When a team breaks their bank to sign a world-class player, expectations will be sky high. After all, ot’s not every day that a team decides to make a player the most expensive signing of all-time.
Only a few football clubs have the financial ability to pull off such transfers as well.
Over the last 10-15 years, the transfer record has been broken a ridiculous number of times. While some of these deals have worked out to the satisfaction of all parties involved, some have fallen flat.
These expensive failures end up being a huge strain on a club’s resources and it makes them fall behind the competition.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at five world record transfers that did not work out as expected.
5 Diego Maradona to Barcelona (1982) – £3 million
Diego Maradona is one of the greatest footballers of all time. But his legacy has, to an extent, been tarnished by several off-the-field controversies.
It was a source of frustration for the many clubs he played for, including Barcelona, who broke the transfer record to sign him in 1982.
Maradona was at Barcelona for two seasons and although he was phenomenal on the pitch, there were quite a lot of distractions that led to the club selling him in 1984.
He scored 38 goals and provided 18 assists in 58 appearances across all competitions for the Catalans.
However, Maradona could not help Barcelona win the La Liga title or the European Cup in his two seasons there. The infamous brawl that broke out between the Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao players after their 1984 Copa del Rey final, with Maradona being at the centre of it, was not a good look for him or the club.
Around 100,000 odd fans who had showed up for the game started something of a riot and started throwing solid objects onto the pitch. It was Maradona’s final game for Barcelona as the club’s executives decided that they had seen enough from the Argentinian.
4. Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain (2017) – £198 million
Neymar left Barcelona in 2017 much to the dismay of the Camp Nou faithful. The Catalans were playing some incredible football at the time and their front three that included Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar looked unstoppable.
But Paris Saint-Germain’s lucrative offer proved to be too much to pass up for the Brazil international in 2017.
Neymar has done an incredible job at an individual level for Paris Saint-Germain. But the reason behind his inclusion on the list is that he has, so far, failed to do what he was brought in for in the first place.
Neymar was supposed to elevate PSG’s status from domestic bully to European champions.
He did bring them close in the 2019-20 season, where they fell to Bayern Munich in the final of the Champions League.
But of late, Neymar’s involvement has been limited due to niggling injury issues. PSG made the Brazilian the most expensive player in the world by a huge margin for a reason.
Their expectations have simply not been fulfilled. The fact that he was booed by the PSG faithful following their exit in the Round of 16 of this season’s Champions League is a reflection of that.
3. Kaka to Real Madrid (2009) – £56 million
Kaka was the most expensive signing in the world for a very short period of time. Real Madrid paid AC Milan £56 million in the summer of 2009 shortly before they signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United for £80 million.
Kaka had been tearing it up for the Rossoneri and had established himself as the finest attacking midfielder in the game.
He was only 27 at the time and had already won the World Cup, the Champions League and a Ballon d’Or.
He struggled with multiple injury issues during the early periods of his Real Madrid stint. By the time he returned from a knee operation after the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Mourinho had become the coach of Real Madrid.
Mesut Ozil’s arrival following a good run at the 2010 FIFA World Cup limited Kaka’s involvement.
The German playmaker settled down easily and showed a lot more tactical discipline than Kaka did. Kaka, meanwhile, struggled to make the most of his opportunities.
The Brazilian also suffered from the pressure to perform as the Santiago Bernabeu faithful started growing frustrated with the way things were going.
Kaka eventually left Real Madrid in 2013. He scored 29 goals and provided 32 assists in 120 appearances for Los Blancos across all competitions.
2. Paul Pogba to Manchester United (2016) – £89 million
In 2016, Manchester United signed their former player Paul Pogba from Juventus for a then-world record £89 million.
The Frenchman was starting to establish himself as one of the best central midfielders in the world.
But what Manchester United failed to see was that he was thriving in one of the best midfields in the world at the time.
Pogba was protected by players like Arturo Vidal, Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo at Juventus. At Manchester United, the team was going to be built around him.
Pogba is one of the most technically gifted players we’ve seen in recent times. His dazzling footwork, vision and passing range are exemplary.
However, he lacked the tactical discipline and positional awareness that are characteristic of midfielders who’ve stood out in the Premier League.
Manchester United tried everything to bring the best out of Pogba. They signed multiple players to help ‘unlock’ him and also played him in various positions.
Pogba did have good spells but failed to produce the goods for United on a consistent basis and seldom took responsibility for his failures.
He will now join Juventus at the end of this month as a free agent after running down his contract at Manchester United.
The fact that the majority of Manchester United fans are happy to see his back speaks volumes of his time at the club.
1. Denilson to Real Betis (1998) – £21.9 million
The younger generation of today will be surprised to find out that Real Betis broke the transfer record to sign a certain Brazilian attacker in 1998.
Towards the second half of the 1990s, Denilson started turning heads as a teenager with his incredible trickery and running for Sao Paulo.
This was amusingly enough to convince Manuel Ruiz de Lopera, then president of Real Betis, to make him the most expensive signing in football history.
Unfortunately, there was not much more to Denilson’s game than the dazzling footwork and running.
He joined Real Betis in the summer of 1998 and at the end of the 1999-00 season, they were relegated to the second division.
Denilson had scored just 5 goals in the 2 seasons till then..
Denilson did his bit towards salvation, however, helping Betis get promoted back to La Liga in 2001 before leaving the club in 2005. In 184 matches across all competitions for Real Betis, he scored just 14 goals and provided five assists.