Which are the most expensive transfers ever conducted during the January window?
The January transfer window isn’t the optimum time for clubs to splash the cash, with managers often reluctant—at least publicly—to spend big and risk disrupting their squad midseason.
However, despite this perception, some of the biggest blockbuster deals in football history have taken place during the January transfer window, with some of the soccer world’s biggest names changing clubs midway through a campaign.
10. Paulinho, Barcelona > Guangzhou Evergrande, £44.2 million, 2019
One of the biggest signings in the history of the Chinese game, Paulinho deserves immense credit for rebuilding his reputation in the Super League after falling well short at Tottenham Hotspur.
In the CSL, he began to live up to his ‘Brazilian Frank Lampard’ nickname, prompting Barcelona to sign him in 2017.
Guangzhou inserted a buy-back clause into his contract, and duly signed him back again in order to inspire a title challenge.
9. Bruno Fernandes, Sporting Lisbon > Manchester United, £46.5 million, 2020
An overwhelming success, Fernandes has brought the character and personality to United that had been sorely missing before his arrival from Sporting.
Despite only being in the Premier League for a year, he’s winning penalty against Aston Villa at the weekend was the 33rd goal he’s had a hand in (goals and assists) since his arrival.
For context, only one player—United legend Andy Cole—had a direct hand in more goals in his first 30 appearances in the Premier League, highlighting Fernandes’ immediate impact.
8. Fernando Torres, Liverpool > Chelsea, £50 million, 2011
This one was an absolute disaster.
Ignoring Torres’s injury problems and slump in form during the tail end of his time at Anfield, Chelsea parted with £50 million to snare him from their Premier League rivals, but he struggled to shake his Merseyside malaise and looked a shadow of his former self for the Blues.
He ended his time at Stamford Bridge with 45 goals in 172 outings, but surely the Pensioners were expecting so much more considering the hefty midseason outlay.
7. Oscar, Chelsea > Shanghai SIPG, £52 million, 2017
Still only 29, Oscar left the European game at a surprisingly young age, departing Chelsea at the age of 25 when the riches of the Chinese Super League beckoned him to the Far East.
The Brazil caps have dried up, but Oscar was a CSL winner in 2018—scoring 12 goals in 29 outings—and followed that up with success in the Chinese Super Cup in 2019.
6. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Borussia Dortmund > Arsenal, £56 million, 2018
He’s enduring a tricky 2020-21 season, but Auba has already proved himself as an elite goalscorer in English football after swapping Dortmund for Arsenal.
A former Bundesliga top scorer, he took quickly to the Premier League, and has maintained excellent consistency when it comes to terrorising the division’s backline.
He shared the Golden Boot with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah in the 2018-19 season, was one goal short of Jamie Vardy last term when he again netted 22 goals, and ended the year with a match-winning display in the FA Cup final.
5. Diego Costa, Chelsea > Atletico Madrid, £57 million, 2017
Currently, a free agent after being cut loose from his Atleti contract before it was due to end, Costa’s second stint in Madrid ended with yet more acrimony.
Last year, he was banned for eight matches for abusing a referee and having only scored 12 in 61 since returning to his former employers, his transfer doesn’t look like money well spent.
Certainly, there was no repeat of his final season at Atletico, where he scored 27 in 35 league outings.
4. Aymeric Laporte, Athletic Bilbao > Manchester City, £57.2 million, 2018
Undoubtedly a class act in defence, no one doubts Laporte’s ability in the heart of the defence…when fit.
He’s won two Premier League titles and the FA Cup since arriving at City, but injuries have undoubtedly limited his impact at the club and affected the Sky Blues’ ability to challenge for the biggest prizes in the game.
After featuring 35 times during the title-winning campaign of 2018-19, he managed just 15 outings last term and is currently sidelined…again…with a hamstring injury.
3. Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund > Chelsea, £57.5 million, 2019
Even though Pulisic signed for Chelsea two years ago, it still feels too soon to truly evaluate his success or not at Stamford Bridge.
He’s still only 22, and has caught the eye with a series of Eden Hazard-esque contributions for the Blues, but he still has a long way to go to truly prove he was worth the fee.
2. Virgil van Dijk, Southampton > Liverpool, £75 million, 2018
An eye-watering fee for a centre-back, but Reds fans will consider it money well spent after van Dijk ultimately played a key role in Liverpool ending their three-decade wait for the Premier League title.
Immediately, he was an improvement on the Merseysiders’ centre-back options, oozing quality with his class on the ball and his athletic qualities.
He was later named Players’ Player of the Year, is considered as the best defender in the world, and no one can doubt that he’s a Liverpool legend already.
1. Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool > Barcelona, £106 million, 2018
While Liverpool fans were unhappy to see Coutinho leave in 2018, his move ultimately financed van Dijk’s arrival, while his exit gave way to a more efficient and lethal playing style for Jurgen Klopp’s troops.
Barca won’t be quite so happy with their deal, with Coutinho struggling to emerge as the world-class game-changer they surely hoped they were recruiting.
The fact he was allowed to spend last season on loan at Bayern Munich tells its own story.