Fans of Manchester United and City, Arsenal, Real Madrid and Barcelona will all have been disappointed that target Mario Goetze has elected to leave Borussia Dortmund for Bayern Munich.
The Germany playmaker is one of the finest attacking midfielders outside Barcelona at the moment, the best in some eyes, although fans of Juan Mata and – now he plays through the middle – Gareth Bale will disagree.
Goetze is also the most expensive German footballer of all time, at a cool 37 million euros. But many of you will have noted that figure to be somewhat less than those bandied about for the likes of Bale, so we have taken a look at midfielders who have been sold for more than Goetze.
It makes for interesting reading, not least because the 13th and final man on our ranking also plays for Bayern – Spain defensive midfielder Javi Martinez, who is the only non attack-minded player on the list, and whose 40m euro transfer last summer is a German league record.
It is also worth noting that there is a group of players – headed by Zinedine Zidane – who moved for huge money in 2001. That mini-anomaly is in part down to the explosion of TV money in the world game around that time, and also because of the return of the playmaker, which came back into fashion as top sides moved away from 4-4-2 and wingback-led formations towards the 4-2-3-1 we mostly see nowadays.
THE MOST EXPENSIVE MIDFIELDERS IN FOOTBALL
1. Kaka (Milan to Real Madrid, 2009, 65m euros)
The Brazil playmaker was FIFA World Player of the Year in 2007 and widely regarded as the top playmaker in the game when he shunned Manchester City to join Real Madrid four years ago. It hasn’t worked out for him, his world transfer record soon eclipsed by Cristiano Ronaldo, who took his place on the pitch too as Jose Mourinho went for a more conventional frontline. Will probably leave the club on a free when his contract expires.
2. Zinedine Zidane (Juventus to Real Madrid, 2001, 63.5m)
Arguably one of the finest players to walk this earth, what was remarkable about Zidane’s then-record move from Juve was that he was 29 at the time. Real got some great service though, winning quite literally everything that could be won, apart from the UEFA Cup. But who cares about that when you score a majestic goal in a Champions League final? Pictured here with current Real AM Kaka.
3. Luis Figo (Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000, 61.5m)
Easily the most controversial of these transfers as the Portuguese winger made the loathed switch from Barca to Real, from Catalonia to Castilla. He was disowned by Barca, with fans infamously chucking a pig’s heads at him during a Clasico. But he too won titles aplenty before ending a fine career with a successful Indian Summer at Internazionale.
4. Pavel Nedved (Lazio to Juventus, 2001, 46.3m)
Juve fans were devastated if understanding when Zidane and his Spanish wife moved to Madrid. But they were placated by the signing of Czech star Nedved from rivals Lazio, who had won Serie A the year before but seemed intent on dismantling that side at considerable profit (more on that to follow). Nedved went on to be almost as successful as Zidane for Juve, winning four titles, although two were latterly stripped for match-fixing. Went on to play well into his late 30s, Juve very much getting their money’s worth.
5. Juan Sebastian Veron (Lazio to Manchester United, 2001, 46.3m)
The sales of the aforementioned Nedved and Veron were greeted with fan protests at Lazio, who could not believe their successful team was being torn apart. Veron operated deeper than Nedved, his tempo-setting passes and lung-busting runs suited to the withdrawn playmaker role as the Czech ran rings around the opposition. It didn’t work out for him at United, making him the second-most expensive flop in English history behind Fernando Torres. Fared even worse at Chelsea – some players simply can’t play in England – but later forged a good career with Inter and back in Argentina with Estudiantes.
6. Rui Costa (Fiorentina to Milan, 2001, 45m)
The Portuguese star was, like Figo, one of their golden generation. It didn’t quite work out for him as planned at Milan in the sense that he soon lost his place behind the strikers to a fresh-faced Kaka, but he thrived in a deeper role and managed to win domestic and European titles in his spell at the Rossoneri. Ended up back at Benfica, where he is now director of football.
7. Lucas Moura (Sao Paulo to Paris Saint-Germain, 2012, 44.3m)
Moura rejected the likes of Manchester United and Internazionale when he decided to join PSG’s Qatari revolution last summer, although that may have been as much down to those clubs baulking at Sao Paulo’s demands. A huge risk for a 20-year-old (he arrived at the end of the Brazilian season in time for the January window), but he has showed flashes of brilliance and plenty of pace behind the strikers. The jury is still out but, if coached well, could be a world beater.
8. Javier Pastore (Palermo to Paris Saint-Germain, 2011, 43m)
Another Paris production, Pastore didn’t exactly set Ligue 1 alight after his big move from Palermo, impressing in fits and starts and by his own admission struggling to live up to the price tag. Has looked good in a deeper role this season though, no doubt the pressure having been eased by other big-name arrivals. Probably overpriced, as anyone joining PSG will be subject to an oil tax...
9. Luka Modric (Tottenham to Real Madrid, 2012, 42m)
Many of us still don’t understand why Madrid were so obsessed with signing Modric, or rather why Mourinho insisted on getting his man after failing to do so as Chelsea boss. Again, a fine player by any token, but Madrid already have the likes of Mesut Ozil in that position, which makes the Croatian appear a luxury and little more. He did get them past Manchester United though, which would be repayment enough if Real win the Champions League.
10. Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal to Barcelona, 2011, 40m)
An even more drawn-out transfer saga than Modric’s, Cesc’s return to his alma mater was greeted with expectant disappointment from Gunners fans. Despite not always being first choice, Cesc has been something of a sensation at the Camp Nou, relishing his more advanced role by adding more goals to his excellent all-round game. Set to be Xavi’s long-term replacement, it was the right move for both clubs and at the right price.
11. Marc Overmars (Arsenal to Barcelona, 2000, 40m)
The pound was strong in those days, meaning the 40m euro fee was actually only £26m. But we are sticking with euros, which is how Barca paid for the speedy Dutch winger, and anyway it was a British and Spanish transfer record at the time, and the first major transfer to be announced using the internet. It wasn’t a great deal though, as Barca failed to win any titles in the time before his premature retirement through injury in 2004.
Speaking of the internet, Belgian midfielder Hazard announced his transfer negotiations with a host of bidders through his Twitter account, delaying the reveal until well after we all knew he was joining Chelsea. His talent is undoubted, although – despite having seemed a cool customer otherwise – his temperament has been questioned after a bizarre incident when he kicked a ball-boy. As a recent signing the jury will always be out for a while, but looks the real deal.
We have an in-depth profile on the Spain defensive midfielder, which should be referred to if you’re interested in the back story and excellent form following his German record move to Bayern. Money well spent, although had Goetze’s release clause been greater, you cannot help but think Martinez’s new team-mate would have usurped him in the money stakes.