Wednesday 21 March 2018

With Paul Pogba set to become the world's most expensive player, check out his 10 predecessors

Paul Pogba is United's primary transfer target this summer Getty
Paul Pogba is United's primary transfer target this summer Getty

Tom Rooney

If Manchester United eventually do pay Juventus in excess of £100m for the services of Paul Pogba, the transaction will usher in a new epoch in football commerce, though few will consider it a watershed moment in the history of the game.

With an utterly forgettable European Championships now behind us, and the beginning of the Premier League season still three weeks away, the human cattle mart that is the summer transfer window resumes pride of place as the only show in town.

And so it should; the wheeling and dealings, swirl of rumours - unfounded or otherwise - and exchange of scarcely imaginable sums is, so often, infinitely more compelling than the all consuming fare served up for nine months of the year.

Of course, the story this summer, the incessant narrative, like a mind-numbing reality TV show featuring cretins devoid of inhibition you just can’t pull yourself away from, is Manchester United’s protracted tilt for Paul Pogba.

The player Jose Mourinho just can’t do without, a 23-year-old blessed with untold gifts, but still a relatively unknown quantity, who United allowed leave free of charge four years ago.

Assuming a position of moral outrage in the face of such an unseemly amount of money being used for an endeavour as trivial as football is, at this stage, redundant.

Once Aston Villa made Willie Groves the first £100 player when buying him from West Brom in 1893, this particular juncture likely became inevitable.

As such, what better time than now to look back on the last 10 transfers to set the bar for unprecedented outlays.

Alan Shearer, Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle United, £15m. 1996

Newcastle's line-up once featured stars like Alan Shearer

Only one of two British players on the list, Shearer returned to his hometown as the veritable prodigal son. Still the Premier League’s top goal scorer with 260, he would net a total of 148 for the Magpies.

Ronaldo, Barcelona to Inter Milan, £19.5m. 1996

For the second time in less than two years the Brazilian striker became the world’s most expensive player. Barcelona had paid PSV Einthoven £13.2, before offloading him to the Milanese club for a sizable profit. In five years, Ronaldo would play just 68 times for Inter, though he did manage to score on 49 occasions.

1997: Ronaldo
Barcelona to Inter Milan: £19.5m

Denílson, Sao Paulo to Real Betis, £21.5m. 1998. 


The left winger, who represented Brazil on 61 occasions, had prlonged loan spells in his homeland while at Betis, scored twice in 35 appearances in his first season, before the club were relegated in the next.  

Christian Vieri, Lazio to Inter Milan, £32.1m. 1999.

Once more Inter shelled out huge for a goal scorer and, some would argue, they got their money’s worth. Vieri’s 103 goals in 143 appearances is nothing to sneeze at, though the 2005 Copa Italia is only piece of silverware accrued during his time there.
Christian Vieri during his Inter Milan spell. Vieri moved to Milan aged 25. Vieri never won any silverware with Inter. Photo: New Press, Getty Images

Hernan Crespo, Parma to Lazio, £35m. 2000.
Hernan Crespo during his time at Lazio . Crespo scored at total of 26 goals in his first season at the club. Photo: Ross Kinnaird, Getty Images

In two seasons, the Argentine lined out for Lazio on 54 occasions and netted 39 goals, before departing for Inter. While he was at Lazio, the club won only a pre-season tournament.

Luis Figo, Barcelona to Real Madrid, £37m, 2000.
Luis Figo during his Real Madrid career. Photo: Koichi Kamoshida, Getty Images

Figo’s acquisition marks the beginning of Madrid’s monopolisation of the record breaking deal. Furthermore, leaving the Catalan club for their sworn rivals, takes a certain amount of temerity.

In five years with Los Blancos, the age of the Galactico, the Portugal midfielder helped them win seven trophies, including the 2002 Champions League and a pair of La Liga titles.

Zinedine Zidane, Juventus to Real Madrid, £46m. 2001.

Arguably the greatest player of his era, the France World Cup winning captain scored that spectacular winner as Madrid defeated Bayer Leverkusen to win the Champions League in Hampden Park. Indeed, last season as manager, he guided them to their 11th European crown.

Pep Guardiola against Zinedine Zidane during Spain's game against France at Euro 200 Photo: Shaun Botterill / Allsport

Kaká, AC Milan to Real Madrid, £56m. 2009
Kaka Photo: Getty Images

For eight years Madrid lay relatively dormant then, in the space of a summer, they broke their own record twice. The languid Brazilian never reached his previous heights in Spain and, over the course of four unremarkable years, he played 85 games and scored 23 goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United to Real Madrid, £80m. 2009.

Less than fortnight after Kaká’s arrival, Ronaldo was acquired from Manchester United. Incidentally, in that same window Madrid also recruited, among others, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema. Along with Lionel Messi, Ronaldo has heightened our expectations for what constitutes a prolific goal scorer.

It is staggering to realise that the 31-year-old has,in a duration of 236 appearances for the club, found the net on 260 occasions.

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 12: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid (7) celebrates with team mates as he scores their second goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg match between Real Madrid CF and VfL Wolfsburg at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 12, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid, £86m, 2013.

Real Madrid's Gareth Bale is chased by Wolfsburg's Luiz Gustavo. Photo: Michael Sohn/AP Photo

Vast swathes of ground have been covered between Shearer and the Welshman, so much so that the interim 13 years could be a lifetime.

Bale has struggled at times in Madrid, but he is slowly edging closer to succeeding Ronaldo and Messi as the benchmark for brilliance. Madrid have been crowned European Champions twice during his three seasons at the Bernabeu, while 47 goals in 81 games isn’t too bad either. 

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