The ‘boy-wonder’ remains a concept that truly excites football fans, with the emergence of a young star often whipping supporters into a frenzy.
As is the way in modern football, precocious talents rarely stay settled for long before the big boys and their riches come circling.
These players were barely out of school before securing their mega-money moves, here are the five most expensive teenagers in football history…
Lucas Moura – £38m
Sao Paulo to Paris Saint-Germain, 2012
Brazilian starlets are often dubbed with the tag of ‘next (insert iconic star)’ and Lucas Moura was no different following his breakthrough at Sao Paulo.
The winger’s form for the Brazilian side had attracted the expected interest from Europe, with Manchester United and Inter Milan amongst a host of clubs leading the race for the talented teenager.
Just a year after their new-found wealth following Qatari investment, French side Paris Saint-Germain pipped the traditional European giants to his signature, announcing that Moura would link up with the Parisian side in January 2013 after securing a deal in August 2012.
The deal would make Moura the most expensive teenager in history, also smashing PSG’s transfer-record, though the winger would enjoy a slow start to life in Europe.
Moura spent five seasons with PSG, winning four Ligue 1 titles, but having failed to truly establish himself as a key component in the side, was sold to Tottenham in 2018.
Since moving to the Premier League Moura has shown flashes of brilliance, including the stunning semi-final hat-trick which sent Spurs to a first Champions League final in 2019, however, he has perhaps not fulfilled the potential his early promise suggested.
Still just 26, he remains an exciting talent and will hope for further playing time having made just 25 league starts in his first full season in North London.
Vinicius Junior – £40m
Flamengo to Real Madrid, 2018
Another Brazilian who burst onto the scene in his homeland, Vinicius Junior’s impact at Flamengo sparked a scramble for his signature.
Having seen the forward score 17 goals in 19 appearances for the Brazil U17 side, Spanish giants Real Madrid won the race to sign the youngster for a fee of £40m.
The deal was a pre-contract agreement made in 2017, with Vinicius set to join up with Madrid once he turned 18 the following year.
In his debut season at the Bernabeu, the teenager was introduced gradually, making just nine La Liga starts. Overall, he scored four goals in 31 appearances in all competitions, showing glimpses of his vast potential.
With Real Madrid having been home to Brazilian icons such as Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, and Marcelo, the 13-time European champions will hope they have secured the long-term future of the latest Samba star.
Anthony Martial – £59m
Monaco to Manchester United – 2015
“£50m down the drain, Tony Martial scores again” – or so the tongue-in-cheek chant rings out at Old Trafford, with many having doubted United’s decision to make the Frenchman the world’s most expensive teenager in 2015.
Signed for an initial fee of £36m, which could rise to £59m, Martial was relatively unheard of having been a regular at Monaco for just one full season before his move to the Premier League.
A stunning goal on debut after coming off the bench against arch-rivals Liverpool instantly repaid some of United’s faith, before the forward netted twice on his first start to banish any doubts over his talent.
He finished 2015 by receiving the Golden Boy award as Europe’s best young footballer, winning the FA Cup with United at the season’s end having scored 17 goals in all competitions.
However, that remains his highest goal total since moving to Old Trafford, with questions having been raised over his attitude and temperament. He remains unquestionably talented, however at 23 must now start to fulfil his potential on a more consistent basis.
Joao Felix – £113m
Benfica to Atletico Madrid – 2019
Whilst little should surprise in terms of transfer fees in modern football, Atletico’s Madrid’s decision to spend an astronomical fee of £113m on Benfica teenager Joao Felix is a deal which stunned Europe.
The 19-year-old had been linked with several of the continent’s leading sides since breaking through at the Portuguese giants, scoring 20 goals in all competitions in his sole season in the first-team.
Crowned as the division’s Young Player of the Year as Benfica clinched the title, Felix was tipped to move on although any side wishing to sign the precocious talent would need to meet his hefty release-clause.
As it happens, Atletico exceeded that €120m fee, on the basis they could pay the majority in installments.
Making a 19-year-old with one season of first-team football the fourth-most expensive player in football history represents somewhat of a gamble, however, the Spanish side rarely get it wrong when it comes to forward talent.
Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan, David Villa, Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa all proved major success for Atletico, Felix could prove to be the next superstar to don the famed red and white stripes.
Kylian Mbappe – £160m
Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain – 2018
The one player on this list who perhaps represented the least risk, despite his fee and teenager years, French forward Kylian Mbappe has enjoyed a meteoric rise in European football.
Bursting onto the scene as part of the exciting, young Monaco side which reached the Champions League semi-finals and surprisingly pipped PSG to the Ligue 1 title, it wasn’t long before Europe’s traditional powerhouses expressed an interest.
Paris Saint-Germain won the race for the talented forward, initially on a season-long loan before paying a fee of £160m, with Mbappe expressing a desire to make history in his homeland. In Paris, he has continued to go from strength to strength, winning two league titles and being named as the division’s Player of the Year in 2018/19.
His goalscoring record for PSG is remarkable, having netted 60 goals in 87 appearances since his big-money switch, whilst on the international stage, he already has 13 goals for France.
He became the first teenager since Pele to score in a World Cup final in France’s victorious campaign in 2018, being named as the tournament’s best young player.
He seems the heir to the Ronaldo/Messi-era as the world’s finest player, if he does not belong in that company already. Aged 20, his list of achievements already include…
- World Cup winner
- 3 x Ligue 1 titles
- Coupe de France
- Coupe de la Ligue
- Ligue 1 Player of the Year – 2018/19
- Ligue 1 top goal scorer – 2018/19
- Golden Boy award – 2017
- Kopa Trophy – 2018
The boy can certainly play…