Football may not be as awash with money as it was pre-pandemic but with both Jack Grealish and Romelu Lukaku moving for around £100m last summer, there remains plenty of cash to be thrown about.
However, those fees are not amongst the top five transfers of all times, with the deals for Grealish (sixth) and Lukaku (seventh) trailing in the wake of some moves that have produced mixed results.
1. Neymar – Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain – £198m – 2017
How do you sign a player who is seemingly un-signable? You meet his outlandish release clause.
That is what Paris Saint-Germain did in August 2017 when they bought Neymar from Barcelona, a move that prompted the Catalan club to make sure the release clauses in their players’ contracts were beyond even the resources of the game’s richest owners.
Neymar’s aim was to emerge from the shadow of Lionel Messi and win the Ballon d’Or but he is still to achieve his goal amid regular rumours regarding his conduct and professionalism.
That hasn’t stopped the 29-year-old from winning silverware, though, claiming three Ligue 1s and as many Coupe de Frances, while Les Parisiens also went close to winning the Champions League in 2020.
Injuries haven’t helped Neymar’s cause, but neither has ill discipline. The Brazilian has been sent off four times in France and perhaps the feeling that he is regularly targeted by more rugged opponents has been the main cause of his failure to justify his potential.
2. Kylian Mbappe – Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain – £163m – 2018
However, Neymar may also have suffered from the brilliance of his colleague, Kylian Mbappe. The Frenchman joined on an initial loan in the same summer as Neymar before signing permanently in 2018.
Unlike Neymar, Mbappe has won the World Cup, scoring Les Bleus’ fourth goal in their 4-2 final win over Croatia and became the world’s most expensive teenager after returning from Russia.
Parisian by birth, the deal looked a match made in heaven but his time at the Parc des Princes has been plagued by rumours of a move away and he appears destined to join Real Madrid on a free transfer when his contract expires next summer.
That’s not to suggest that his on-field focus has waned, netting eight times and providing 10 assists this season. That said, Lionel Messi’s arrival has taken him out of the spotlight and it could be time to move on.
Incredibly, for a man who has won a World Cup, three Ligue 1s and 53 international caps, Mbappe will only turn 23 next month and were he to shock the work by signing a new deal at PSG, his quality means it would be no surprise to see him top this list if he ever moves for a fee.
3. Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool to Barcelona – £105m – 2018
Philippe Coutinho’s move from Liverpool to Barcelona in January 2018 looked like a deal made in heaven. Coutinho always dreamed of playing at the Nou Camp, the Reds needed the money to sign Virgil van Dijk, and Barca hoped they were getting the player they’d been missing since Neymar’s departure six months earlier.
However, the practicalities soon bore through. A mid-season move? In a World Cup year? This was a real gamble and it simply hasn’t worked out.
Coutinho knew Barcelona well having previously spent time on loan across town at Espanyol but couldn’t rediscover the form he’d produced at Anfield, with him perhaps falling victim to the Blaugrana’s over-reliance on Messi.
The Brazilian briefly sparkled on loan at Bayern Munich in 2019-20, netting twice in FC Hollywood’s 8-2 Champions League quarter-final win over his parent club.
There have been the odd signs of something since his return to Spain but with rumours that he has downed tools with an eye on a big-money move elsewhere, it seems impossible to fathom that he will be at his current club for much longer.
4. Joao Felix – Benfica to Atletico Madrid – £104.1m – 2019
Back in the summer of 2019, Joao Felix was hot property. So much so that Atletico Madrid offered Benfica a deal that would surpass his release clause and the Portuguese outfit were happy to accept.
Given the number seven shirt vacated by Antoine Griezmann – more of whom later – Felix won a penalty on his home debut against Getafe and then scored his first goal a fortnight later in the 3-2 win over Eibar.
However, an ankle injury followed in October and his progress in Madrid has been restricted by a series of niggling fitness setbacks, with him even sidelined at the time of writing.
So far this season Felix has netted just once in 13 appearances for club and country. In fact, he has picked up more cards (three yellows, one red) than he has goals.
The Viseu-born starlet is also still to find a consistent role in the side, having played up front, behind the striker and out wide for varying spells under Diego Simeone.
However, at 22, and with four-and-a-half years to run on his deal, time is still on his side.
5. Antoine Griezmann – Atletico Madrid to Barcelona – £107m – 2019
Finally to the man who Felix replaced at the Metropolitano, Antoine Griezmann. After five stunning seasons with Colchoneros, the Frenchman headed east to Barcelona in 2019.
Barca had been chasing Griezmann for some time but there were always doubts over where he’d fit in due to the presence of Lionel Messi and the pair simply could not click.
Unfortunately, the 30-year-old’s dream move turned into a nightmare and he was a regular target of the Nou Camp crowd’s ire.
Despite Messi’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain, it was felt that too much water had gone under the bridge for Griezmann to stay in Cataluña and he headed back to Atletico in August, signing on an initial loan with quite favourable terms to make it a permanent switch.
*All odds correct at time of writing