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The march of the €100m men

Thu 22nd May 2014 | Money & Finance

The 2013/2014 season has seen some serious transfer business with a number of big money transfers such as Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao, Neymar, Mesut Ozil and at the very top of the pile, Gareth Bale, for a world record fee of €100m.

When €100m is not €100m: But is Gareth Bale really the most expensive footballer of all time? Prices of goods and services tend to rise over time and the same can be said for footballers: given the rising spending power of football clubs due to increasing broadcasting and commercial deals, a footballer’s price should be more today than it was 10 or 15 years ago. With this is mind, we thought we would take a deeper look at some of the biggest transfers of the past two decades.

In order to fairly compare historical transfer fees a measure of inflation is required. One could use a standard inflation index but these are based on the prices of a generic basket of goods and we are interested in one specific good – a football player. The inflation measure we have therefore decided to use is derived from the total revenue growth of the big five European leagues over the past 15 years. Player-related expenditure is a function of overall club revenues and most of the largest transfers involved clubs from England, Spain, Italy, France or Germany.

The real €100m men: Based on the above inflation measure we adjusted the world’s largest historical transfer fees to arrive at their value in today’s money and as you can see in our table, there are actually nine players in our sample who were purchased for €100m or more.

The magical Zinedine Zidane tops our list and would cost around €150m today with Luis Figo not far behind at €140m. With five of the top nine, Real Madrid is unchallenged as the king of the big spenders, however in the context of the era of the ‘galacticos’, Real’s current marauding wingers appear less expensive when the historical figures are adjusted.

We note the high spending of both Lazio and Inter Milan around the turn of the century with both the transfers of Hernan Crespo and Christian Vieri in the top five, but doubt that Italian teams will be adding to their tally on this list in years to come. The most surprising entry is Denilson’s then world record move from Sao Paulo to Real Betis, an ill-fated move for both player and club. The player failed to live up to overblown expectations and the club was relegated to Spain’s second tier in his second season.

The Top 50: The top-50 list is dominated by attacking players but the most expensive goalkeeper at €91m (Gian Luigi Buffon – Rank 11) and the most expensive defender at €81m (Rio Ferdinand – Rank 21) buck the trend. Elsewhere the top-50 reads like a Who’s Who of world football superstars with names like Ibrahimovic, Rivaldo, Nedved, Thuram, Shevchenko, Drogba, Neymar, Aguero and Robben to grace any starting line-up. Nicolas Anelka holds the distinction of being the only player on the list twice, both in the €100m crew above and further down at No. 23 when transferring from Real to PSG for an adjusted fee of €78m in 2000. His agents have done quite nicely.

Alan Shearer’s transfer from Blackburn to Newcastle way back in 1996 (€87m – Rank 14) is the most ‘expensive’ fee paid by an English club. English clubs appear in the top-50 list as a buyer on 15 occasions (Man United (5), Chelsea (4), Man City (3), Newcastle United, Arsenal and Liverpool) with most adjusted fees in the €45-€65m range. The English players to make the top 50 along with Shearer and Ferdinand are David Beckham (€62m – Rank 30), Wayne Rooney (€62m – Rank 31) and, wait for it… Andy Carroll (€46m – Rank 43)

Orb Finance brings you the Orb Report, focusing on hot topics in the world of football finance. For further details on Orb, please see www.orbfinance.net









Article taken from Issue 76 of fcbusiness Magazine.

Image: REUTERS/Juan Medina

Posted by: Kev Howland 

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