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.
Jude Bellingham is the latest starlet signed for a mega-money fee after the midfielder completed his move from Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid. Following Bellingham’s switch to Spain, we’ve looked at the most expensive teenage talents of all time.
The five most expensive teenagers in football history.
Endrick – £60.2m
Palmeiras to Real Madrid – 2024
Endrick might not be a Real Madrid player at present, but the club’s £60.2m purchase of the forward makes him the fifth most expensive teenager of all time.
Endrick will officially join Real Madrid in July 2024 when he turns 18, after the Spanish giants won a competitive race to secure one of football’s most exciting prospects.
He became the youngest debutant in Palmeiras history aged just 16 years, two months and 16 days, having compiled an astonishing record at youth level that saw Endrick score 165 goals in 169 games.
🎥💚 As ordens de Veiga e o primeiro gol de Endrick na CONMEBOL #Libertadores em cada detalhe!
— CONMEBOL Libertadores (@LibertadoresBR) June 13, 2023
The teenager scored his first senior goals with a brace in a 3–1 win over Athletico Paranaense in October 2022 and in the process became the second youngest goalscorer in the history of Brazil’s first division.
Real Madrid will hope Endrick can follow in the footsteps of compatriots Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo in becoming an integral figure at the Bernabeu.
Matthijs de Ligt
Ajax to Juventus – 2019
Matthijs de Ligt holds the record as the most expensive teenage defender of all time after leaving Ajax to sign for Juventus in a £68m deal in 2019.
De Ligt became Ajax’s second-youngest goalscorer when marking his senior debut with a goal and soon established himself in the side at centre-back. The defender became the youngest player to feature in the final of a major European competition after starting Ajax’s defeat to Manchester United in the 2017 Europa League final and was later named captain of the Dutch side.
He captained the side to a domestic double and the Champions League semi-finals in 2018/19, performances which saw Juventus spend big to sign starlet.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 1, 2021
De Ligt won the Serie A title during his debut campaign with the Bianconeri and made 117 appearances for the club over three seasons before a £68m move to Bayern Munich. Still just 23, he has already won league titles in three different countries.
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 after an exciting emergence at the Portuguese giants, as the forward scored 20 goals in a breakthrough 2018/19 campaign.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) March 22, 2022
Felix was crowned as the division’s Young Player of the Year as Benfica clinched the title and Europe’s elite began to circle. Benfica were reluctant to lose their brightest talent, but a stunning bid from Atletico Madrid saw a deal agreed.
The Spanish side spent £113m on a 19-year-old with just one season of first-team football behind him, in a gamble that has failed to work out as hoped. Despite flashes of his obvious ability, Felix has struggled for status at Atletico and has often appeared a poor fit for Diego Simeone’s tactical approach.
He has scored 34 goals in 131 games for the club and faces an uncertain future after spending the second half of last season on loan at Chelsea.
Jude Bellingham – £115m
Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid – 2023
Jude Bellingham’s move to Real Madrid could reach £115m if add-ons are met, a deal which makes the England midfielder the second-most expensive teenager of all time.
Bellingham has emerged as one of Europe’s most exciting talents during three seasons at Borussia Dortmund, having departed Birmingham City for the Bundesliga as a 16-year-old.
The teenager was named as the Bundesliga’s Player of the Season during the 2022/23 campaign, following a season which saw the midfielder lead his Dortmund team-mates for goals (14), goals and assists (20), successful take-ons (106), progressive carries (384) and tackles (98) in all competitions.
Jude Bellingham has thrived in the Champions League for Dortmund! ⚡️⚡️
The English star now gets set for the Bernabéu 💪pic.twitter.com/QpJ3s0v5np
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) June 14, 2023
No central midfielder in Europe’s top five leagues made more successful take-ons than Bellingham last season and Real Madrid will hope the Englishman can bring dynamism to a new-look midfield in the Spanish capital.
He will become the sixth Englishman to represent Real Madrid after the Spaniards completed a deal which could reach a club-record figure.
Kylian Mbappe – £165m
Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain – 2018
Kylian Mbappe burst onto the scene as part of an exciting Monaco side that reached the Champions League semi-finals and beat PSG to the Ligue 1 title in 2016/17 – and it wasn’t long before Europe’s traditional powerhouses expressed interest.
Paris Saint-Germain won the race for the forward, initially on a season-long loan before paying a fee of £165m, with Mbappe expressing a desire to make history in his homeland. In Paris, he has evolved into arguably world football’s finest talent.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) April 12, 2021
Mbappe has scored a club-record 212 goals in 260 appearances, won five league titles and finished as Ligue 1’s leading scorer in five consecutive campaigns.
At international level he became the first teenager since Pele to score in a World Cup final during France’s victorious campaign in 2018, before top-scoring during Les Bleus’ run to the 2022 final – including becoming just the second player to score a World Cup final hat-trick in defeat to Argentina.
A four-time winner of Ligue 1’s Player of the Year accolade, speculation continues to surround an exit from PSG as Mbappe chases Champions League success.