From Cryuff to Maradona to Pogba to Neymar: Football’s history of record-breaking deals


It was the highest transfer fee ever paid for a single player, and it more than doubled the world transfer record that Manchester United set last summer, when it paid the Italian club Juventus 89 million euros for the French midfielder Paul Pogba.

A precise accounting of past transfer fees is difficult, since side deals with players and duplicate contracts created to fool the tax man blurred the lines of some of the richest deals.

But the jump in the record in P.S.G.’s signing of Neymar mirrors the importance of Diego Maradona’s transfer to Barcelona in 1982 and Johan Cruyff’s switch to Barcelona in 1973. In percentage terms, Neymar’s move lags behind Cruyff’s deal, even though the Dutch legend’s signing is dwarfed in money terms.

P.S.G. was rarely mentioned in any discussion of the world’s top clubs until 2011, when the arrival of new Qatari owners saw its ambitions – and its spending on players – suddenly skyrocket.

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Nine of the 10 most expensive signings in P.S.G. history have come in just the last six years, and Neymar’s arrival for a record fee is the biggest statement yet of the club’s expressed desire to close the gap with the world’s richest clubs. (Manchester City experienced a similar infusion of cash and embarked on a similar spending spree, after it was acquired by owners from Abu Dhabi in 2008).

Manchester United had held the transfer record for less than a year since its signing of Pogba in 2016, part of a summer in which United’s manager Jose Mourinho spent hundreds of millions only two years after his predecessor, Louis Van Gaal, had done the same.

But no club regularly makes more of a splash in the transfer market than Real Madrid, which has broken the world transfer record four times since 2000, including for forwards Cristiano Ronaldo (in 2009) and Gareth Bale (in 2013).

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