The current global economic crisis can be seen in football transfers as well, with 2012 not putting a single player in the top 20 of the most expensive footballers in history. That is still controlled mostly by Real Madrid transfers from the last 12 years, bringing in Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Kaka and Luis Figo.
This list of the 10 most expensive players in the history of the sport is adjusted for inflation, and shows how Italian football peaked in terms of buying power over a decade ago, while Real Madrid continue to be the only club consistently spending a fortune on stars with their Galacticos view on life.
Christian Vieri, €47.3 Million in 1999
A 49 time international for Italy, Christian Vieri was the most expensive footballer in the world for a short while. He spent only one season with Lazio, scoring 12 goals, before moving on to Inter Milan, where he played six seasons, scoring 103 league goals. He never won the league title with Inter, settling for second place finishes and some individual awards. Adjusted for inflation, his transfer fee is worth £40 million now.
Falcao, €47 Million in 2011
The Colombian striker, if the rumors are to be believed, is about to make more history with another expensive move to either Chelsea or Real Madrid. He needed only two seasons with Porto, scoring 41 league goals, to make his expensive move to Spain and Atletico Madrid. He scored 36 goals in 50 matches last season, including 12 in the Europa League, leading the club to the title. He has scored 40 goals in 48 matches for Atletico since his arrival.
Ronaldo, €45 Million in 2002
Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima is no longer the most famous Ronaldo in the world, but he was the best player in the world for a short while in the late 1990’s. If not for the injuries? Maybe we would be talking about the greatest player of all time. He was involved in a few very expensive transfers, but he’s in the top 10 for his move in 2002 from Inter, after five injury filled seasons in Italy and one heavenly World Cup, to Real Madrid, where he stayed five seasons and won his only league title, scoring 83 goals in 127 matches. Adjusted for inflation, his transfer is worth £45 million today.
Hernan Crespo, €48 Million in 2000
Crespo, like Vieri before him, made an expensive Lazio to Inter move somewhere down the line, but his big moment came after four seasons and 62 league goals scored for Parma. With Lazio he played in 54 Serie A matches, scoring 39 goals. He never won anything with the club, and left to Inter for €26 million in 2002. Adjusted for inflation, his transfer his worth £48 million today.
Fernando Torres, £50 Million in 2011
The biggest bust (so far) in the top 10. Torres was considered as the world’s best striker or one of them at least between 2007-2010, but injuries and the Liverpool decline, going hand in hand, derailed his career. He scored 65 goals in 102 league matches for Liverpool before making a January last minute move to Chelsea for £50 million. Since then he’s been healthy, but has scored only 23 goals in 92 matches, helping them win the Champions League in 2012.
Luis Figo, €61.5 Million in 2000
A move that no one thought could happen: Barcelona’s biggest star to Real Madrid, for what today would be worth £55 million. Figo began the galacticos era for Real Madrid with his 2000 arrival after five seasons, 30 goals and two championships with Barcelona. He won the league title on his first season with Real, including the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World player of the year. He went on to play five seasons in Madrid, scoring 34 goals, winning the Champions League and the La Liga twice.
Kaka, €65 Million in 2009
More Real Madrid, and another one who might have been great for many years, but is pretty much a bust for Los Blancos, considering the price paid for him. The first transfer of the new galacticos era, Kaka came to Real after six seasons with AC Milan, scoring 70 goals in 193 league matches for the team. His 2009 summer move to Real Madrid didn’t turn out the way many expected: Injuries, Barcelona in the way and Jose Mourinho not really believing in the Brazilian’s ability. Kaka has scored 20 goals in 71 matches since his arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, €66 Million in 2009
A one year experiment that did bring a league title and a Champions League semifinal for Barcelona, while Ibrahimovic enjoyed an excellent first half of the season, but ended with Ibra not fitting the system and mostly trashing his manager, Pep Guardiola. Ibrahimovic came to Barcelona after three seasons and three league titles with Inter in Italy, scoring 57 goals in 88 matches. For Barca, he ended up scoring 16 goals and adding 9 assists on his 29 performances before leaving to AC Milan and more glory in Italy.
Zinedine Zidane, €63.5 Million in 2001
The world’s most expensive player for eight years, Zidane came to Real Madrid from Juventus in 2001 following his success with France in the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 Euro. He played five seasons for Real Madrid, winning only one league title and one Champions League trophy in the overall disappointing Galacticos era. He scored 34 goals in 200 La Liga matches for the club. In today’s economy, his transfer would be worth £65 million.
Cristiano Ronaldo, €94 Million in 2009
The reigning most expensive player in history, no one is even close to Ronaldo’s transfer fee of £81 million. He left Manchester United after six seasons with the Red Devils, winning the Premier League title over the last three of them, scoring 118 goals in 292 appearances during his time at Old Trafford. For Real Madrid, individually, he’s been perfect, scoring 125 goals in 116 La Liga matches, into his fourth season with the team. So far, he’s won one league title, and it looks like there won’t be another one coming this season. Real have yet to make it past the Champions League semifinal since the arrival of Ronaldo.