Cristiano Ronaldo’s £80 million move to Real Madrid from Manchester United in 2009 was surpassed by Gareth Bale’s £86m transfer to the same club four years later before Paul Pogba took up the crown as the world’s most expensive player last summer.
Pogba’s £89m switch from Juventus is part of the latest attempt made by United to replicate the success of the Sir Alex Ferguson era, but they are not among those to have recouped the most money through player sales in recent years.
A recent CIES Football Observatory report shows the top 10 clubs from Europe’s top five leagues to have made the most money in transfer sales during the course of the past 14 windows stretching back to January 2010.
10. CHELSEA (£300M)
Biggest sale: David Luiz (£50m, Paris Saint-Germain – 2014)
The first noteworthy departure during this period was winger Yuri Zhirkov, who returned to his native Russia with Anzhi Makhachkala for £12.75m – but that merely scratched the surface of what was to come.
In 2013, Kevin De Bruyne was sold for £18.7m to Wolfsburg – a fee nearly three times the amount for which he joined – while Juan Mata was offloaded by Jose Mourinho to Manchester United during the 2013-14 January transfer window for £37m.
Ramires (£23.8m to JS Suning), Filipe Luis (£13.8m to Atletico Madrid) and Petr Cech (£10m to Arsenal) freed up more transfer funds as Chelsea prepared to mount a Premier League title defence at the start of last season, while Mohamed Salah’s £13m move to Roma was the last sizeable sale.
9. REAL MADRID (£310M)
Biggest sale: Angel di Maria (£60m, Manchester United – 2014)
Real Madrid make the list largely due to the sale of one man in particular, with Angel di Maria’s £60m move to Manchester United a British transfer record at the time.
Di Maria’s departure came in the same summer Alvaro Morata was allowed to join Juventus in a £17m deal that would include a buy-back clause.
But it was not the first summer that Real had opted to make a hefty return on dispensable stars, with Mesut Ozil’s £42m sale to Arsenal on transfer deadline day in summer 2013 dividing supporters.
Gonzalo Higuain’s £33m move to Napoli was less surprising, with him playing second fiddle to Karim Benzema and the arrival of Bale, while Jese’s £21.5m departure for Paris Saint-Germain last summer had similar undertones.
8. ROMA (£311m)
Biggest sale: Erik Lamela (£30m, Tottenham – 2013)
Erik Lamela’s whopping £30m transfer to Tottenham in the summer of 2013 is the biggest sale made by Roma in the past six years, with Brazil defender Marquinhos joining Paris Saint-Germain in a £23.5m deal the same summer.
Roma’s defensive options were further depleted by the departure of Medhi Benatia to Bayern Munich for £24m in 2014 while exciting prospect Alessio Romagnoli joined AC Milan in a £21m deal the following summer.
Gervinho succumbed to the Chinese Super League, joining Hebei China Fortune for £15m in January 2016, while Croatia midfielder Miralem Pjanic could not resist the overtures of Italian champions Juventus in the most recent transfer window as he completed a £27.2m switch to Turin.
7. TOTTENHAM (£313m)
Biggest sale: Gareth Bale (£86m, Real Madrid – 2013)
Tottenham are another side who have struggled to make the most of the money coming in for player assets, with the most notable example being the £110.5m spent under technical director Franco Bladini as the club adjusted to life after Bale.
The £86m transfer of the Wales winger caused shockwaves around the footballing world, and left Spurs with the unenviable task of trying to find value in the market when clubs knew precisely how much they had sloshing around in their kitty.
Spurs recouped around half of the £26m spent in signing Roberto Soldado as they opted to cut their losses with the player returning to Valencia in 2015, and freed up more transfer funds this year by selling Andros Townsend, Ryan Mason and Nacer Chadli for a combined £38m.
Other notable sales in the past six years include Paulinho’s £11.9m to Guangzhou Evergrande and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s £8.5m switch to Swansea, while Luka Modric will have been perfectly placed to help Bale adjust to life in Madrid after his £25m move to Real in 2012.
6. ATLETICO MADRID (£319m)
Biggest sale: Radamel Falcao (£51m, Monaco – 2013)
Atletico Madrid’s status as a selling club has shrunk dramatically since Diego Simeone masterminded their first La Liga title in 18 years in 2014.
Recouping £319m in transfer fees since 2010, Atletico have managed to assemble a fiercely competitive squad to break up the duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona, with players of the right mentality often chosen over reputation.
Sergio Aguero was sold to Manchester City for £34m in 2011, but the Argentine’s departure was offset by the arrival of Radamel Falcao in the same summer David de Gea joined Manchester United for £17.8million.
Falcao was sold two summers later to Monaco for a fraction over £50m, with Diego Costa earning a £32m switch to Chelsea after lighting up the Spanish league with 35 goals during the title-winning year.
Filipe Luis joined Costa in making the move to Stamford Bridge for £17m – although he would return – while the 2015 close season saw a raft of players sold, including Jackson Martinez to China’s Guangzhou Evergrande for £35.7m and Barcelona’s £29m capture of Arda Turan.
5. PORTO (£324m)
Biggest sale: James Rodriguez (£38.25m, Monaco – 2013)
Porto have gone three years without domestic silverware, as Benfica have seized control in each of the past three Primeira Liga seasons, and the club who won the Europa League in 2011 have historically struggled to keep hold of their best players.
The lure of a big salary at Zenit St Petersburg proved too much for defender Bruno Alves when he was bought for £18.7m in 2010, while striker Hulk followed the same path two years later in a £30.6m switch.
The Brazilian had been bought to replace the goals scored by Radamel Falcao, who joined Atletico Madrid for £34m in the summer of 2011, while other notable sales include the double departure of James Rodriguez (£38.25m) and Joao Moutinho (£21m), both to Monaco in 2013.
The pattern of selling to the same club continued a year later, as Eliaquim Mangala (£32m) and Fernando (£13m) were sold to Manchester City, while Jackson Martinez’s £31.5m to Atletico Madrid was the last big name to leave the Estadio Dragao.
4. BENFICA (£351m)
Biggest sale: Renato Sanches (£30m, Bayern Munich – 2016)
The £30m sale of Portuguese teenager Renato Sanches to Bayern Munich following his Euro 2016 exploits kept Benfica highly ranked when it comes to player sales, which has become symptomatic of the Lisbon club.
The 2010 summer exodus of Angel di Maria to Real Madrid for £28m followed swiftly by Brazilian pair David Luiz and Ramires to Chelsea for a combined fee of over £40m gave the Portuguese giants a transfer war chest.
But a lack of ambition and struggles to exert themselves on the European stage led to further departures, with Fabio Coentrao heading off to Real Madrid for £25m in 2011, before the club chose to cash in on Axel Witsel the following year after Zenit St Petersburg offered £23m for the Belgian midfielder.
Nemanja Matic returned to Chelsea under Jose Mourinho in January 2014 for £21.25m, while Lazar Markovic was sold to Liverpool in the summer for £20m around the same time that Jan Oblak was snapped up by Atletico Madrid for £12.6m.
Rodrigo’s sale in 2015 kept the transfer budget looking healthy, with the Brazilian’s £26.5m departure one of three players to join Valencia, including Andre Gomes (£17.8m) and Joao Cancelo (£13.4m).
Nicolas Gaitan’s £21.25m move to Atletico Madrid went somewhat under the radar given Sanches’ switch to Bayern, but 2016 marked another summer of turnover at the Estadio da Luz.
3. JUVENTUS (£352m)
Biggest sale: Paul Pogba (£89m, Manchester United – 2016)
Juventus’ place in the top three owes a lot to Pogba’s decision to leave Turin after four seasons, with the France midfielder’s world-record sale accounting for a quarter of the overall transfer income in the past six years.
Diego’s £13.8m to Wolfsburg at the start of the period in question, Simone Zaza’s £8.5m move to Sassuolo in 2013 and Angelo Ogbonna‘s £9.35m transfer to West Ham the following campaign were all small-fry compared to a deal which saw Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola earn £20m alone.
Juventus have maintained their position at the top of Serie A, winning the league in the past five seasons despite the frequent changes in personnel, with Arturo Vidal opting to pursue a new challenge when he signed for Bayern Munich for £31.5m in 2015.
The arrival of Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli is welcome at the Juventus Stadium, given that Real Madrid took up the option to buy back Alvaro Morata for £25m in the summer, while Roberto Pereyra arrived at Watford in the summer for £11m, a club-record fee for the Hornets before Isaac Success’ arrival at Vicarage Road for £12.5m from Granada.
2. VALENCIA (£360M)
Biggest sale: Shkodran Mustafi (£34.9m, Arsenal – 2016)
Valencia have become a selling club in recent seasons owing to off-field financial difficulties, and Los Che’s failure to reach the Champions League group stage last term following the play-off defeat by Monaco has only served to exacerbate their problems.
A side that is now languishing in the lower reaches of La Liga once brimmed with quality, none more so than in the silky skills of David Silva and David Villa, who were sold in 2010 to Manchester City for £24.4m and Barcelona for £34m respectively.
The turnover of managers since the club’s Copa Del Rey success in 2008 – Valencia’s last piece of silverware – has done little to persuade players to stay, with the likes of Juan Mata moving for £22.7m to Chelsea in 2011 and Jordi Alba joining Barcelona for £11.9m the following summer.
Valencia did rather well to pocket £26m for Roberto Soldado in 2013, as Tottenham wasted the vast majority of the Bale money, while Jeremy Mathieu has been similarly ineffectual since joining Barcelona in a £17m deal in 2014.
After Nicolas Otamendi was transferred to City for an extraordinary £32m in 2015, his defensive partner Shkodran Mustafi followed him out of the Mestalla in a £34.9m switch to Arsenal, with Barcelona clearing up the remaining talent in Andre Gomes (£29.75m) and Paco Alcacer (£25.5m) after the lifting of their transfer embargo.
1. LIVERPOOL (£384M)
Biggest sale: Luis Suarez (£75m, Barcelona – 2014)
Liverpool are the biggest beneficiaries from transfer sales in the past six years, with the Merseyside club having received a staggering £374million for players sold since the start of the decade.
The period includes Fernando Torres’ move to Chelsea in January 2011 for £50m, a fee that is still the biggest spent by a Premier League club during the mid-season transfer window.
Former manager Kenny Dalglish replaced Torres with Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll for a collective £57.7m and while they experienced contrasting fortunes at Anfield, the pair left for pastures’ new for a combined £90m.
Raul Meireles’ sale to Chelsea in the summer of 2011 for £12m kept the coffers full, while Alberto Aquilani returned to Italy the following summer, joining Fiorentina for £7.6m following an unsuccessful spell.
Jonjo Shelvey and Stewart Downing were sold for a combined £10m to Swansea and West Ham respectively 12 months later, while the likes of Fabio Borini (£8m to Sunderland) and Iago Aspas (£5m to Celta Vigo) are just two of a number of less lucrative sales.
Raheem Sterling joined Manchester City in July 2015 for £49m while Jurgen Klopp was swift to cut the club’s losses on flop Christian Benteke, who was still sold to Crystal Palace for a sizeable £32.5m fee.
Benteke’s departure came after Joe Allen had moved to Stoke in a £13m deal and Jordon Ibe joined Bournemouth for £15m as Klopp made space in his squad, and with the side top of the Premier League, the club are likely to have money to spend should they wish to strengthen in January.