Premier League Flag

Over the Premier League era, which began in the 1992/93 season, there have been some monumental transfers to and from the league and these have only gotten bigger over the years. Many of these transfers have been for world-class players who have lived up to the massive expectations put on them.

However, many have not succeeded and have not been the exciting signings they were thought to be. The most recent British transfer record came this season in the 2023 January transfer window with the young Word Cup-winning Argentine making a move from Benfica in Portugal to Chelsea in the Premier League.

Enzo Fernandez made the move from Benfica for a staggering £107 million pounds, making him the most expensive player to ever move to the EPL. Before winning the Qatar World Cup with Argentina, Fernandez was already an exciting young talent, having made a move from River Plate in Argentina to play for Benfica in the summer of 2022.

He impressed with the Portuguese giants and many clubs were monitoring him even before Qatar, and he was likely to be a target signing for many in 2023. When he got the call up to the Argentina squad for the Qatar World Cup his chances of a big move only increased. With Argentina Fernandez won the World Cup and earned himself the Young Player of the Tournament award for his outstanding displays throughout the tournament. This of course further increased his market value and what Benfica were asking for him.

When it came to the transfer window Chelsea came out on top against many top clubs and managed to secure his signature for a record £107 million, the most any player coming into the Premier League has ever cost. A player is worth whatever a club will pay for them but his real market value is undoubtedly far lower. Even so, with the Blues splashing the cash and Portugues clubs adept at extracting maximum value when they sell, the fee is far from a surprise.

Record Fee for Outgoing Player

Although Fernandez is the most expensive player to ever move to the English top flight, he is not the most expensive to ever leave. Brazilian ace Philippe Coutinho made the move from Liverpool to Barcelona in the January of 2018 for the mega sum of £105 million (various figures have been reported but we believe this is the base fee with around £30m of potential add-ons too), the most a player has been sold for in the Premier League. Indeed, at the time of writing this transfer is possibly (this depends on what currency is used as the measure, and the complexities of add-ons) the third-most expensive of all time.

Before his transfer to Barcelona Coutinho was considered one of the best players in the Premier League, if not the world, and consequently attracted the interest Barcelona. Coutinho went to Barca much to Liverpool fans’ frustration as it was a boyhood dream of his to play for the Catalan giants. Since Coutinho went to Spain he has not shown the same great form as he did for Liverpool and since has been on loan to Bayern Munich before being transferred back to the EPL for a fraction of what he left for. This shows that just because a player is a record transfer, it doesn’t always work out.

“Best” of British

Another noteworthy transfer is that of Jack Grealish, who is the most expensive British player ever with a transfer cost of £100 million. Grealish, at the time, broke the record for a fee paid by a Premier League side, with a move from Aston Villa to Manchester City in the summer transfer window of 2021.

This move sparked a lot of controversy as the club he left was one that he had played for and supported since he was a young boy. Not only this but Grealish was the captain of the club and leaving for another Premier League team upset many fans. However, on the flip side many other supporters felt Jack Grealish was far too expensive at the price of £100 million. So far at least, he has not lived up to the expectations with just eight goals and eight assists in 64 games for Manchester City.

Before Grealish, the last British player to be the most expensive transfer to or from the English top flight was Gareth Bale, who transferred from Tottenham to Real Madrid in 2013. Bale went for a fee of £85.3 million. At the time not only was Bale the most expensive player to leave the Premier League, he was actually the most expensive player in the world as well.

Unlike Coutinho who never lived up to expectations when leaving England for Spain, Bale was a huge success at Real Madrid. It might have ended acrimoniously but he scored 106 goals and registered 67 assists during his 258 appearances for the club. The Bale transfer is an interesting one to look back on. Although 10 years ago he was the most expensive player in the world, compared to 2023, his price is some distance off the most expensive transfer in the Premier League.

This just shows how much player prices have increased due to inflation and the growing money within the game, especially in England. Higher fees are not just because players are getting better – as can be seen in the Grealish and Coutinho cases!

Overall it is clear that players have been getting more expensive since the start of the Premier League era and that the prices will continue to increase. With the current British transfer record sitting at £107 million for Enzo Fernandez’s transfer to Chelsea the question is how long till it is broken? And who will be the next player to break it?

Premier League Fee Progression: Notable Transfers

The table below shows some notable transfers in the progression of the British transfer fee record during the PL era. This covers fees either paid or received by Premier League sides.

Fee Player Date New Club Old Club Notes
£107m Enzo Fernandez Jan 23 Chelsea Benfica Current record
£80m Cristiano Ronaldo Jul 09 Real Madrid Man Utd Previous record more than doubles
£30m Rio Ferdinand Jul 02 Leeds Man Utd World record fee for defender
£15m Alan Shearer Jul 96 Blackburn Newcastle World record fee
£5.5m Paul Gascoigne Jun 92 Spurs Lazio First record set in PL era

By cf378