Football Features

From Ronaldo to Coutinho, rating the impact made by every transfer deal to break the €100m barrier

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:09, 3 June 2020

“Any player can go for 100 million euros, even without showing anything.”

That’s according to Cristiano Ronaldo, anyway. The Portuguese megastar, who has moved for both €100m and €94m in his career, and is one of the greatest goalscorers of all-time, feels like players can move for colossal fees without really earning it.

It’s had to argue whether or not a player has earned a nine-figure move because transfer fees are always relative to club need. But what about delivering on €100m? How did the players who were signed for 100 million euros or more fare for their new clubs?

We’ve looked at the 10 transfers that cost at least €100m and rated them out of 10. Ratings were chosen by focusing on their individual production, how much they moved the needle for their new team and their potential future with the club. Disagree with any of our picks? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!

Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid (€126m)

We’re almost at the end of Joao Felix’s first season as an Atletico Madrid player and the jury is still very much out on the Portuguese youngster. When the €126m deal was confirmed last year, there was a lot of expectations for Felix to hit the ground running despite his young age, especially following his final season at Benfica – scoring 15 goals and recording seven assists in 26 Primeira Liga matches during 2018/19.

But the 20-year-old has not yet lived up to the lofty expectations, scoring just four times and adding one assist in 20 matches in La Liga. Felix has struggled with injuries which hasn’t helped his progress, but there is still a lot of time for the midfielder to make his mark, once he gets the full season under his belt.

6/10

Eden Hazard to Real Madrid (€100m)

After what felt like years of flirting between the two, Real Madrid finally got their man last summer when Eden Hazard joined from Chelsea. But the dream has been somewhat of a nightmare with the Belgian enduring a tough first season in Spain.

Hazard has played just 15 games for Los Blancos since sealing the move, suffering various injury problems. He missed the start of the season with a hamstring injury, was later ruled out with ankle problem and then picked up another fibula issue shortly after his return. Hazard has already missed 24 games for Real Madrid due to injury, having been ruled out for just 20 in seven years at Stamford Bridge.

The problems have seen Chelsea fans grow increasingly happy with his sale, believing they got the better of the deal, €100m for a player who gave his all for the club and is now 29, allowing the Blues to bring through their younger stars.

5/10

Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona (€120m)

Yet another €100m+ move from the summer of 2019, Felix’s arrival at Atletico Madrid opened up the door for Antoine Griezmann to finally get his move to Barcelona. Setting up a mouthwatering attacking trio alongside Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, the excitement around the Nou Camp was high.

Griezmann has shown signs of a great chemistry with Messi and is more than doing his part defensively, but there has been something missing from his time at Barcelona so far. According to some reports, the French World Cup winner has already been put up for sale by Barcelona, who are looking to re-sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain, although the validity of these reports have been questioned by other members of the Spanish media. Griezmann has also faced criticism from the likes of Rivaldo, who had hoped for more from the forward in his first season at the Nou Camp, comparing him to Philippe Coutinho. Rivaldo did also iterate it would be too soon for Barcelona to sell Griezmann, but more will be expected of the Frenchman.

6/10

Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for €100m

Gareth Bale was the original €100m man, although Real Madrid didn’t acknowledge that at first because they didn’t want to upset Cristiano Ronaldo (who they had signed for €94m remember) by making him the world’s second-most expensive player. However Football Leaks did eventually uncover that, yes, Bale was officially the world’s first €100m transfer.

And what a transfer it has has been! By the end of his first season he had won Real Madrid the Copa del Rey and Champions League, scoring killer goals in both finals. He continued to shine for Carlo Ancelotti, and guided Los Blancos to his second Champions League final (under Zinedine Zidane) in 2016. He was largely injured for 2016/17 and the wheels began to come off. He won Real a third consecutive Champions League with an earth-shattering brace in Kyiv against Liverpool in May 2018, but still couldn’t fight his way back into the plans of any of Real’s next coaches.

Bale has been the subject of a huge transfer tussle this summer, with Zidane wanting to offload the Welsh superstar whilst club President Florentino Perez wants to work things out. With Bale’s big-game record you can see why, but injuries and Bale’s failure to adapt to life in Spain strengthen Zidane’s case too.

In the end Bale stayed, but his 2019/20 campaign has been fairly middling. He’s looked okay, with a few magical moments, but nothing too outrageous. Ultimately, however, it comes down to this: before him Real Madrid had nine Champions League. Now, thanks largely to him, they have 13. Consider the needle well and truly moved.

9/10

Paul Pogba to Manchester United for €105m

The announcement of Paul Pogba to Manchester United remains one of the coolest things about Pogba joining United, which is troubling at first but you have to admit it was pretty damn cool. Regardless, the Frenchman settled back into life in the Premier League pretty well and instantly set about showing his skills. He helped United win the EFL Cup and Europa League during his maiden campaign, putting them back in the big time. No player has created more chances for Man Utd since he’s been back at the club (167), but certain sections of the Red Devil fanbase and commentariat seem perpetually disappointed and/or angry with him.

And alright, in his second and third seasons he fell out with Jose Mourinho and played much less consistently than you’d expect from such a talented player. But he rebounded under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and last season, bar one missed penalty, looked capable of having an incredible campaign with United, playing the kind of fast, flowing football that suited his game perfectly. His fourth season in red has unquestionably been his worst, as he’s been dogged by injuries and unable to perform to his high level. Now, whether he’ll remain at United much longer is an interesting question, but he’s definitely had plenty of excellent moments for the Red Devils.

7/10

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Neymar to PSG for €222m

The big one! Neymar’s move to PSG redefined the transfer landscape in a way no one had done since Cristiano and Kaka in 2009. This move was earth-shattering and out of nowhere. A huge statement of intent by PSG, who sort to assemble a galactico-style squad capable of mixing it with the cream of Europe.

However, it hasn’t quite worked out.

Almost three years on and Neymar is ready to quit the French giants and the Parisians seem ready to let him. It’s not that he’s been bad on the field. In fact he’s been brilliant. He’s played 80 games, scored 69 goals and registered 39 assists. But it’s all the noise off the field: his ‘Remontada’ comment last year, reporting late to pre-season training, and suggestions that he parties too much.

The fact that his foot explodes every February – or a bruised rib this year – thus ruling him out of the Champions League (that PSG are desperate to win) doesn’t help either. He’s still there, somehow, but he hasn’t moved the needle much at all. Not a failure, but a disappointment. Underwhelming.

6/10

Ousmane Dembele to Barcelona for €105m

When Barcelona lost Neymar, they had a literal €222m to spend and everyone knew it. Suddenly transfer prices skyrocketed, but Barcelona had to pay because they needed talent. Ousmane Dembele was their chosen lad (he had just turned 20) to replace Neymar. On paper it made sense: Dembele was an ambipedal wing-wizard with pace to burn and a creative skill-set that fit right in at Barcelona.

But he spent most of his first season injured, then a chunk of his second injured too. He’s injured right now, in fact. In between injuries he’s looked a promising talent but has often clashed with manager Ernesto Valverde over the tactical restrictions imposed on him, leading to less time on the pitch, and ultimately less understanding of the coach’s system. All of this was exacerbated by some pretty spectacular unprofessionalism and the living habits of a fresher at university.

He would be classified as an unmitigated disaster except his majestic talent is a huge mitigation. In 2018/19 he played a crucial role in Barcelona’s two-trophy season; scoring the winner in the Supercopa de Espana and bagging numerous crucial winners and equalisers in the early La Liga season whilst Leo Messi was still warming up. He’s suffered serious injury woes in 2019/20 as well, and seems cursed to never get a good run of games in the side to truly settle in.

Despite all this he’s just 22 – there’s so much potential here, so much magnificence just itching to be unlocked. He’s been poor so far, but he just needs the good fortune to stay fit and that could all change.

5/10

Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for €120m

Barcelona spent a year courting Coutinho, but they only tried to sign him in the wake of selling Neymar which forced the fee way, way up. They had to wait six months but they eventually got their man. And for six months it was so, so good. Coutinho shone in the back-half of 2017/18, but for some reason he was a total disaster in 2018/19.

What went wrong? Tactics? His position? Lack of stamina? The pressure got to him? It was probably a combination of everything, really. Watching Coutinho in 2018/19 was like watching a foal try to walk for the first time during a stampede of rhinos. Barcelona have spent this summer trying to ditch him and in the end could only scrape together a loan to Bayern Munich. That shows how far his stock has fallen.

He performed well in Bavaria, and looked settled there as the heartbeat of the side – everything flows through him – although there is no future. If Bayern signed the Brazilian for €100m he’d probably get a better grade. But for Barcelona, given the price, he is unquestionably the biggest flop of all-time.

3/10

Kylian Mbappe to PSG for €135m

Signed in 2017 alongside Neymar, but only on loan initially. The big money came the following year when his deal was made official. Mbappe is the world’s brightest young talent. Full stop, no caveats. An absolutely ruthless force with a goal contribution of 206 in 214 games for France, Monaco and PSG (130 goals, 76 assists). That’s even more impressive when you consider it means he’s averaging one goal involvement every 73 minutes. That’s right, 21-year-old Kylian Mbappe scores or assists every time he steps on the field. He’s Superboy.

Attitude problems are an issue though, he was sent off in the 2019 French Cup final and has shown a growing petulant streak. And for all his genius when injuries left him alone with Angel Di Maria, he failed to take Manchester United down in the Champions League which was quite embarrassing. As stupendous as he is, and as superhuman as he assuredly will be for PSG (at least until 2022 when his contract expires) he’s not moved the needle all that much just yet. PSG were very good but not elite before him, and that’s where they are now. That potential, though…

7/10

Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus for €100m

Right at the end, the big man himself. And yes, no one has done more to earn a €100m deal than Cristiano Ronaldo – 450 goals in 438 games for Real plus three consecutive Champions Leagues is one hell of a justification. Performing for your new club matters though. In 2018/19 he bagged Juve 21 goals in the league (a team high) and he won them a lot of points, but Juve were winning points anyway. Serie A has long been their domain and with the Portuguese they went from 95 points in 2017/18 to 90 in 2018/19. They won less because Cristiano cannibalised their goalscoring for himself without supplying the gaudy numbers that he did for Madrid.

Even in Europe with his usual saving grace, he was average at best, besides one spectacular performance against Atletico Madrid where he bagged a brilliant hat-trick to bring Juve back from 0-2 down to 3-2 ahead. However, he couldn’t prevent later elimination at the hands of a youthful Ajax side and so his whole purpose for joining Juve, to help them get over the Champions League hump, was unfulfilled.

His signing also played a part in the departure of transfer guru Beppe Marotta. The Italian’s knack for shrewd deals and savvy fiscal management is what got Juve back to the top table of European football and the Cristiano deal was, given his age and financial demands, nothing like a deal he would sanction. But Chairman Andrea Agnelli felt Cristiano would not only boost the club’s goalscoring but also boost the club’s earnings into the stratosphere. He did neither, and Marotta departed.

In his wake Juve have, in part because they’re paying the Portuguese an eye-watering €50m a year after tax, slipped near to the Financial Fair Play black hole. Hence the sudden and random offloading of the brilliant Joao Cancelo and the summer-long campaign to sell the phenomenal Paulo Dybala. They went from slick to shambolic in one summer and right now are not even top of Serie A.

It’s a shame Madrid didn’t pay Man Utd €100m for his services because that deal would have been rated a 12/10 by the time he left in terms of value for money and moving the needle (he’s basically the second-greatest player in Real Madrid’s history, lagging only behind Alfredo di Stefano aka the guy who basically made Real Madrid a superclub with his on-pitch dominance). But in terms of his transfer to Juve, has Cristiano been good? Yes. Has he moved the needle for The Old Lady? No. Has he caused them a whole heap of problems? Oh yes indeed.

5/10