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Transfer fees keep rising, here is how this summer compares to twenty years ago

How times have changed.
In this summer Manchester city has spent over $300 million on defenders and a goalkeeper. Manchester United has spent over £100 million on two players. Chelsea paid £70 million for a striker who only scored 15 league goals.

If you said that twenty years ago you would have been mocked and call crazy.The numbers today are bigger than anyone thought they would ever be and each summer they keep on rising.To showcase the drastic rise in transfer fees the last 20 years in this article I compared this summer’s transfer window with the one twenty years ago of the 1996-1997 season.

In that summer only three players in the whole transfer window went for over £10 million, now every English team has at least one £10 million signing each summer. The top three leagues spent a combined of £288 million, which sounds about the number Manchester City will end up with this summer. That’s a single team spending as much as 60 clubs did twenty years ago.

Yet, that wasn’t the most shocking thing I found. Here are the top four things that surprise when you look back and compare transfer windows.

Zidane to Juventus for only £3.2 million
Zidane joining Turin back for only 3.2 Million.(Image: Getty Images)

Zinedine Zidane would have been the second cheapest signing in the premier league so far this summer. Besides the free signing and the players on loan, only Eldin Jakupović has come at a lower price. He was named Ligue 1’s Player of the Year for 1995/1996 playing for Bordeaux and France’s Player of the Year for 1996 before coming to Turin. Zidane would finish the year third in the Ballon d’Or and win it the next season. What’s mind-blowing is 20 years ago 3.2 million you could sign one of the best players in the world and today that money only gets you a backup goalkeeper like Jakupovic. If you said that Zidane twenty years from now would actually be worth 100 million you would have been laughed at but you would have been right.

Barcelona’s signing Ronaldo from PSV for a £12.8million fee. (image: Getty Images)


Jay Rodriguez cost the same as Ronaldo did
Jay Rodriguez picking West Brom (images: Getty Images)

In that summer Barcelona paid the second largest transfer fee of £12.8 million for Ronaldo, who was coming off scoring 42 goals in 46 appearances for PSV. He would go on become La Liga’s top scorer with 31 goals and finish second for the Ballon d’Or that season. That is what £12 million got you 20 years ago, now you get Jay Rodriguez. At the beginning of the month, West Brom paid £12 million to Southampton for Rodriguez. Who in his whole career has only scored 26 first division goals, something Ronaldo topped in only one season, and has had chronic knee problems. These problems that have to force the striker to miss 75 premier league games. This is the perfect example of how big the inflation has been. Jay Rodriguez, a middle of the road striker, hasn’t scored more than five goals in a season for three years now. Yet he goes at a rate that only three players went for 20 years ago. £12 million used to buy one the best players in the world in the middle of his prime, in today’s market it gets a 27-year old project that has suffered chronic knee injuries. Something you couldn’t have imagined back then.

31 goals used to cost £15 million now 15 goals cost £70 million
Alan Shearer signing for Newcastle United for a what was then world record amount of £15million (image: Chronicle Live UK)

Alan Shearer was the most expensive signing that summer when Newcastle paid £15 million. He was coming off scoring 34 and 31 goals in back to back seasons and winning the title with Blackburn the year before. He was 26, right in the middle of his prime, a proven goalscorer and a central part of a championship team. It only made sense he would be the most expensive player that summer. Now compare that to today’s time when a proven 30 goal striker would go upwards of 100 million. Morata just signed to Chelsea for 70 Million having scored only 15 league goals. He was only a rotational player in his club, and while still productive he has yet to prove to anybody he can the focal point of an elite team’s offence. The market for strikers is increasing by the summer. In Today’s game proven goal scorers are hard to find and to buy even more. It leaves teams in desperate search for any of them and to keep them once they do have. Morata has only 40 career first division goals while Shearer scored 65 in two seasons before his transfer. 15 goals in today’s game are almost five times more expensive than 31 twenty years ago.

Lukaku cost the same as the money spent by English clubs 20 years ago.
Lukaku’s transfer fee is bigger than the sum of all English transfers twenty seasons ago. (image: Getty Images)

Lukaku signed for United for £75 million which is the exact same amount as English clubs spent in the summer transfer window of twenty years ago. Before teams could be composed of players all worth under a million dollars, have an elite team and never really splash the cash. In today’s market that would be impossible. Teams in today’s market are desperate to get players a spend millions on millions and find success. With TV money coming in now, big money flops aren’t as hurtful for a team. Back then every transfer was a huge investment and a mistake could be crucial and set your club up for years in the second division or financial trouble. The TV money has come in and given teams more wiggle room to work with and take a risk. Yet that explains why the lower clubs in the English premier league have been breaking transfer records left and right but not the powerhouses. Teams like Manchester United in today’s game get so much money from a global market besides just the normal TV deal that £75 million is nothing to them. So while the transfer fees keep rising it’s driven due to European elite clubs taking advantage of globalization and creating income that soccer clubs could not have imagined twenty years ago. Which is why a 24-year-old Belgian could cost the same as every player transferred in England twenty years ago.


Soccer is truly a global sport and the globalization of the soccer has been the catalyst of transfer fees exponentially rising to places where no one would have thought. In just twenty years we have gone from paying just over £10 million for the best players in the world to buying was seen as hard spending to having multiple players in the news rumored to be having £100 million moves. How times have changed.

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