Association football is, without a doubt, the most popular sport in the world. And as such, it is also one of the most lucrative. The most valuable football club in the world – Real Madrid, according to Forbes Magazine’s list for 2019 – is worth more than $4.2 billion, with revenues of more than $800 million reported in the last fiscal year. When seen from this perspective, the transfer fees some consider outrageous don’t seem so big anymore – they turn into investments into assets that increase the value of the clubs and, ultimately, lead to more revenue and profits.
“Outrageous” was the term used by many in relation to the world record-breaking transfer fee paid by French club Paris Saint Germain for Brazilian football legend Neymar in 2017. Truth to be told, no other club has come even close to matching the €222 million (£198 million) paid by PSG this year. This doesn’t mean, in turn, that 2019 was a year without high-profile football transfers. The fees, seemingly, have skyrocketed in the last few years – this year, we’ve seen 14 transfers worth more than €60 million. And three of them were worth more than €100 million.
Eden Hazard – €100 million
Eden Hazard spent seven seasons in England, playing with Premier League team Chelsea as a winger and an attacking midfielder. In his case, the saying “it’s in his genes” may be true: he is the son of two former professional football players. His mother, Carine, played in the Belgian Women’s First Division, and his father, Thierry, was a semi-professional footballer playing in the local second division. The two had four children, all of them professional footballers.
In his 12 years of football so far, he won accolades like the Ligue 1 Player of the Year, the FWA Footballer of the Year and the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, a Silver Ball at the FIFA World Cup, and helped Chelsea win the League Cup and the Premier League. He left Chelsea at the end of this year’s season in a transfer to Real Madrid worth €100 million.
Antoine Griezmann – €120 million
Despite his German name, Griezmann is French: he was born in Mâcon. He started playing football with the local club Mâcon at the age of six and completed several trials to join some major clubs’ youth academies. Alas, he was a light and slight boy for his age, so he was rejected repeatedly. That until a friendly match against the youth team of Paris Saint Germain, during which he impressed the scouts of several clubs, including Real Sociedad that signed him in 2005.
Griezmann played with Real Sociedad’s youth team for four seasons and went on to play with the seniors five, mostly playing as a winger. Then he moved on to Atlético Madrid for five seasons, converting to a complete forward. Apparently, he found his calling there: he broke the club’s scoring record for a debut season, won the La Liga Best Player in 2016, and went on to become the club’s fifth-highest goalscorer.
This year, the time has come for him to move on. He left Madrid but didn’t leave Spain (sort-of): he continues to play at Barcelona as a result of a €120-million transfer.
João Félix – €126 million
João Félix Sequeira is the next wunderkind of the world of football – at least this is what his transfer shows. The 20-year-old Portuguese forward played with FC Porto’s youth team after a short time with Os Pestinhas, from where he was let go because of his “slight frame”. He moved to Porto’s rivals Benfica in 2015, and went pro with the club in 2016, playing for its reserve team. In 2018, he was promoted to the first team. He quickly went on to become the youngest player to score in the Lisbon derby, and the youngest player to score a hat-trick in the UEFA Europa League.
And this year, he has become the second-most-expensive teenager in the history of football when Atlético Madrid signed him in a transfer worth €126 million.