club reach the semi-finals of the Champions League under David O’Leary, and would wear the armband during his second season at the club. But though Leeds achieved fourth and fifth-place finishes during a short spell in Yorkshire that saw him make 54-appearances in the Premier League, they failed to overachieve on the domestic front (they finished third the season before his arrival). It may go down as harsh to many, and I suspect it will, but given that this list only takes into account the move in the context of the Premier League, it is hard to put this ahead of any of the moves we have yet to mention.

8. Ruud van Nistelrooij | PSV Eindhoven to Manchester United; £19m (2001)

When it comes to pure goalscorers, Ruud van Nistelrooij is up there with the best and brightest that have ever graced Old Trafford’s or the Premier League at large. After finally securing a move to the Premier League in the summer of 2001, the Oss-native would smash 68-goals in the league in his first three seasons, setting up a goal-scoring rivalry with Thierry Henry that was one of the most entertaining the League has witnessed in its history.

By the time of his move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2006, RVN bagged 95-goals in the league in just 150-appearances; an absolutely ludicrous goal return by anyone’s standards. But for all his goals, Van Nistelrooij lacked the overall influence in all areas of play to push United to greater success during his five-year stint in Manchester. He would go on to help United secure just one Premier League win in five seasons but despite that, remains a vaunted goal scorer when stacked up against others that have played in the top flight of English football.

7. Chris Sutton | Norwich City to Blackburn Rovers; £5m (1994)

If just one season was all that was gauged for Chris Sutton, his stock would be even higher than it is already when compared to the list of record deals in the Premier League. The season before his record move to Blackburn Rovers, Sutton smashed 25-goals for Norwich City in the league, and his summer move to Ewood Park and the inevitable partnership with the high-flying Alan Shearer was a tasty prospect if there ever was one. It did not disappoint.

Though Shearer remained the most vaunted goal scorer in the league in the 1994-95 campaign, his partnership with Sutton was so effective that it was dubbed “SAS” by the English media and it was a chief defining factor in Rovers securing their only Premier League title and their first league win in 81-years. Sutton persisted at Rovers after Shearer’s departure and even bettered his goal tally of their league-winning campaign when he hit 18-goals in 1997-98, but he failed to pick up Shearer’s mantel (who could, really?) overall. Still, 47-goals in 130-appearances and a key role in Rovers’ historic league win is worthy of being on the higher end of this list indeed.

6. Andy Cole | Newcastle United to Manchester United; £7m (1995)

“Andy Cole. Andy Cole. Andy, Andy Cole. When he gets the ball, he scores a goal… Andy, Andy Cole”

When you have your own tune paying homage to your goalscoring feats, you are probably pretty alright in that department. And that is exactly what Manchester United (oh hey, you again?) were banking on when they splashed the cash for the Arsenal youth product in January 1995.

Andy Cole was on the back of scintillating goal-scoring form for Newcastle United for the last two and a half years, hitting 55-goals in 70-appearances or the Magpies. Once he arrived at Old Trafford he hardly skipped a beat, smashing 12-goals in his first-18 appearances for the Red Devils. All told, Cole would end his spell at United after six full seasons and two half-spells that netted the club five Premier League wins, two FA Cup triumphs, and their memorable Champions League comeback win over Bayern Munich. Cole is also fondly remembered for his impressive strike partnership with Dwight Yorke in a duo that terrorized defenses both at home and on the continent.

5. Dennis Bergkamp | Inter Milan to Arsenal; £7.5m (1995)

Dennis Bergkamp; the Ice Man. Somehow, a player that remains a divisive figure amongst debates regarding the greatest players to ever grace the Premier League. His goal record for a forward does not stack up with the others who are on this list, but his influence in changing the tactical and technical landscape of English football while being arguably the greatest technician to ever feature on English shores surely puts him this high on merit. When you factor in the media reaction surrounding the transfer when Bruce Rioch brought him to Highbury from the San Siro in 1995 on the back of a torrid time in Milan that saw him score just 11-goals in two seasons at Inter after making his name as one of the best-ever youth products to come from Ajax’s academy, his career rebound is as impressive as any other.

Bergkamp will forever go down in Premier League lore for THAT goal against Newcastle United, his technical grace, and his key contributions to Arsenal’s trio of Premier Leagues wins (one as an Invincible), and four FA Cup haul’s during his eleven seasons in north London. Though he only ended his career in England with 87-goals in over 315-appearances, countless still refer to him as one of the best foreign players to ply their trade in the top flight of English football, and rightly so.

4. Alan Shearer | Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle United; £15m (1996)

Oh, do not worry; I was not done with controversial decisions just yet. As the all-time leading goal-scorer in the Premier League, there are only a very select few that can claim to be a more central figure to Newcastle United’s footballing history than Alan Shearer.

After quickly becoming the most vaunted goal-scorer in England after his feats at Blackburn Rovers, Shearer’s move to Newcastle eased the pain that the Geordie faithful suffered when they witnessed Andy Cole depart St. James’ Park for Manchester United the year before. The rest is history. The England great would find the back of the net 148-times in 303-appearances in the Premier League for the Magpies during a decade-long spell on Tyneside that included countless spectacular goals and his famous one-handed goal celebration that would eventually be turned into a bronze statue that comfortably took its place outside the ground that used to sing his name. Though he never helped the club achieve success in the Premier League, his record-breaking feats – that have yet to be beaten – while in the famous black and white stripes place him high on the list.

3. Rio Ferdinand | Leeds United t0 Manchester United; £29.1m (2002)

Back to Manchester United we go, and to one of two players to feature twice on this list; Rio Ferdinand. The only defender to break the Premier League transfer record (let alone twice), Ferdinand’s twelve-season spell at Old Trafford unquestionably goes down as one of the greatest – if not the greatest – tenures for a center-back in the history of the league.

When it comes to a trophy haul, Rio delivered in a big way at the heart of the Red Devil’s defense. Six Premier League wins as well as a Champions League trophy added to United’s cabinet signals an impressive return as any other. But even more impressive was his partnership with Serbian international Nemanja Vidić. Together, Ferdinand and Vidić formed arguably the best center-back duo to feature in the Premier League, with both Rio and Vidić being regularly recognized as the best center back from their respective countries and two of the finest of their entire generation. Come 2014 and the end of his time in Manchester, Ferdinand logged 312-appearances in the league, and if not for a handful of injuries, would have easily eclipsed the 350-mark.

2. Roy Keane | Nottingham Forest to Manchester United; £3.75m (1993)

The seventh and final time we get the absolute joy of discussing a move involving Manchester United, this time, it is referring to the deal that saw eventual captain Roy Keane arrive at Old Trafford in 1993 and the beginning of a truly legendary career at the highest level of English football.

Depending on who you ask, Keane is viewed as the best midfielder in the history of the Premier League; not because of a high goal return or a boat-load of assists (he achieved neither). When the young Cork-native arrived at United from Forest in 1993, he would eventually form part of a nucleus of players under Sir Alex Ferguson that is one of the most storied groups of players in league history. Along with the likes of Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, and the brothers Neville, Keane and his fabled leadership qualities would result in a cool seven Premier League honors, four FA Cup wins, and a Champions League winners medal; an average of one major trophy for every season he featured for the club. Though his United career ended in controversy and his punditry can often be divisive and equally controversial, no one would dare speak against the massive footprint Keane left on the English game…and an opponent or two.

1. Alan Shearer | Southampton to Blackburn Rovers; £3.6m (1992)

When it comes to true bang for your buck on this list, Alan Shearer’s move from Southampton to Blackburn Rovers in 1992 has to go down as the best of the record-breaking Premier League transfers. Completing his big-money move to Blackburn when he was still just 21-years-old, Shearer had already shown as a goalscorer the prior season when he bagged 13-goals for Saints in the First Division. But he would explode at Ewood Park the following season and go on to eventually achieve feats that – much like his overall goal record in the Premier League – has yet to be eclipsed.

A 16-goal haul in just 21-matches in his first season at Blackburn was an impressive return for the English youngster, but the following three seasons is where his legend already began to take hold across the country. From 1993-94 to 1995-96, Shearer obliter=ated the goal chart to the tune of 96-goals in 117-appearances in the league. To this day, Shearer remains the only player in Premier League history to score 30-goals or more for three seasons in succession, and his goal return and partnership with new-boy Chris Sutton in 1994-95 was the key catalyst for Blackburn’s first and only Premier League win, and first league trophy since 1913-14. Is Shearer the best player to ever play in the Premier League? That debate will rage on for years, but for me, it remains undeniable just how important his move to Blackburn became.

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Aminat Aigbe

Aminat Aigbe is the first lady of afronaija and a very good blogger ( Original Mrs AfroNaija )

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