It’s safe to say that football’s finances went a little bonkers over the past decade.
When 2011 kicked off, the most expensive player in the world was £80m-rated Cristiano Ronaldo. Not only did we see nine transfers exceed that in the nine years that followed, but we saw the record jump all the way up to the whopping £198m PSG paid to sign Neymar in 2017.
To sum up all the chaos, FIFA put together a huge dossier on the past decade’s transfer dealings, and it’s mental.
Let’s take a look at the top 20 biggest spenders between 2011 and 2020.
A Championship side when the decade began, Leicester worked wonders in the transfer market by signing the likes of N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez for pennies and selling them on for huge fees.
Those blockbuster sales helped Leicester spend big, with the £35m signing of Youri Tielemans the most expensive of their 67 purchases over the past decade.
Regular spenders of £30m or £40m before the decade arrived, AC Milan have kept their transfers around that limit over the past ten years, but it’s the sheer amount of them that earn the Rossoneri a spot on this list.
The 95 signings made by Milan since 2011 failed to inspire any real success at San Siro, with the team failing to add to their 2010/11 Serie A title.
Like Leicester, Napoli made a career out of selling incredibly high. Jorginho and Edinson Cavani both earned them over £50m and Gonzalo Higuain brought in a cool £75m.
That has allowed them to splash out on some big signings, such as the most expensive African player of all time, £70m-man Victor Osimhen.
Sevilla’s game plan over the past decade was to sign players for reasonably high fees and sell them for enormous sums. To their credit, it worked perfectly.
Of their 103 signings over the past decade, Sevilla are yet to spend over £25m on a single one, but they aren’t scared to drop that kind of the money when their bargain sensors start tingling.
Now facing a bit of a financial crisis, Valencia had a few years of hefty spending which did not yield the success those in charge had hoped for.
The £36m signing of Goncalo Guedes in 2018 remains the club’s biggest transfer – a record which could stand for some time if they can’t figure a way out of their current mess.
Another Italian team who thrive on transfers around the £30m mark, Roma have been splashing the cash for a good few years now.
Aided by blockbuster sales like Mohamed Salah and Alisson, Roma have been able to throw big sums of money at exciting youngsters like Patrik Schick and Juan Iturbe, and they can expect that spending to continue with Jose Mourinho at the helm.
With the second-most expensive defender and goalkeeper of all-time on their books, it’s no surprise that Liverpool find their place on this list.
The Reds began the decade as moderate spenders, but after growing tired of a few years of mediocrity, they chose to spend huge sums on the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson in order to fight their way back to the top of the European mountain.
Few clubs endured the same financial rollercoaster as Monaco. A Ligue 2 side in 2011/12, the Monegasques were bought by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev early in the decade and quickly went on an enormous spending spree.
We saw James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao and Joao Moutinho headline a mental era which did yield two Ligue 1 titles, after which Monaco began living off huge sales like those of Kylian Mbappe, Fabinho and Thomas Lemar.
Since Christian Vieri’s €49m move to Inter in 1999 (a world record at the time), Inter have only spent more than that once – the €80m arrival of Romelu Lukaku in 2019.
They have, however, flirted with the €50m mark on a number of occasions, and all those transfers have added up to guide Inter up these rankings.
Bayern Munich struck gold with a number of their 64 signings over the past decade, but there were plenty which cost the German giants an arm and a leg.
The club-record £68m signing of Lucas Hernandez in 2019 leads the way, but Leroy Sane, Corentin Tolisso and Javi Martinez are three of many players who cost around the £40m mark.
While Tottenham haven’t always spent big money – only three players have ever cost the club over £30m – they have shelled out £20m+ on enough players to squeeze into the top ten of this list.
Some of those signings have flopped, with Roberto Soldado and Vincent Janssen notable regrets, but those worries are balanced out by the bargain acquisitions of players like Son Heung-min.
The masters of the free transfer, Juventus also have a reputation as hefty spenders in the transfer market.
The £100m signing of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018 is a bit of an outlier, but Juve did break the £60m barrier on Higuain, Matthijs de Ligt and Arthur, and there are plenty of signings worth £30m or £40m to bump their numbers up even higher.
Notorious penny-pinchers Arsenal went a bit crazy as the decade came to the end, spending huge sums to land Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Thomas Partey for close to £250m.
That spending has continued into the current decade, with Ben White, Martin Odegaard and Aaron Ramsdale the club’s three biggest arrivals of the 2021 summer transfer window.
Manchester United have never been afraid to spend massive sums on players. Their £89m acquisition of Paul Pogba set the world record in 2016, while deals to sign Harry Maguire and Romelu Lukaku weren’t too far off matching that.
With no Premier League success since 2013, it’s safe to say a lot of that spending might not have been worth it.
Often flying under the big-spending radar are Atletico Madrid, who have quietly spent a huge amount of money on their quest to match up with Spain’s two giants.
They made Joao Felix the most expensive teenager ever when they dropped £113m to sign him in 2019, with Felix joining an expensive list of attacking recruits which also includes Thomas Lemar and Diego Costa.
You knew Real Madrid were going to be high up on this list. Los Blancos are known for spending money first and asking questions later.
That strategy has not worked over the past decade, with Real wasting enormous sums of money on Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale, Luka Jovic and James Rodriguez.
PSG actually only signed 59 players across the past decade – the third fewest in the top 20 – but two of those just happened to be the two most expensive deals in history.
Neymar and Mbappe cost PSG the best part of £400m together which, when you add in blockbuster signings of Cavani, Angel Di Maria and Mario Icardi, explains why many feel PSG are responsible for breaking the transfer market.
At this point, there’s nothing left to say about Barcelona‘s transfer business over the past decade, which was conducted with such reckless abandon that it eventually cost them Lionel Messi.
The Catalan side have broken the £100m mark three times, and none of them have worked out. Philippe Coutinho, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele have all struggled at the club, failing to justify the money thrown at them to sign them in the first place.
Roman Abramovich’s cheque book saw a lot of action over the past decade, with no fewer than 95 players brought in to Chelsea for some enormous fees.
Kai Havertz and Kepa Arrizabalaga were the two biggest arrivals, but their £72m signings were only narrowly more expensive than the deals to sign Alvaro Morata, Christian Pulisic, Jorginho and Timo Werner.
No surprises here. Manchester City brought in a whopping 130 players, spending more money to do so than any other team on the planet across the same period.
City’s Emirati owners have spared no expense to build one of the game’s best squads, with Kevin De Bruyne, Ruben Dias and Riyad Mahrez the three headline acts.
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