The most expensive transfer ever by age: Liverpool have record for 14, Ronaldo and Neymar in twice

Cristiano Ronaldo embraces Neymar Credit: Alamy
Cristiano Ronaldo embraces Neymar Credit: Alamy

Liverpool signed the most expensive 14-year-old ever. Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar account for two of the costliest players by age in football history.


13 – Finley Burns (£250,000, Southend to Manchester City in January 2017)
Now an ancient 20, Burns has done well to remain on the books of Manchester City since joining in his first teenage year in January 2017. The defender has even made his first-team debut in the League Cup, spent time on loan in the Championship and played for England age groups up to the U20s so far.


14 – Sheyi Ojo (£2million, MK Dons to Liverpool in November 2011)
After playing for the U18s and training with the first team, Ojo attracted intense interest from Chelsea and Liverpool but it was the latter who won out. He played 13 times for the Reds, was praised by Jurgen Klopp for his “big skills”, had seven spells on loan and eventually left in 2022. Cardiff City, to save you a Google.


15 – Fran Merida (£2.2m, Barcelona to Arsenal in 2005)
“An absolutely amazing player,” was the assessment Arsene Wenger once offered of Merida, who replaced fellow former Gunners prodigy Jermaine Pennant as the most expensive 15-year-old footballer in history. The Spaniard is still knocking about as a grizzled veteran in the Chinese Super League.


16 – Pietro Pellegri (£17.5m, Genoa to Monaco in January 2018)
There is precious little separating Pellegri from fellow youthful Monaco recruit Willem Geubbels, who joined a few months later. Neither made an impact in the principality.


17 – Jude Bellingham (£25m, Birmingham to Borussia Dortmund in July 2020)
A total of 44 first-team appearances for Championship side Birmingham was enough to tempt Bundesliga giants and professional stepping stone Borussia Dortmund into signing Bellingham; none of the parties involved will have any regrets.

Man Utd target Jude Bellingham celebrates Credit: Alamy
Man Utd target Jude Bellingham celebrates Credit: Alamy

Jude Bellingham rejected Man Utd for Dortmund


18 – Vinicius Junior (£39.6m, Flamengo to Real Madrid in July 2018)
Two days after making his professional debut, Vinicius Junior signed a new contract which increased a buy-out clause Real Madrid agreed to pay about a week later. The Brazilian was 16 at the time but the transfer was completed upon his 18th birthday.


19 – Kylian Mbappe (£166m, Monaco to PSG in June 2018)
The most expensive teenager in the world and it is not particularly close; Joao Felix joined Atletico Madrid at the same age for £113m, while Bellingham’s move to Real Madrid could cost a couple million more than that with add-ons. The ridiculous Mbappe hopes his next move won’t cost quite as much.


20 – Ousmane Dembele (£135.5m, Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona in August 2017)
Barcelona are £1.15bn in debt.


21 – Moises Caicedo (£100m, Brighton to Chelsea in August 2023)
Brighton did what Brighton do and held out long enough for Liverpool and Chelsea to walk into a blindfolded blinking contest, with Caicedo ultimately making the decision by turning down a British record £111m move to the former in favour of a potential £115m switch to the latter.


22 – Enzo Fernandez (£106.8m, Benfica to Chelsea in February 2023)
The £10m move from River Plate to Benfica in June 2022 did not make Fernandez the most expensive 22-year-old footballer in history, but his next transfer a few months later as a world champion certainly did.


23 – Paul Pogba (£93.8m, Juventus to Man Utd in August 2016)
Left for free at 19. Moved for world-record fee at 23. Left to join previous club – again for free – at 29. And only once did Pogba achieve what Graeme Souness “expected” of him.


24 – Declan Rice (£100m, West Ham to Arsenal in July 2023)
Arsenal will not mind if Rice enjoys similar success to the last individual who proudly held the title of world’s most expensive 24-year-old footballer. Gareth Bale did just fine and the Gunners believe their new record signing is the final piece of the jigsaw.


25 – Neymar (£198m, Barcelona to PSG in August 2017)
Oh look, it’s the transfer that broke football.


26 – Harry Maguire (£80m, Leicester to Man Utd in August 2019)
Not only did Maguire usurp Virgil van Dijk as the most expensive defender ever, he replaced him as the most expensive 26-year-old in history. That really does have to sting. The former Man Utd captain might consider himself to at least be in the same conversation now, if only just listening in the background and awkwardly laughing at all the in-jokes while being hawked around for what will surely ultimately be less than half what he was signed for.


27 – Luis Suarez (£65m, Liverpool to Barcelona in July 2014)
After arriving with a customary months-long ban for biting, Suarez really did crack on establishing a phenomenal Barcelona legacy. The only player not named Lionel or Cristiano to win the Pichichi Trophy for La Liga top scorer between 2010 and 2021, Suarez also claimed 13 trophies and a place at number three on the Blaugrana’s list of all-time top scorers. Then when they let the Uruguayan go for free he fired Atletico to the title while fuelled on pure thirst for revenge.


28 – Eden Hazard (£143m, Chelsea to Real Madrid in July 2019)
If you had told Real Madrid in the summer of 2019 that Hazard would activate all the clauses in his Chelsea transfer to take it from an £88.5m deal to the full value of £143m, they would presumably have been chuffed at the success the Belgian must have enjoyed. But those add-ons were accidentally triggered across four seasons utterly ruined by injury, before being released with 12 months of his contract remaining.


29 – Diego Costa (£57m, Chelsea to Atletico Madrid in January 2018)
Zinedine Zidane was unmovable for almost two decades, but then Diego Costa won two Premier League titles in 20-goal seasons, was dumped by Antonio Conte over text, did not play for months and went AWOL, yet Chelsea still sold him back to Atletico for almost double what they initially paid, despite the striker turning 30 later that year and the Spanish side operating under a transfer ban. Todd Boehly could never.


30 – Harry Kane (£100m, Spurs to Bayern Munich in August 2023)
Raising the bar set by predecessor Casemiro by quite a way, Kane finally broke his Daniel Levy shackles with a 47-goal gap to Alan Shearer’s all-time Premier League record, so desperate was he to finally grab a couple of trophies.


31 – Neymar (£86.3m, Paris Saint-Germain to Al-Hilal in August 2023)
For more than 23 years, Gabriel Batistuta reigned as the most expensive 31-year-old in football history; it was a simpler time. Then Saudi Arabia came along, changed the game and rescued a load of superclubs from their financial burdens, including even mega-rich PSG.


32 – Riyad Mahrez (£30m, Manchester City to Al-Ahli in July 2023)
Yep. Not that Manchester City were desperate to offload Mahrez, but the Algerian had won everything on offer in England and earned his jaunt in the Middle East.


33 – Cristiano Ronaldo (£99m, Real Madrid to Juventus in July 2018)
Five trophies, 101 goals in 134 games and consecutive Serie A Footballer of the Year awards, but still a failure of a signing after being picked up to win the Champions League – or at least to stop scoring against Juventus in the Champions League – yet not being able to take them beyond the quarter-finals after being knocked out by Ajax, Lyon and Porto.


34 – Jose Fonte (£5m, West Ham to Dalian Yifang in February 2018)
West Ham made most of their money back on European champion Fonte despite a pretty poor year in London. The centre-half was not long for the Chinese Super League world, terminating his own contract that summer before joining Lille to help them win Ligue Un.


35 – Antonio Mirante (£3.6m, Bologna to Roma in June 2018)
Roma were flush with Alisson cash in the summer of 2018 so decided that bringing in a Serie A journeyman back-up keeper in his mid-30s was sensible and quite frankly we are not here to argue.


36 – Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.9m, Juventus to Man Utd in August 2021)
Manchester City lurked, Man Utd panicked, Sir Alex Ferguson was mobilised and Rio Ferdinand crowed. And for a while Ronaldo scored. But then a non-sycophantic grown-up was appointed as his manager and toys were expelled from prams with the toadying help of Piers Morgan as the Portuguese prompted a Saudi revolution.

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