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Grealish, Lukaku and the top 10 most expensive transfers in 2021

18:54 EAT 14/01/2022
Romelu Lukaku Jack Grealish Jadon Sancho 2021-22
GOAL takes a look back at the priciest moves from the past year

FIFA's Global Transfer Report 2021 indicates just under $5 billion (£3.6bn) changed hands as part of the business of football transfers in 2021.

According to the report, that figure marked a decrease of 13.6% on 2020 and a fall of 33.8% from the all-time high spend of 2019.

Despite much-publicised economic difficulties related to the global Covid-19 pandemic, there was still plenty of splashing out in football over the year, with Manchester City breaking a record in Britain while Manchester United scooped up a number of big-money signings.

GOAL takes a look back at the top 10 most expensive transfers of 2021.

  • Jack Grealish Manchester City 2021-22

    #1 Jack Grealish | Aston Villa to Man City | £100m

    Manchester City made Jack Grealish the most expensive British footballer of all time when they signed him from Aston Villa for £100 million ($139m) in the summer of 2021.

    The reigning Premier League champions handed the Birmingham native a six-year contract and the No 10 shirt in what was a real statement signing.

    The fee spent by City for Grealish catapulted him into the top 10 most expensive transfers of all time, sitting ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Romelu Lukaku.

  • Romelu Lukaku Chelsea 2021-22

    #2 Romelu Lukaku | Inter to Chelsea | £98m

    Having rebuilt his reputation by helping Inter claim the Serie A title in 2020-21, Romelu Lukaku was brought back to Chelsea in August 2021 for £98 million ($136m) - making him the second most expensive footballer transferred in 2021. The transfer fee also pushed Lukaku into the top 10 most expensive signings of all time

    "Since I left Chelsea, it’s been a long journey with a lot of ups and downs, but these experiences made me strong and the challenge is to try to help the team win some more trophies," Lukaku said in an interview with the club website after the deal was done.

    "I can’t wait to get started and to help the club achieve more success."

    Unfortunately for Lukaku and Chelsea, the striker has not yet managed to live up to the expectations associated with his fee and the ugly dispute over a Sky Sport interview in January 2022 - in which he was critical of Thomas Tuchel's tactics - has a sour taste for some. However, there is still time for the Belgian to redeem himself.

  • Jadon Sancho Manchester United

    #3 Jadon Sancho | Borussia Dortmund to Man Utd | £73m

    Jadon Sancho returned to his native England in July 2021 when Manchester United forked out £73 million ($101m) in order to convince Borussia Dortmund to let him go.

    That fee made the England international the third most expensive transfer of 2021, but his price tag puts him a staggering £25m behind Romelu Lukaku.

    There had been speculation that Sancho might take the No 7 jersey at Old Trafford, as he had worn it at Dortmund, but it never happened and Cristiano Ronaldo quickly snatched it from Edinson Cavani on his return a few weeks later.

  • Achraf Hakimi PSG Ballon

    #4 Achraf Hakimi | Inter to PSG | €70m

    Inter collected a few considerable transfer fees in 2021 with Achraf Hakimi being bought by Paris Saint-Germain in a deal which saw €60 million (£52m/$71m) change hands, with a further €10 million (£9m/$12m) included in add-ons.

    Speaking after the deal was announced, Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta explained, while it was "painful" to lose Hakimi to a European rival, the financial incentives allowed the Italian club "a bit of breathing room" following the difficulties associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.



  • Ben White - Arsenal 2021/22

    #5 Ben White | Brighton to Arsenal | £50m

    Arsenal's defensive woes have been well documented over the past few seasons, and in 2021-22 the Gunners forked out £50 million ($68m) in order to strengthen by bringing Ben White to the club from Brighton.

    The signing of White was a long-term move, as Mikel Arteta explained: "Ben is an intelligent defender who is very comfortable with the ball at his feet and his style fits perfectly with us.

    "Of course he is still young, so his age and profile fits with what we are building here. We are all looking forward to Ben being central to our long-term plans."

  • Cristian Romero - Tottenham Hotspur 2021/22

    #6 Cristian Romero | Atalanta to Tottenham | £42m

    Tottenham boosted their defensive options in August when they completed the signing of Cristian Romero from Serie A side Atalanta. The Argentina international cost the Premier League side in the region of £42 million ($59m).

    Prior to the deal being struck, Romero had actually been transferred from Juventus to Atalanta with the Bergamo club having to pay their Turin rivals €16 million (£14m/$19m).

  • Raphael Varane Manchester United 2021-22

    #7 Raphael Varane | Real Madrid to Man Utd | £40m

    Manchester United spent big in 2021 as they sought to build on second-place in the Premier League and kick on to challenge for silverware in 2021-22.

    Raphael Varane was brought in from Real Madrid for £40 million ($55m/€47m) in an effort to shore up a defensive line that had been routinely criticised.

    The signing of Varane in August followed the acquisition of Jadon Sancho and brought the club's spending in the window well over the £100m-mark.

  • Ibrahima Konate Liverpool 2021-22

    #8 Ibrahima Konate | RB Leipzig to Liverpool | £40m

    Highly regarded centre-back Ibrahima Konate was signed by Liverpool in 2021 for around £40 million ($57m), with the Anfield club refusing to scrimp on the recruitment of defenders.

    A foil for Virgil van Dijk in the Reds backline, Konate saw his release clause triggered so the transfer could go through.

  • Dayot Upamecano - Bayern Munich 2021/22

    #9 Dayot Upamecano | RB Leipzig to Bayern Munich | €42.5m

    Bayern Munich have a habit of raiding their rivals' squads for their best players and in February they did exactly that by completing a deal to sign Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig.

    The Bavarian club paid €42.5 million (£37m/$52m) for the France international's services. Ibrahima Konate followed his defensive partner Upamecano out of Leipzig a few months later for a similar fee so, while it was no doubt disappointing to lose players, the club did benefit financially.

  • Amad Diallo Manchester United 21/22

    #10 Amad Diallo | Atalanta to Man Utd | £37m

    Manchester United completed a £37 million ($50m) deal to sign Amad Diallo from Atalanta in January 2021, marking the beginning of a year which also saw the Red Devils spend lavishly on Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo.

    The deal to sign Diallo is understood to be broken down as €21m up front with €20m in add-ons.