Ranking the European clubs to have made the most profit on transfers in recent years

European clubs once again spent huge sums on new talent during the winter transfer window, with Chelsea spending a British transfer record fee to sign Enzo Fernandez from Benfica.

Fernandez’s sale continued a remarkable record in the transfer market for Benfica, who have continually sold on stars for huge profits in recent windows.

We’ve decided to look at the best money-making clubs in Europe, with CIES having provided the data. These are the five clubs to have made the most profit on transfers since 2018/19.

Sporting Lisbon (€268m)

Portugal has been a regular hunting ground for top clubs in search of new talent, with Sporting having joined Lisbon rivals Benfica in raking in transfer fees.

Sporting have made €268m profit since the 2018/19 season, bringing in some huge fees from Premier League clubs. Matheus Nunes (Wolves) and Joao Palhinha (Fulham) departed for a combined fee approaching £60m last summer, with the former having initially cost just €500,000 in January 2019 and the latter a product of the club’s fabled academy system.

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Nuno Mendes and Gelson Martins are among the other names to have been schooled at Sporting before departing for Europe for large fees.

Sporting’s record sale is that of Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United, in a deal that could reach £67.6m with add-ons. Fernandes has starred since leaving Portugal for the Premier League, contributing 70 goal contributions in 108 league appearances for the Red Devils.

Red Bull Salzburg (€287m)

Red Bull Salzburg have been a production line for prospects across the last decade, boasting one of the most respected recruitment models in Europe.

Almost each summer Salzburg are raided for their finest young talent, but the club continue to unearth new gems, develop them in Austria, and sell them on to boost the balance sheet.

Last summer Brenden Aaronson (Leeds – £22.2m), Mohamed Camara (Monaco – £12m) and Karim Adeyemi (Borussia Dortmund – £29m) departed for Europe’s top five leagues, with that trio each hoping to follow in the footsteps of some notable alumni who have left Salzburg for huge success.

Sadio Mane and Erling Haaland are the biggest names to have made their name at Salzburg, moving on to establish themselves among the world’s best. Benjamin Sesko – who has already agreed a switch to RB Leipzig for next summer – is the next talent who will look to use Salzburg as a stepping stone to greater things.

Ajax (€292m)

Ajax are a giant club in their own right, having been crowned European champions on four occasions.

The record 36-time Eredivisie champions have seen talent come and go however, as the lure of richer European leagues prises Ajax’s best away from the club. There are few academies in world football as respected as Ajax, who have seen homegrown products Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Donny van de Beek and Ryan Gravernberch move on for large fees in recent windows.

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Ajax have also found success in the South American market, purchasing low from across the Atlantic before selling on for huge profit. Antony and Lisandro Martinez followed former Erik ten Hag to Manchester United last summer, having been brought in for an initial outlay of around £18m.

United agreed to pay £56.7m for Martinez and £86m for Antony, with the latter becoming the most expensive sale in Eredivisie history.

Lille (€308m)

Competing at the top end of Ligue 1 isn’t easy.

Paris Saint-Germain’s incomparable riches have made the division somewhat uneven, with rival sides in need of clever recruitment to challenge the dominance of the capital club.

Lille upset the odds to be crowned champions in 2020/21, in large part thanks to the club’s brilliant business. The French side have brought in more than €308m from transfers since 2018/19, developing a reputation as master recruiters and tough negotiators.

Nicolas Pepe (£72m) and Victor Osimhen (£62.4m) have been the headline departures, having been brought in for a fraction of those fees from Angers and Charleroi respectively.

Luis Campos – who helped create the Monaco side that dethroned PSG in 2015/16 – was the club’s technical director between 2017 and 2020, laying the foundations for Lille’s title triumph in 2021. PSG eventually decided that enough was enough and hired the market maneuverer for themselves.

Lille’s outgoings continue to bring in revenue however, including the sales of Sven Botman (Newcastle – £35m) and Amadou Onana (Everton – £33.5m) to the Premier League last summer. Each have impressed for their new clubs, with Lille’s eye for a talent second to none.

Benfica (€370m)

Benfica are out in front as the most profitable club of recent years, with the Portuguese side in the black to the tune of €370m since 2018/19 alone.

It has been an incredible period of financial success for Benfica, whose mix of brilliant academy products and shrewd signings has brought in huge sums.

The club’s highest sale was Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid, in a £113m deal that stunned Europe. Felix had spent just one season in the senior side at Benfica, before Atletico made the forward the fourth-most expensive footballer of all time. Ruben Dias (£64m) also brought in a sizeable fee having been developed in the club’s academy.

Benfica have, however, also turned over quick-fire profits on recent recruits. Darwin Nunez was the club’s record signing after arriving from Almeria for a fee of €24m, but departed two seasons – and 48 goals later – to Liverpool for a figure which could reach €100m.

Even that deal looks modest when considering the recent sale of Enzo Fernandez to Chelsea. Fernandez only arrived in Portugal from River Plate six months ago (€15m), but departed last month for a profit in excess of €100m (€120m). The 22-year-old became the most expensive footballer in Premier League history when completing his move to Stamford Bridge.

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