Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle United are among the clubs to have been involved in the most eyebrow-raising transfers in footballing history.
The growth of the transfer market is one of the most interesting and surprising sub-plots of modern football, with transfer records constantly being broken and players constantly on the move.
“I want to reassure fans that Luis Figo, with all the certainty in the world, will be at the Camp Nou on July 24 to start the season.” The words of Figo himself on July 9, 2000.
On July 24, he left, and not just for anyone, for Real Madrid, Barcelona’s biggest rivals, for a world-record fee that marked the start of the Galactico era under Florentino Perez.
The Portugal winger became the focus of the rivalry between the clubs, with Barca fans constantly launching all kinds of missiles in his direction when the teams met, as Michel Salgado recalled in 2002.
“By the second or third corner I turned to Luís Figo and said: ‘Forget it, mate. You’re on your own’. I used to offer Luís the chance to take the short corner, drawing up close to him near the touchline, but not this time.
“Missiles were raining down from the stands: coins, a knife, a glass whisky bottle. Johnnie Walker, I think. Or J&B. Best to keep away. Short corners? No thanks.”
“World-record-shattering” is how the BBC described Ronaldo’s world-record £80million transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009.
But although the fee was extraordinary at the time, it was a move that had long been expected.
Ronaldo’s move to Juventus in 2018, however, was not.
The Portugal forward had hinted he could leave the Bernabeu before, but most put it down to a ploy to earn himself a bigger contract. Few considered he could actually leave Madrid.
Yet just a few months after winning his fourth Champions League trophy with the club, after an astounding 450 goals in 438 appearances, Ronaldo joined Juventus for £100million and the world gasped.
After a long pursuit, PSG finally got their hands on Barcelona superstar Neymar for a whopping €222million in the summer of 2017.
It smashed any previous transfer record, and set a new precedent which would took the transfer market into a new realm of excessive pricing.
The Brazilian had renewed his contract in Spain after PSG interest a year earlier, but decided he wanted out of the Nou Camp and one call to Paris was all that was required.
Having spent just one season as Roma’s first choice, the “Lionel Messi of goalkeepers” had Liverpool leading the race to sign him after the 2018 World Cup.
Most assumed Roma’s asking price would put the Reds off, but in July 2018 they shelled out a huge £66million, a world-record fee a goalkeeper, finally breaking Gianluigi Buffon’s 18-year-old previous high.
A transfer that shocked for a different reason, Tottenham flop Paulinho was looking to see out his years in China when, out of nowhere, Barcelona put a £36.4million deal on the table.
They handed the Brazilian a contract which included a £109.1million buy-out clause, much to the surprise of anyone who had seen him line up in North London.
He had left Spurs to join Guangzhou Evergrande for £10million before heading back after just a year in Spain.
In the summer of 1996, Barcelona paid a world-record fee to sign Ronaldo from PSV, breaking a long run of Italian clubs breaking the record in a period of Serie A dominance.
Later that same summer, Newcastle United splashed out £15million on Shearer from Blackburn Rovers, becoming the first English club to break the world transfer record in 45 years.
It didn’t lead to trophies, but Shearer became Newcastle’s and the Premier League’s record goalscorer, netting 206 goals in 404 appearances for his hometown club.
This was the deal which helped make transfer deadline day what it is in England.
Freshly taken over by Sheikh Mansour, and after being rebuffed by David Villa and Kaka among others, Manchester City needed a big name, someone to prove they meant business.
Robinho seemed to be heading for Chelsea, but in swooped City with their even new money to sign the Brazil forward for a then-mouthwatering £32.5million from Real Madrid.
If anyone had been unsure until then, this was the deal that proved City were ready to take on the big boys.