Enzo Fernandez’s move from Benfica to Chelsea for $130 million was undoubtedly the biggest transfer of the 2022 January window, but how does it stack up against the other most expensive deals of all time?
Enzo Fernandez only joined Benfica in June of 2022, signing from River Plate for $10 million plus $8 million in add-ons. He’d only broken into the River Plate about a year earlier but had already been acclaimed as the best player in his home country. An impressive start to his career in Europe saw him named as the Midfielder of the Month in the Primeira Liga several times before the World Cup in Qatar.
It was during the world’s biggest football tournament in November and December last year that the Argentine’s stock really soared, as his country won the trophy and he was chosen as the best young player during the World Cup. At this point, rumors about a possible transfer began to grow, with Chelsea being one of the possible destinations mentioned from the very beginning.
It was revealed that Fernandez had a $140 million release clause in his Benfica contract, with the Portuguese club confirming that they wouldn’t let him go for any less than that figure. This meant that his sale was going to place him in the top five transfers in football history, just ahead of Antoine Griezmann’s move from Atletico Madrid to Barcelona in 2019.
In the end, the transfer to Chelsea went right to the dying moments of the window before finally going through following hours of intense negotiations. The complex deal involved an eight-and-a-half-year contract for the player and an initial payment of $32 million to Benfica. As well as being confirmed as the fifth biggest transfer of all time, it also became the largest amount ever paid by a British team for a player.
Right now, Chelsea fans will be hoping that their new player can turn around their fortunes and send them moving up the league during their next set of EPL fixtures this season. At the time of writing, they sit in tenth place and are 21 points behind leaders Arsenal, which perhaps explains their willingness to spend so much money on trying to make up the ground.
Will it work or will Chelsea struggle to move up the table? The latest odds show that the Blues are outsiders to win the EPL but their odds are shorter when it comes to finishing high enough to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
These figures are likely to change if Fernandez and the other new Chelsea signings start well. At the time of writing, some bookmakers price Chelsea at 500/1 to win the EPL, as seen on new sports betting sites like BetGoodwin, NetBet, and Fitzdares. For those wanting to back Chelsea, these operators offer welcome packages such as cashback offers and free bets for new players.
As for the player with the most expensive transfer of all time, this title still belongs to Brazilian forward Neymar, who made the switch from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 for a fee of $240 million. Following a spectacular start to his career with Santos, Neymar was regularly linked with a big move to top European clubs and in 2013 he joined Barcelona. The fee was a reported $61 million, but it was later revealed to have been over $92 million.
After a successful spell with the Spanish giants, where he formed part of a deadly attack with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, Neymar was one of the most sought-after players on the planet. His transfer to PSG was rather unusual, as the player had to make the payment of $240 million to Barcelona himself, to meet the terms of his release clause.
With a series of injuries and varying levels of form, the question of whether or not the French team has received value for money is an interesting one. It’s also unclear when this transfer record will be beaten, if ever. It came in the midst of the most incredible period of spending yet seen, with Barcelona, Manchester United, and Liverpool all joining PSG in splashing out huge sums of money in 2017 and 2018.
French forward Kylian Mbappé was born in Paris but started his professional career in the south of France, with Monaco. An eye-catching start to his career meant that it wasn’t long before he was linked with big-money moves to major clubs like Real Madrid. His move to PSG was initially on loan, eventually turning into a permanent deal worth a total of $194 million. As well as being the second-most expensive transfer in history behind that of his new team-mate Neymar, it also became the biggest transfer fee ever paid between two teams in the same domestic league. The player’s explosive form and impressive goalscoring exploits mean that the outlay has arguably been justified.
Mbappé is now the Paris team’s second-top goal scorer of all time and has won four Ligue 1 titles with them. He also helped his team to win their first Champions League final. In 2022, he became only the second player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final, and the first player to ever score four career goals in these games. He would have been one of the players everyone wanted to buy after the World Cup, but there are still rumors that he may eventually end up at Real Madrid.
We need to go back to that incredible period covering 2017 and 2018 to find the next biggest sale on the list. Philippe Coutinho had always shown promise with Vasco da Gama in Brazil and Inter Milan in Italy, but it was his move to Liverpool that really brought him into the spotlight as one of the world’s top players.
Coutinho joined the English side for $9 million in 2013 and soon started lighting up the EPL with his goals and assists. He was named in the 2015 PFA Team of the Year and signed a new contract early in 2017, crucially with no release clause in it. Barcelona had money to spend following the sale of Neymar and needed to sign a big star to replace the Brazilian. The Spanish club had several bids rejected in the summer of 2017 and Coutinho requested a transfer but eventually stayed in England.
When the winter transfer window opened in January 2018, the transfer to Barcelona was officially confirmed, with the fee rising to $156 million once the add-on conditions had been met. While he started strongly for his new team, he lost form and fell out of favor before eventually joining Aston Villa for a $21 million fee.
As we’ve seen, the football transfer market goes through periods of intense activity, often triggered by the huge sale of a player that leads to a knock-on effect as other players are sold for massive sums. This makes it difficult to predict when the next spending spurge will occur.
As for Enzo Fernandez, the Argentine can look at the few names above him in the list of the most expensive transfers and consider himself in excellent company. Most of these huge transfers worked out well for the buying team, although the debate about whether any of them got true value for money will go on.