Aston Villa have smashed their transfer record to sign highly-rated Ollie Watkins from Brentford, splashing an initial £28m to sign a player who starred in the Championship last term.
Watkins finished as the Championship’s joint-leading goalscorer with 26 goals last season and Villa will hope the forward can transfer that form to the highest level, but it remains a huge fee for a player unproven on the Premier League stage.
Top flight sides have, however, shown a willingness to shop in the second tier for emerging talents and we’ve decided to look back at the most expensive Championship to Premier League transfers.
Only players who played in the second tier the previous season will be considered, with recently relegated stars – such as Nathan Ake’s move from Bournemouth to Manchester City this summer – not included in this feature.
Here are the five most expensive Championship to Premier League transfers:
Jarrod Bowen – Hull City to West Ham (£20m)
Jarrod Bowen moved to Hull from non-league Hereford United whilst the Tigers were still a Premier League outfit, but it was following the club’s relegation to the Championship that the young forward began to demonstrate his talents.
Bowen established himself as one of the most exciting attackers in the second tier, scoring 52 goals in just 117 league appearances for the club over the past two-and-a-half Championship seasons.
That form prompted West Ham and David Moyes to gamble on the winger’s talents during this year’s January transfer window, signing Bowen in a £20m deal to boost their hopes of survival following a disappointing campaign at the London Stadium.
Bowen’s creativity and hunger to work hard added a new dimension to the Hammers’ side upon his arrival, though he scored just once in addition to providing four league assists.
Those tallies are expected to significantly increase as Bowen settles further into the Premier League, the 23-year-old an important part of Moyes’ plans at the East London outfit.
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Neil Maupay – Brentford to Brighton (£20m)
Aston Villa will hope that Ollie Watkins can at least match the performances of the last forward snapped up from Brentford in recent years, Neil Maupay having enjoyed a promising debut season as the spearhead of a new-look Brighton side under Graham Potter.
Like Watkins, Maupay scored prolifically for the Bees in the second tier, scoring 28 goals in all competitions during the 2018/19 season to earn a £20m move to the Amex Stadium.
Maupay – who has represented France at youth level – scored 10 league goals to enjoy a successful start to life in the Premier League last season, a fine achievement in a Brighton side largely struggling down the bottom half of the division.
Maupay’s arrival also added a new dimension to the Seagulls as he offered a vastly differing style to veteran Glenn Murray, his mobility and speed providing a sharp focal point at the head of Potter’s system.
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Adam Webster – Bristol City to Brighton (£20m)
Brighton broke their transfer-record on two Championship talents last summer by also adding the signing of Bristol City’s Adam Webster to the aforementioned capture of Maupay from Brentford.
The towering centre-back arrived and quickly established himself as a first-team regular, ousting Shane Duffy from the side as the preferred partner to club captain Lewis Dunk in central defence.
Webster enjoyed a solid debut season in the Premier League and proved a towering threat in both boxes, scoring three league goals and averaging an impressive 3.6 aerial duals won per game.
The 25-year-old will come under increasing pressure for a first-team place from returning loanee Ben White this season, but has shown enough in his debut campaign to show he belongs in the top flight.
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James Maddison – Norwich to Leicester (£22m)
James Maddison cut his teeth with spells in the lower leagues and Scottish football before flourishing in the Championship with Norwich City, forging a reputation as one of the most exciting young players outside of England’s top flight.
Maddison was named in the Championship’s Team of the Year following a starring 2017/18 season at Carrow Road, scoring 14 league goals and providing a further eight assists in a creative role behind Norwich’s forward players.
That form saw Leicester spend £22m to take the midfielder to the King Power Stadium in 2018, where Maddison has since shone in a Foxes side bursting with emerging talent.
His debut season at Premier League level saw the playmaker score seven goals and create a further seven, his creativity and technique seeing the youngster linked with some of the division’s leading sides.
England recognition followed and he made his senior debut against Montenegro in October 2019, the 23-year-old amongst the key figures in a Leicester side who will return to the European stage this season.
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Ollie Watkins – Brentford to Aston Villa (£28m)
Watkins’ move to Aston Villa has set a new record as the most expensive ever Championship to Premier League transfer, Dean Smith spending a hefty £28m on a player he previously worked with during his time at Brentford.
The 24-year-old has impressed since moving to Griffin Park from Exeter City three years ago, but a switch from a wide role into a central position has unlocked the best of the forward’s talents this season.
That move has proven a masterstroke with Watkins thriving to be named as the Championship’s Player of the Year, scoring prolifically in a fluid front line to finish as the joint-leading scorer in the division.
It’s been a natural transition and one that has now led to the forward’s opportunity at the highest level, Villa will be hoping he can be the latest Championship player to step up in style as they bid to avoid another fight for survival.
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