When a team breaks their bank to sign a world-class player, expectations are very high.
After all, it’s not every day that a team decides to make a player the most expensive signing ever. Only a few football clubs have the financial capacity to make such transfers.
Over the past 10-15 years, the transfer record has been broken a ridiculous number of times. While some of these transactions have been satisfactory for all parties involved, others have fallen flat. These costly failures end up straining a club’s resources and causing them to fall behind the competition.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at five world record transfers that didn’t go as planned.
#5 Diego Maradona to Barcelona (1982) – £3m
Diego Maradona is one of the greatest footballers of all time. But his legacy has, to some extent, been tarnished by several controversies off the pitch.
He was a source of frustration for the many clubs he played for, including FC Barcelona, who broke the transfer record to sign him in 1982.
Maradona remained at FC Barcelona for two seasons and, although he was phenomenal on the pitch, numerous distractions led the club to sell him in 1984. He scored 38 goals and provided 18 assists in 58 appearances in all the competitions for the Catalans.
However, Maradona couldn’t help FC Barcelona win La Liga or the European Cup in his two seasons. The famous brawl that broke out between FC Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao players after the 1984 Copa del Rey final, at the center of which was Maradona, was not a good image for him and the club.
The approximately 100,000 supporters who had turned up for the match sparked a sort of riot and began throwing solid objects onto the pitch. This is Maradona’s last game for Barcelona as the club’s bosses have decided they’ve seen enough of the Argentine.
#4 Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain (2017) – £198m
Neymar left FC Barcelona in 2017, much to the chagrin of the Camp Nou faithful. The Catalans were playing incredible football back then and their top three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar seemed unstoppable. But Paris Saint-Germain’s lucrative offer proved too hard for the Brazil international to turn down in 2017.
Neymar has done an incredible job on an individual level for Paris Saint-Germain. But the reason for his inclusion in this list is that he has, so far, failed to do what he was brought in to do in the first place. Neymar was supposed to elevate PSG’s status from national workhorse to European champion.
He brought them closer in the 2019-20 season, however, when they lost to Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. But lately, Neymar’s involvement has been limited due to niggling injury concerns. PSG made the Brazilian the most expensive player in the world by a huge margin for a reason.
Their expectations were simply not met. The fact that he was booed by PSG fans after their elimination in the last 16 of this season’s Champions League is proof of that.
#3 Kaka to Real Madrid (2009) – £56m
Kaka was the most expensive signing in the world for a very short period. Real Madrid paid AC Milan £56m in the summer of 2009, shortly before signing Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United for £80m.
Kaka had wreaked havoc on the Rossoneri and established himself as the best attacking midfielder in the world. He was only 27 at the time and has already won the World Cup, the Champions League and a Ballon d’Or.
He had to deal with numerous injuries early in his career at Real Madrid. When he returned from knee surgery after the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Mourinho became the coach of Real Madrid.
The arrival of Mesut Özil, after a successful run at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, limited Kaka’s involvement. The German playmaker settled in easily and showed much more tactical discipline than Kaka. Kaka, meanwhile, struggled to make the most of his chances.
The Brazilian also suffered from performance pressure as the Santiago Bernabeu faithful started to get frustrated with the way things were going. Kaka eventually left Real Madrid in 2013. He scored 29 goals and provided 32 assists in 120 appearances for Los Blancos in all competitions.
#2 Paul Pogba to Manchester United (2016) – £89m
In 2016, Manchester United signed former player Paul Pogba from Juventus for a then-world-record fee of £89m. The Frenchman was starting to establish himself as one of the best central midfielders in the world.
But what Manchester United failed to see was that he was thriving in one of the best midfielders in the world at the time. At Juventus, Pogba was protected by players like Arturo Vidal, Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo. At Manchester United, the team was going to be built around him.
Pogba is one of the most technically gifted players we’ve seen lately. His dazzling footwork, vision and passing range are exemplary. However, he lacked the tactical discipline and positional sense that are hallmarks of midfielders who have distinguished themselves in the Premier League.
Manchester United tried everything to get the best out of Pogba. They signed several players to help “unlock” him and also had him play in different positions. Pogba had some good times, but he failed to produce the goods for United on a regular basis and rarely took responsibility for his failures.
He will now join Juventus at the end of the month as a free agent after exhausting his contract at Manchester United. The fact that the majority of Manchester United fans are happy to see him back speaks volumes about his time at the club.
#1 Denilson to Real Betis (1998) – £21.9m
Today’s young generation will be surprised to learn that Real Betis broke the transfer record for signing a certain Brazilian striker in 1998. Around the latter half of the 1990s, Denilson began to turn heads at the adolescence with his incredible tricks and races for Sao Paulo.
It was fun enough to convince Manuel Ruiz de Lopera, then president of Real Betis, to make him the most expensive signing in football history. Unfortunately, Denilson’s game isn’t all about dazzling footwork and runs.
He joined Real Betis in the summer of 1998 and at the end of the 1999-00 season the club was relegated to the second division. Denilson had only scored five goals in the previous two seasons…
Denilson did, however, make a contribution by helping Betis climb back into La Liga in 2001 before leaving the club in 2005. In 184 appearances in all competitions for Real Betis, he scored just 14 goals and set up five assists.