Picking the most expensive XI in football history

Football transfer fees appear on a never-ending upward curve, with extraordinary sums splashed on new talent in each transfer window.

As the summer approaches there are a number of names already being touted for transfers in excess of £100m, with the likes of Jude Bellingham, Declan Rice and Victor Osimhen among those linked with mega-money moves.

Ahead of another transfer window when records are expected to be broken, we’ve put together the most expensive XI of all time.

Here is the most expensive XI in football history.

Goalkeeper: Kepa Arrizabalaga (£71.6m)

Kepa Arrizabalaga became the most expensive goalkeeper of all time after his move to Chelsea in 2018.

The Spanish shot-stopper broke the record for a goalkeeper set by Alisson’s £66.8m move from Roma to Liverpool just weeks earlier, after Chelsea met the £71.6m release clause in his contract with Athletic Bilbao. Kepa had impressed since progressing from the Spanish side’s academy ranks and arrived at Chelsea viewed as a long-term replacement for Thibaut Courtois.

Kepa has failed to live up to expectations across five seasons in west London and lost his place as number one to Edouard Mendy under Frank Lampard and Thomas Tuchel. He has returned to favour during the current campaign but faces an uncertain future as Chelsea consider goalkeeping additions.

Right-back: Joao Cancelo (£60m)

Joao Cancelo is the most expensive right-back in football history, following his £60m move to Manchester City from Juventus. The Portugal international signed for the Citizens in 2019 and after an underwhelming first season emerged as a key figure in Pep Guardiola’s plans.

Cancelo won back-to-back Premier League titles at the Etihad and was named in the PFA Team of the Year during both of those triumphs, in 2020/21 and 2021/22.

He moved on loan to Bayern Munich in January after falling out of favour, but the Bundesliga champions are not expected to activate the €70m (£61m) option to make the deal permanent after a disappointing spell in Germany.

Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk (£75m)

Each of the three most expensive centre-backs of all time are Premier League signings, with Virgil van Dijk included ahead of Wesley Fofana (£70m) at the heart of the defence.

Liverpool broke their transfer record to sign Van Dijk from Southampton in a £75m deal, as Jurgen Klopp looked for a defensive foundation to build upon. The defender’s impact was instant as Liverpool reached back-to-back Champions League finals, winning the latter after a 2-0 win over Tottenham in Madrid.

Van Dijk’s first full season with the Reds saw him win the PFA Player of the Year award, becoming just the third defender in the Premier League era to claim the accolade. Regarded as world football’s best centre-back for much of his time on Merseyside, Van Dijk has won seven trophies with the Reds and finished as runner-up for the Ballon d’Or in 2019.

Centre-back: Harry Maguire (£80m)

Manchester United made Harry Maguire the most expensive defender of all time after signing the England centre-back from Leicester for £80m.

Maguire had impressed during England’s run to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals the previous summer and was named club captain just six months after his arrival at Old Trafford. However, the defender failed to build on a solid start and a series of erratic performances have since seen Maguire heavily criticised and lose status in the squad.

He has made just seven Premier League starts under Erik ten Hag this season.

Left-back: Lucas Hernandez (£68m)

Lucas Hernandez is the first non-Premier League signing to make this XI, with the French defender the most expensive arrival in Bundesliga history.

Hernandez – who operates in central defence or at left-back – formed part of the France side that won the World Cup in 2018 and signed for Bayern Munich in a record-breaking deal the following summer. He has since won three Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in Bavaria, but injury problems have restricted his impact.

Midfield: Enzo Fernandez (£106.8m)

Chelsea broke the British transfer record to sign Enzo Fernandez from Benfica in January 2023, as the west Londoners splashed the cash under new owner Todd Boehly.

Fernandez’s move to Chelsea capped a remarkable rise having only signed for Benfica from River Plate in a deal worth just €15m six months earlier. The midfielder’s profile rose after an impressive start in Europe and his performances at the World Cup in Qatar, where Fernandez formed part of the Argentina team crowned world champions in the Middle East.

The 22-year-old was named as the World Cup’s Best Young Player and will form a central part of Chelsea’s expensively assembled squad next season.

Midfield: Philippe Coutinho (£142m)

The first of two advanced number eights in our midfield, each of who flattered to deceive after big-money moves to Barcelona.

Philippe Coutinho appeared a perfect fit for the Catalans after five impressive seasons at Liverpool, in which the Brazilian’s balletic balance and nimble footwork made him a fans’ favourite at Anfield. Liverpool drove a hard bargain for Coutinho after fighting off initial summer interest from Barcelona, before sanctioning his sale in a deal worth up to £142m in January 2018.

Coutinho won successive league titles at Barcelona but struggled for consistency in his performances, before being allowed to leave on loan for Bayern Munich and Aston Villa. He signed for the latter on a permanent basis last summer but has struggled to make an impact, with the 30-year-old having shown only flashes of his Liverpool levels since his exit.

Midfield: Antoine Griezmann (£107m)

Barcelona signed Antoine Griezmann from La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid in 2019 after paying his 120m euro (£107m) release clause. Griezmann has starred during France’s World Cup triumph in Russia and had scored 140 La Liga goals for Real Sociedad and Atletico before his move to Barcelona.

Griezmann struggled to adjust to a role as Lionel Messi’s support act however, and scored just 35 goals in 102 appearances for the Catalans. He rejoined Atletico after two seasons at Barcelona, initially on loan before a permanent return. Griezmann has shone under Diego Simeone this season and leads La Liga for assists in 2022/23.

Forward: Joao Felix (£113m)

Joao Felix’s record-breaking move to Atletico Madrid was one which stunned football, as the Spanish side signed the teenager in a £113m deal from Benfica in 2019.

Felix had spent just one season in the senior side at Benfica, in which he had scored 20 goals in all competitions for the Portuguese champions. Atletico broke their transfer record to sign Felix, who arrived as a replacement for the Barcelona-bound Antoine Griezmann.

The teenager scored just six league goals during a disappointing first season and has since failed to produce on a consistent basis. He was named as Atletico’s Player of the Year in 2021/22 after improved performances, but has often appeared a poor fit for Simeone’s style of football. Felix was allowed to leave on loan for Chelsea for the 2022/23 campaign.

Forward: Neymar (£198m)

Neymar headlines our XI with the Brazilian the most expensive footballer in history.

Paris Saint-Germain shattered the previous record by more than £100m after activating Neymar’s release clause at Barcelona. The forward had scored 105 goals in 186 games for Barcelona and formed part of the club’s treble-winning side in 2015.

The move to Paris was designed to provide a platform for Neymar to become the world’s best footballer, out of the shadow of former Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi.

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Despite a prolific goal record and host of domestic honours, the move has failed to work out as hoped with PSG still waiting for a first Champions League success and Neymar struggling with fitness issues. He has not started more than 20 Ligue 1 games in any of his six seasons in France and has been linked with a summer exit.

Forward: Kylian Mbappe (£163m)

Kylian Mbappe completes the forward line in an all-star front three. Mbappe signed for Paris Saint-Germain in the same summer as Neymar, arriving on loan from Monaco before a £163m permanent move the following summer.

Mbappe has had considerably more success than his Brazilian teammate, having become Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time record goalscorer aged just 24. The forward has scored 207 goals in 256 appearances for the Parisians, has won 11 trophies, and has led Ligue 1 for goals in four consecutive campaigns.

No player has scored more goals in France’s top division this century, with Mbappe recognised as arguably world football’s finest player. He will hope to end both his and PSG’s wait for Champions League success as he looks to cement that status.

Read – Five of the best players to play for Inter and AC Milan

Read Also – Six breakthrough stars from the 2022/23 Champions League

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