How have football's nine £100m players fared after their big moves?

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe dominated Ligue 1 but failed to win the Champions League, while Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann flopped at Atletico Madrid and Barcelona… so is the £100m price tag cursed?

  • Only nine players have ever been signed for a fee of £100million or more
  • Paris Saint-Germain signed Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for a combined £261m
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’ 

Brian Clough famously claimed Nottingham Forest paid £999,999 for Trevor Francis, as he didn’t want the £1million fee to put pressure on the England midfielder.

While as was often the case with Clough the story may have been at least partly apocryphal, his feelings were in the right place as he sought to shelter the player from the scrutiny that comes with a sizeable price-tag.

Some of Francis’ current counterparts may wish their managers had adopted the same approach. Nine players have been sold for £100m or more, since Brazilian icon Neymar became the first player to breach the barrier as he set a new world record fee when he signed for Paris Saint-Germain for £198m in July 2017.  

The £100m price-tag has been far from synonymous with guaranteed success, however. Neymar and Kylian Mbappe hoovered up domestic trophies with PSG, but failed to deliver the Champions League. 

Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann’s spells at Barcelona were largely forgettable, while Joao Felix never lived up to his potential at Atletico Madrid. Here, Mail Sport takes a look at how the nine £100m players have fared after their multi-million moves. 

Neymar (left) and Kylian Mbappe remain the two most expensive players in football’s history

Brian Clough (right) claimed his Nottingham Forest side paid £999,999 for Trevor Francis (left) to alleviate pressure of a £1m price tag

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Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain – £198m, August 2017

Neymar remains the most expensive footballer in history, but evaluating his sojourn in Paris is a complex exercise. Taken in a vacuum, his 14 major trophies and 118 goals in 173 appearances in all competitions suggest PSG’s £198m investment returned handsome dividends.

The reality, is somewhat more nuanced. PSG’s financial muscles effectively put them out of reach of their Ligue 1 rivals and domestic domination was arguably inevitable.

Neymar arrived at the Parc des Princes to spearhead PSG’s Champions League quest, but only reached the final once. 

Off the pitch, the Brazilian often made the headlines for the wrong reasons, including insulting referees, throwing a punch at a fan and taking lengthy breaks to Brazil.

Verdict: Jury’s out. For all the silverware in Paris, it’s hard to dispel the feeling we saw the best of Neymar while at Barcelona.

Neymar remains the most expensive footballer of all time after joining Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona for £198m in the summer of 2017

Kylian Mbappe

Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain – £163m, July 2018 

A year after spending £198m on Neymar, PSG spent £163m to sign Mbappe from Monaco.

The parallels between the two are plentiful. 

Like Neymar, Mbappe has hoovered up domestic trophies with PSG – 11 at the time of writing – and has scored at an astonishing rate, becoming the club’s record goalscorer with 220 goals in 269 matches.

But like his former team-mate, the French superstar has failed to deliver the trophy PSG’s hierarchy crave most. 

More worryingly for the Ligue 1 giants, the 2018 World Cup winner has spent the last two years flirting with Real Madrid, wields far too much power at the club and has often looked uninterested of late.

Verdict: Jury’s out. Arguably the best player in the world, PSG has always felt like a staging post onto something bigger for Mbappe.

Kylian Mbappe is the world’s second-most expensive footballer after joining PSG for £163m

The Frenchman has won 11 major trophies at the Parc des Princes, but the Champions League has remained frustratingly elusive 

Philippe Coutinho

Liverpool to Barcelona – £145m, January 2018

Barcelona reinvested almost the entire transfer fee they received from Neymar on Coutinho, who signed from Liverpool to the tune of £145m less than six months later.

The Brazilian arrived at the Camp Nou with lofty expectations after establishing himself as one of the best players in the Premier League, but never managed to replicate the form he showed on English shores.

Injury problems limited him to 104 appearances in four years, punctuated by loan spells at Bayern Munich and Aston Villa. A £17m move to Villa Park in July last year failed to resurrect his career and Coutinho was loaned to Al-Duhail in Dubai this summer.

Verdict: Miss. The Brazilian peaked at Liverpool and failed to justify’s Barcelona lavish investment.

Philippe Coutinho peaked at Liverpool and failed to justify’s Barcelona lavish investment

Moises Caicedo

Brighton to Chelsea – £115m, August 2023 

Chelsea broke the British transfer record when they signed Caicedo from Brighton for £115m in the summer, hijacking Liverpool’s deal at the 11th hour.

A crucial cog of Roberto De Zerbi’s team last term, the Ecuadorian has taken time to find his feet at Stamford Bridge but has played in all but one Premier League games so far this season.

Chelsea are at last slowly improving under Mauricio Pochettino and Caicedo looks destined to become key player for the former Spurs manager.

Verdict: Jury’s out. The fee is huge, but the early signs are Caicedo may well be worth the investment. 

Chelsea broke the British transfer record when they signed Caicedo from Brighton for £115m in the summer transfer window

Joao Felix

Benfica to Atletico Madrid – £119m, July 2019

Atletico Madrid paid £119million to Benfica for Felix, who was touted as European football’s next big prospect following a 20-goal season in Portugal.

But Felix, who remains the second-most expensive teenager in the world after Kylian Mbappe, never quite lived to the hype, let alone the exorbitant transfer fee.

The Portuguese won LaLiga in his second season with Atleti and was the club’s Player of the Year 12 months later, before a series of injuries derailed his stint at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Felix left Madrid after disagreements with Diego Simeone, but his loan spell at Chelsea remains most memorable for the Portuguese getting sent off on his debut.

His loan move to Barcelona has started more promisingly, with the 23-year-old scoring three goals in eight games this season.

Verdict: Miss. He never justified the fee Atletico paid to Benfica, but he may yet resurrect his career with Barcelona.

Joao Felix remains the second-most expensive teenager in the world after Mbappe

Enzo Fernandez

Benfica to Chelsea – £107m, January 2023 

Before Moises Caicedo’s arrival, Chelsea had broken the British transfer record just over six months earlier when they signed Fernandez from Benfica for £107m.

The Argentinian was one of the players of the tournament as La Albiceleste lifted the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, but is yet to replicate that form on a consistent basis in the Premier League.

He’s been ever present this season and Pochettino clearly rates him.

Verdict: Jury’s out. Yet to shine at Stamford Bridge and will have to replicate his outstanding World Cup form if he is to live up to his price-tag.

Enzo Fernandez is yet to shine at Stamford Bridge after joining from Benfica for £107m, but could become a key player under Mauricio Pochettino 

Antoine Griezmann

Atletico Madrid to Barcelona – £107m, July 2019 

Barcelona’s financial issues cannot be exclusively attributed on failed signings, but spending a combined £252m on Coutinho and Griezmann remains an astonishingly bad decision.

The Frenchman arrived at the Camp Nou for £107m in the summer of 2019, but in four years in Catalonia never managed to reach the standards he set at Atletico Madrid.

The 2018 World Cup winner scored 35 goals in 102 appearances for Barca, before returning to Atletico on loan two years ago and making the switch permanent last season.

Verdict: Miss. Never justified the transfer fee and Barcelona are still feeling the effects of their ill-advised largesse. 

Antoine Griezmann never justified the £107m fee Barcelona paid Atletico Madrid in 2019

Declan Rice

West Ham to Arsenal – £105m, July 2023 

Arsenal’s club record signing has wasted no time in making his presence felt at the Emirates, scoring a late goal against Manchester United and dominating the midfield battle against Manchester City at the weekend.

Rice led West Ham to a first European trophy in four decades last season and Mikel Arteta believes the England international is the final piece of the jigsaw as he bids to end the Gunners’ 19-year wait for a Premier League title.

If the 24-year-old can continues his form, the Spaniard may well be proved right.

Verdict: Jury’s out. Only joined Arsenal three months ago but has already looked an inspired signing for the Gunners.

Declan Rice has made an instant impact since joining Arsenal for a club record £105m

Jack Grealish

Aston Villa to Manchester City – £100m, August 2021 

Manchester City rarely put a foot wrong in the transfer market these days, but eyebrows were raised when they signed Grealish for a then-British record £100m.

A slow start to life under Pep Guardiola did little to dispel the notion the Premier League champions had paid over the odds for a player who too often flattered to deceive.

Two years on and Grealish has blossomed into one of City’s most important players, whose impact can’t be simply measured by his 11 goals and 16 assists in 96 matches. 

The 28-year-old won the treble last season and has already lifted five major trophies with City. Few would be against him adding to the tally either. 

Verdict: Hit. One of the stars of City’s treble-winning team, Grealish has gone from strength to strength under Guardiola. 

Jack Grealish was one of the stars of Manchester City’s treble-winning team last season


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