How Arsenal made over £685m in player transfer sales: From Overmars to Anelka

Arsenal transfer gurus

During the early days of Arsene Wenger, Arsenal were known for cashing in on players for big profit, but nowadays they find things far more difficult.

The Gunners’ struggles to get big transfer fees has been the source of much frustration from fans, who have seen plenty of star names opt to run down their contracts and leave on a free transfer over the course of the past decade.

There have been some success stories along the way, however, with academy graduates Alex Iwobi and Joe Willock bringing in some big money during the past five years.

Here, GOAL takes a look at the most expensive players ever sold by the north London club.

Arsenal’s biggest transfer sales by season

Season

Biggest sale

Fee

Total sales

2022-23

Matteo Guendouzi

£10m

£21m

2021-22

Joe Willock

£25m

£27m

2020-21

Emiliano Martinez

£20m

£22m

2019-20

Alex Iwobi

£35m

£55m

2018-19

Lucas Perez

£4m

£8m

2017-18

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

£35m

£150m

2016-17

Serge Gnabry

£4.5m

£9m

2015-16

Lukas Podolski

£2.5m

£2.5m

2014-15

Thomas Vermaelen

£17m

£25m

2013-14

Gervinho

£7m

£10m

2012-13

Robin van Persie

£24m

£55m

2011-12

Cesc Fabregas

£30m

£70m

2010-11

Eduardo

£6.5m

£7m

2009-10

Emanuel Adebayor

£25m

£42m

2008-09

Alex Hleb

£15m

£23m

2007-08

Thierry Henry

£16m

£45m

2006-07

Ashley Cole

£7m

£11.5m

2005-06

Patrick Vieira

£13.7m

£18m

2004-05

Francis Jeffers

£3.5m

£3.5m

2003-04

Moritz Volz

£900k

£900k

2002-03

Richard Wright

£4.5m

£6m

2001-02

Nelson Vivas

£6m

£10m

2000-01

Marc Overmars

£25m

£36.5m

1999-2000

Nicolas Anelka

£23m

£30m

Arsenal’s 10 most expensive sales

  • Nicolas Anelka Arsenal Premier League

    Nicolas Anelka | £23m | Real Madrid | 1999

    It felt like Anelka left Arsenal almost as soon as he arrived, but what an impact he made with the club.

    Signed as a relatively unknown 17-year-old from Paris Saint Germain by Arsene Wenger for just £500,000 ($600,000), it took Anelka less than a year to force his way into the first-team and muscle Ian Wright out of the picture.

    Anelka’s goals helped Arsenal win the league and cup double in his first full season and he went on to score 19 goals in all competitions during the following campaign as Wenger’s side just lost out on the title to Manchester United.

    But he then forced through a move to Real Madrid, joining the Spanish giants for around £23m ($27.7m). 

    At the time it felt like a huge blow to Arsenal, but Wenger would replace Anelka with Thierry Henry later that summer. The rest is history……

  • Robin van Persie ArsenalGetty Images

    Robin van Persie | £24m | Manchester United | 2012

    One of the most painful transfer deals Arsenal fans have had to endure in recent times.

    Van Persie was club captain and had just come off a sensational season that saw him score 44 goals in 57 games for club and country.

    Arsene Wenger had been hopeful that his skipper would sign a new contract and Arsenal fans believed the forward owed their manager some loyalty after he had stood by him during some injury-ridden years in north London.

    But Van Persie announced in the summer of 2021 that he would not be signing a new deal, forcing Arsenal to cash in on a player who had just one year remaining of his current contract.

    Van Persie would go on to win the Premier League title at the end of his first season with United.

  • Samir Nasri Arsenal Porto 2010

    Samir Nasri | £25m | Manchester City | 2011

    This was a long drawn out affair, with Manchester City having launched a summer long pursuit of Samir Nasri in 2011.

    City, who were then managed by Roberto Mancini, had already signed Gael Clichy and Emmanuel Adebayor from the Gunners and were busy flexing their newly found financial muscle as they looked to compete with Manchester United for the Premier League title.

    Nasri had spent the past four years at Arsenal following an £11m ($13m) move from Marseille and had just come off a fine 2010/11 campaign which saw him score 15 goals in all competitions for the Gunners.

    He would go on to spend the next six years with Manchester City, winning the Premier League title twice.

  • Emmanuel Adebayor ArsenalGetty Images

    Emmanuel Adebayor | £25m | Manchester City | 2009

    Another player to swap Arsenal for Manchester City in a big money move.

    This was a transfer that dominated the summer of 2009, with Adebayor infuriating the Arsenal fanbase by agreeing to the switch to the Etihad Stadium.

    The striker spent three-and-a-half seasons with the Gunners after joining them from Monaco for £7m ($8.4m) and scored 62 goals in 142 games.

    But having publicly flirted with a move to Real Madrid in 2008, his relationship with the Arsenal fans became strained and his switch to City the following summer provoked huge controversy, as did his infamous celebration when he scored against the Gunners soon after completing his move.

  • Joe Willock Arsenal 2021-22Getty

    Joe Willock | £25m | Newcastle | 2021

    This one was of Arsenal’s best pieces of transfer business in recent years.

    Having initially loaned Willock to Newcastle in January, 2021, the attacking midfielder enjoyed an incredible run of form during the final couple of months of the season.

    He scored in eight Premier League games in a row, helping the Magpies avoid relegation.

    Understandably, Newcastle were keen to bring him back to the club on a permanent basis and offered £25m for the Gunners’ academy product, a deal that was simply too good to refuse.

  • Marc Overmars ArsenalGetty Images

    Marc Overmars | £25m | Barcelona | 2000

    Overmars was a sensation following his move to Arsenal from Ajax in 1997.

    The Dutch winger played a huge role in helping the Gunners secure a league and cup double in his first full season at the club, with his pace and trickery making him a big fans’ favourite.

    But his stay in North London proved to be relatively short, with Barcelona luring both him and Emmauel Petit away in a £32m ($38.5m) double deal in the summer of 2000.

    The Spanish giants paid £25m ($30m) to land Overmars, who scored 40 goals in 142 games during his time at Arsenal.

  • Fabregas Arsenal Tottenham 2009

    Cesc Fabregas | £30m | Barcelona | 2011

    It always felt inevitable that Cesc Fabregas would sign for Barcelona one day, but that did not make this transfer any easier to take for Arsenal fans.

    The Spanish club had chased their former midfielder a summer earlier, but Arsenal held firm - despite Fabregas expressing a desire to move to the Camp Nou.

    But Arsenal’s resistance caved in 2011 and a deal was done for the playmaker, who had arrived in north London from Barcelona as a 16-year-old eight years earlier.

    It is believed the Gunners pocketed around £30m for Fabregas including add-ons.

  • Alexis Sanchez ArsenalGetty Images

    Alexis Sanchez | £30m | Manchester United | 2018

    This is an interesting one, in terms of how the transfer fee is judged.

    Officially, no money changed hands when Alexis Sanchez joined Manchester United in January, 2018.

    But because Henrikh Mkhitaryan moved the opposite way as part of a swap deal, a value of around £30m ($36m) has been put on the transfer.

    Ultimately, it was a poor deal for both clubs - with neither Sanchez or Mkhitaryan proving to be a success following the move.

    It was particularly bad for Arsenal, who had rejected a £55m ($66m) bid from Manchester City for Sanchez just six months before he eventually moved to Old Trafford.

  • Alex Iwobi of ArsenalJulian Finney/Getty Images

    Alex Iwobi | £35m | Everton | 2019

    Another rare piece of excellent business from Arsenal in the transfer market.

    Iwobi had emerged through the club’s academy and made a decent impact with the first-team under Arsene Wenger.

    But he was far from a guaranteed starter, so when Everton came knocking late on in the 2019 summer window there was a willingness to strike a deal.

    An initial bid was rejected, but eventually a fee of around £35 million ($42m) with add-ons was agreed for the Nigeria international.

    It has proved to be a smart piece of business by the Gunners. Something that has been few and far between in recent years.

  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ArsenalGetty Images

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain | £35m | Liverpool | 2017

    Like Iwobi and Willock, the deal Arsenal agreed with Liverpool for Oxlade-Chamberlain was a fine piece of business.

    Oxlade-Chamberlain only had one year left on his contract in north London and had made it clear to Arsene Wenger that he wanted to try something new.

    Given his contract situation, Arsenal looked to be in a relatively weak position when it came to the transfer market, but they managed to get a good fee from Liverpool for the England international.

    Much like his time with Arsenal, injuries have hampered Oxlade-Chamberlain’s spell on Merseyside in the years following his move from Emirates Stadium.