With the European Championship now in full flow, and at the forefront of people’s attention, the transfer window has taken something of a back seat. However, there are still the inevitable rumours circulating the gossip columns, and clubs all around the world will be casting an eye over any talent that could emerge in this summer’s tournament. The futures of the likes of Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho, and Erling Haaland are very much up for discussion, and will all cost astronomical transfer fees. With this in mind, this post reviews every Premier League team’s record transfer signing.
Record Signing: Nicolas Pépé (£72 million)
Arsenal spent a huge £72 million to bring Nicolas Pépé to The Emirates in 2019 from the young- talent conveyor belt at Lille. Since signing he has flattered to deceive, finding himself in and out of the team, and at one point being completely out of Mikel Arteta’s plans. Arteta has since given the Ivorian a fresh start and he has shown glimpses of his talent, but Arsenal will still be expecting a far greater return on their investment in the forthcoming seasons.
Record Signing: Emiliano Buendía (£34.6 million)
At the time of writing, Aston Villa are the most recent side to break their transfer record, with the £34.6 million signing of Argentinian Emiliano Buendía just last week. This signing was a real signal of Villa’s intent and ambition, as they reportedly beat Arsenal to signing the creative winger from newly promoted Norwich City. Buendía was arguably the best player in the Championship last season, with his 15 goals and 16 assists an integral part of the Canaries’ promotion. In the 2019/20 Premier League season, despite Norwich’s struggles, he created 83 chances; the fourth of any player in the league that season.
Record Signing: Ollie Watkins (£6.5 million)
Brentford’s recruitment business model has been the envy of a number of clubs in recent seasons. The Bees have been particularly proficient when signing strikers relatively cheaply, who then score a hatful of goals for the club, before moving on for a sizeable fee. Ollie Watkins is the prime example of this and, remarkably, is still their record signing at £6.5 million. This is expected to be broken this summer, due to the expectation of improving the squad for their first ever Premier League season, but the fact that Watkins was sold onto Aston Villa for just over £30 million shows how shrewd their business was. Watkins was signed from Exeter City, and Brentford again looked to leagues below them when signing Ivan Toney from Peterborough United for £5 million in 2020. 33 goals and ten assists in his debut campaign later, and Brentford are a Premier League club.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Record Signing: Neal Maupay/Adam Webster (£20 million)
Brighton have two players that hold the title of record signing at the club. Neal Maupay is another member of the ever-growing contingent of former Brentford strikers in the Premier League, while Adam Webster joined from Bristol City in 2019. Both have been relatively successful at the club, with Webster a regular in the Brighton back line and Maupay perhaps Brighton’s most potent striker. Maupay has had some controversial moments however, and has been dropped at times due to his attitude.
Record Signing: Ben Gibson (£15.2 million)
Burnley are notoriously shrewd with their money and the majority of their transfers reflect that. However, the signing of Ben Gibson is one of the anomalies in this trend. In 2018, Burnley parted with £15.2 million to sign Gibson from Middlesbrough. It seemed a strange signing at the time due to the impressive form of Ben Mee and James Tarkowski at centre back but, having lost Michael Keane a year earlier, it was perhaps logical to sign an additional central defender. Gibson has managed just one Premier League appearance for the Clarets and has had spells away from the club on loan. Gibson looks set to leave permanently this summer and will go down as a costly mistake.
Record Signing: Kai Havertz/Kepa Arrizabalaga (£72 million)
Chelsea are notorious for spending large sums to improve their squad and have a large turnover of players, as well as managers. Roman Abramovic has twice spent £72 million on a player, first on goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in 2018, and then on Kai Havertz last summer. Arrizabalaga is still the world’s most expensive goalkeeper ever but, after experiencing huge dips in form under Frank Lampard, has since been ousted as first choice goalkeeper by the much cheaper Edouard Mendy.
Havertz, on the other hand, has seen his role grow increasingly since signing. The 22-year old took a while to adapt to a new country and a new league, made more difficult from the Covid-19 pandemic, but became more integral to the side following the appointment of compatriot Thomas Tuchel as manager. By scoring the winner in the 1-0 Champions League final victory over Manchester City, many Chelsea fans would suggest that he has already repaid that fee. Havertz himself is keen to not be constantly associated with his transfer fee and when asked about the large fee that brought him to Chelsea following the final win, exclaimed: “I don’t give a f*ck about that, we just won the f*cking Champions League!”.
Record Signing: Christian Benteke (£28 million)
When Christian Benteke signed for Liverpool from Aston Villa for £32.5 million in 2015 it was generally considered a good signing. Benteke had run riot at Villa in his three seasons in the midlands, scoring 42 Premier League goals in 89 appearances. The Belgian striker would find his time on Merseyside tough however, and was never really trusted to lead the line for Liverpool. After nine league goals for Liverpool, Benteke was sold to Crystal Palace for £28 million. Jurgen Klopp had deemed him surplus to requirements after just one season.
Benteke has been at Crystal Palace ever since 2016, and has managed 31 league goals in 137 appearances for the Eagles. He has often looked a shadow of the player that bullied strikers and found goals easy to come by at Villa, his confidence perhaps damaged beyond repair at Liverpool. Despite a number of baron spells at Palace, Benteke has often retained his place in the starting eleven, particularly under the recently departed Roy Hodgson. The striker’s contract was due to expire this summer, but Benteke rolled back the years to have a fruitful spell in front of goal towards the end of the season to convince the club to give him a new deal. Palace fans will be hoping this form continues into the new season, and wasn’t just to secure the deal.
Record Signing: Gylfi Sigurdsson (£44.5 million)
Everton spent £44.5 million to prise Gylfi Sigurdsson away from his second spell at Swansea City in 2017. This was something of a gamble considering an underwhelming spell at Tottenham Hotspur between 2012 to 2014, where the Iceland international managed only eight league goals. Since signing for Everton, Sigurdsson has been inconsistent at best, and disappointing at worst. He has struggled to secure a guaranteed spot in the starting eleven under any manager consistently and, when you consider his price tag, has been unable to recapture his Swansea form.
Under Ancelotti, more recently, Sigurdsson had been playing a deeper role than he had been accustomed to. Despite this, 25 league goals in 136 games for Everton is not the best of records; especially when you consider he has scored the same number of goals in just 78 games for his country.
Record Signing: Rodrigo (£27 million)
When Leeds United announced the signing of Rodrigo, following their promotion to the Premier League last summer, it was seen as a major coup for the Yorkshire club. Rodrigo is a Spain international who is a very intelligent player with a cultured left foot. Despite his 28 international caps, the striker has never been prolific, with 16 league goals in the 2018/19 season at Valencia the best haul of his career.
The draw of charismatic manager Marcelo Bielsa, coupled with his unique, all-action approach, proved enough to lure Rodrigo to Leeds. Seven goals and three assists in his debut season is perhaps not the return Leeds fans would have hoped for, with Rodrigo costing the club £27 million, however they will be hoping there is more to come from the Spaniard who struggled with injuries following the move.
Record Signing: Youri Tielemens (£40.5 million)
Youri Tielemens joined Leicester City on loan from AS Monaco in January 2019, as part of a deal that saw Adrien Silva move in the opposite direction. Six months later, and Leicester had been suitably convinced to part with £40.5 million to make the deal permanent. Tielemens had impressed so much in his short time in the Premier League that there were a number of clubs circulating to try and convince Tielemens that his future lay elsewhere. The young Belgian decided to stay where he had thrived on loan, and it has proved a fruitful decision for both club and player.
Tielemens has grown into one of the Premier League’s best midfielders, and has established himself as a guaranteed starter for Belgium. His arrowed strike from range into the top left corner in the FA Cup final against Chelsea was the pinnacle of his career to date, and ensured Leicester won their first ever FA Cup. This summer there will undoubtedly be a number of top clubs once again looking to sign Tielemens, but the 24 year-old isn’t expected to be in any rush to leave. However, if he was to leave, Leicester would be able to command a figure far higher that the £40.5 million they paid for his services in 2019.
Record Signing: Virgil Van Dijk (£76 million)
The signing of Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton in January 2018 completely transformed Liverpool’s defence. Many balked at the £76 million fee at the time, but three years on and no one is questioning the business any longer. A Champions League and Premier League win have followed since his arrival, and the giant Dutchman’s influence on these honours cannot be overstated. The fact that Liverpool were so poor in defending their Premier League title in his absence through injury last season is testament to the impact he has on the team. If Van Dijk is fit next season then expect Liverpool to be a completely different side with him back in it.
Record Signing: Kevin De Bruyne (£68.4 million)
Manchester City were mocked by rival fans when they spent £68.4 million on perceived ‘Chelsea flop’ Kevin De Bruyne in 2015. Having spent 18 months at VFL Wolfsburg in Germany, following his ill-fated spell at Chelsea, De Bruyne was back in the Premier League, and ready to show Chelsea what they had missed out on. Since then his game has gone from strength to strength and the Belgian attacking midfielder has become City’s talisman. With his passing ability key to his ability to provide assists to his teammates, and his eye for goal, De Bruyne is now widely regarded as the best midfield player in the world. Three Premier League titles, one FA Cup triumph, and five League Cup titles show that De Bruyne was right to make the move to Manchester.
Record Signing: Paul Pogba (£94.5 million)
In 2012, Paul Pogba left Manchester United for free, having only made three Premier League appearances. Four years later, and the French midfielder returned after signing for £94.5 million from Italian giants Juventus. In that time he had established himself as one of the most exciting midfielders in the world and his re-signing was met with jubilation from fans of Manchester United. However, since then he has been a figure that has divided the Red Devils’ fan base. Many feel that he has flattered to deceive, with his performances and statistics falling well short of the expectation his price tag brought. On the other hand, many fans feel that he is a genuinely world-class player who has been held back by a lack of real quality around him and poor management; particularly from Jose Mourinho, who many feel made Pogba a scapegoat for poor results.
A happy Pogba is generally a good Pogba and he is a player that really thrives when playing for his country. Alongside N’Golo Kante, Pogba often dazzles in a deep-lying playmaker role. However, United have struggled to find a way to get the best out of him, and the signing of a holding midfielder could well be the solution. Pogba’s future is the subject of a lot of speculation this summer and United fans are likely to be torn between keeping the enigmatic midfielder or cashing in and using the funds to strengthen elsewhere.
Record Signing: Joelinton (£39.6 million)
When Newcastle United paid just under £40 million for Joelinton most fans of the club would have been pinching themselves. Years of mismanagement by owner Mike Ashley had led to the club’s fans becoming so disillusioned with the club that the idea of spending a significant amount of money on one player seemed unfathomable. Unfortunately for the club though, that investment appears misguided.
Six Premier League goals in 69 appearances is a really poor return from a striker of whom so much was expected. The Brazilian striker has never been prolific, with his highest league goal haul in a single season being eight while on loan at Rapid Wien, so the fee paid seemed a surprise at the time. Since signing, Joelinton has unfortunately showed few signs of justifying that fee. He works hard and pops up with the occasional goal but so much more was expected upon his arrival.
Record Signing: Steven Naismith/Timm Klose (£9.9 million)
Norwich City are the epitome of a yo-yo club. The Canaries regularly fluctuate between the Championship and the Premier League, and perhaps their record signings reflect that status. The Norfolk club do not threaten their financial future by throwing money at Premier League survival. An admirable approach that, unfortunately, invariably means they struggle to survive when they do get to the top tier.
Recently retired Steven Naismith and current squad member Timm Klose share the club’s record transfer fee of £9.9 million, with the two players signed within a day of each other in January 2016. Klose spent last season on loan at FC Basel in his homeland, and it is unclear if he has a future at Norwich. Despite Norwich’s cautious approach to recruitment it wouldn’t be a surprise if their record transfer fee is broken this summer in order to give them a better chance of survival.
Record Signing: Jannik Vestergaard (£22.5 million)
Southampton spent £22.5 million to bring in Jannik Vestergaard from Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2018. had it not been for the past 18 months, you could easily have been forgiven for thinking the Danish centre back had been a flop. However, he has improved drastically in recent times, and now the towering defender has proven himself to be a very technically gifted defender. His aerial prowess in both boxes has been a real asset for Southampton in the past 18 months, and his passing ability means that he is responsible for starting the majority of his side’s attacks, whether that be a pass into the midfield or a long, raking, diagonal ball to a teammate.
Vestergaard only has one year left on his contract and has been linked with a move away from St Mary’s this summer. Despite his contract situation, it would still be a surprise if Southampton receive less than they paid for the defender if they are to sell.
Record Signing: Tanguy Ndombele (£54 million)
The £54 million signing of Tanguy Ndombele by Tottenham Hotspur was met with a great deal of surprise. Not because Ndombele was not seen as being worthy of the fee, but because Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy notoriously drives a very hard bargain in transfer negotiations. Since signing in 2019, Ndombele has had his troubles with form and fitness, the latter issue one that Jose Mourinho was very vocal on in his first season in charge. However, last season the tricky French central midfielder, with an unorthodox playing style, showed his quality. Ndombele started to look like the player that Tottenham fans had thought that they had signed and showed that he has real potential. If he can continue to improve, and become more consistent in his performances, then he could become a real fan favourite at Tottenham.
Record Signing: Ismaïla Sarr (£27 million)
It seems crazy to think that Ismaïla Sarr was a Championship player last season, especially after spending the 2020 summer transfer window linked with a move to Liverpool. Ironically, the game that Sarr is most recognised for in his career to date is scoring a brace in a 3-0 Watford win over Liverpool to end their 44 game unbeaten run in the league. Sarr was electric that day, and comparisons with compatriot Sadio Mane look to have some real foundations. Watford may have only managed to keep hold of Sarr last season due to the financial implications of Covid-19, but the winger was instrumental in the Hornets return to the top flight at the first time of asking, with 13 goals and four assists.
West Ham United
Record Signing: Sébastien Haller (£45 million)
West Ham United have had their troubles with strikers in recent seasons, and they have also had more than their fair share of failed transfers. When Sébastien Haller was signed from Eintracht Frankfurt in summer 2020, West Ham fans would have been forgiven for thinking this was the end of their poor recruitment in attack. They would have been wrong. Despite Haller managing 15 league goals in 29 appearances the previous season at Frankfurt, he would only manage ten Premier League goals before being sold on to Ajax 18 months after joining the Hammers. What made this far worse, however, was that Haller was sold to Ajax for just £20.25 million; less than half of what West Ham had paid for his services in 2019. An expensive mistake from a side whose recruitment appears to have improved drastically since
Record Signing: Fábio Silva (£36 million)
Wolves’ transfer strategy has been a strange but effective one in recent years. The club work very closely with agent Jorge Mendes and he brings them a lot of young talent, mostly from his native Portugal. In recent seasons the club have signed Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Pedro Neto, Diogo Jota, and Nelson Semedo, to name just a few. Last summer the club broke their record transfer fee to sign 18-year old Fábio Silva for £36 million from Porto, despite the fact the striker had only made 12 first-team league appearances for the Portuguese club.
Signed very much for the future, Silva was thrust into the spotlight as Wolves’ only first team striker following the head injury to Raul Jiminez early in the season. The striker showed glimpses of his talent but struggled in a new league at such a young age, managing only four league goals in 32 appearances. However, with Jiminez expected to be back next season, and thus less pressure on the youngster’s shoulders, expect to see a player growing in confidence and stature over the coming years.