Sir Alex Ferguson once said that “Attack wins you games, but defence wins you titles.”
There was once a time when defenders were relatively undervalued and under-appreciated compared to their attacking counterparts, though those days are now gone.
The world’s biggest clubs are now spending ever-increasing amounts on defenders, with big-money backlines now very much the trend.
Already this summer there have been some big moves, so we decided to have a look at the five most expensive defenders of all-time…
Monaco to Manchester City – £52m
The flying French full-back shot to prominence in the exciting, young Monaco team which conquered Ligue 1 in 2017, whilst there run to the Champions League semi-finals included the elimination of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
The City boss was left impressed by what he saw, bringing in Bernardo Silva from the French club before splashing out £52m for left-back Mendy.
Mendy’s time in Manchester has been mixed, with the former Marseille player having been blighted by injury problems. When fit, he has shown his quality, making trademark powerful runs and netted five assists from just 10 Premier League appearances in 2018/19.
An ever-popular figure at City due to his social media exploits, Guardiola will hope Mendy can maintain his fitness next season after making just 17 league appearances for the club in two seasons at the Etihad.
Athletic Bilbao to Manchester City – £57m
The second Frenchman and second Manchester City player to make our list, centre-back Laporte moved to the Etihad in a £57m deal in January 2018.
City had been seeking a long-term replacement for Vincent Kompany, deciding on a move for the elegant defender to partner John Stones in defence.
Laporte has established himself as one of the Premier League’s finest since moving to English football, with his ability to carry the ball forward and accurate passing making him ideally suited to Guardiola’s methods.
Having helped City to back-to-back titles and an unprecedented domestic treble, Laporte’s move to Manchester has been vindicated as the club continue to deliver silverware.
Despite having represented France at various youth levels, Laporte’s continued omission from Didier Deschamps’ squad remains a mystery.
Matthijs de Ligt
Ajax to Juventus – £67.5m
The Dutch defender became one of Europe’s hottest properties after emerging at Ajax, establishing himself as the club’s captain and leading the Eredivisie side to a domestic double all before turning 20.
The teenager’s displays in Ajax’s surprise run to the Champions League semi-finals convinced Europe’s elite that he was ready to make the step-up, with a host of the continent’s top clubs scrambling to secure his signature.
Italian champions Juventus eventually won the race, securing the 19-year-old for a fee of £67.5m. De Ligt will become the long-term replacement for veterans Georgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, the duo having been defensive stalwarts during Juventus’ recent dominance of Italian football.
Having won eight consecutive Serie A titles, Juventus are eyeing long-awaited European glory. De Ligt’s signing may help one of Europe’s most prestigious clubs finally deliver the Champions League, having not lifted European football’s biggest prize since 1996.
Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich – £68m
German giants Bayern Munich looked to revitalise their ageing defence in 2019 with the £68m capture of Atletico Madrid star Hernandez, the defender having impressed as part of the French side crowned world champions in 2018.
The £68m fee represented a club-record for the serial Bundesliga winners, who secured a deal for Hernandez who is equally adept centrally or at left-back.
Hernandez had impressed as part of a notoriously strong Atletico defence, making over 100 appearances in the Spanish capital and helping Diego Simeone’s side to Europa League success in 2018.
Virgil Van Dijk
Southampton to Liverpool – £75m
Liverpool’s lengthy pursuit of the Dutch defender ended in a club-record £75m deal, making Van Dijk the most expensive defender in history and raising more than a few eyebrows.
A debut goal against local rivals Everton started his Anfield career off, with the 27-year-old’s towering presence helping to transform the Liverpool backline.
What was once an Achilles heel for Jurgen Klopp’s side soon turned into arguably their greatest strength, Van Dijk helping Liverpool to the Premier League’s best defensive record last season.
Those displays were enough to crown the former Celtic star as the PFA Player of the Year, becoming just the third defender in the division’s history to receive the prestigious honour.
Whilst Liverpool’s title pursuit ultimately ended in agonising failure, their disappointment was short-lived as they were crowned champions of Europe following Champions League success in June.
Any doubts over Van Dijk’s fee have now been forgotten, the defender set to play a key role in Liverpool’s success in seasons to come.