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6 milestone transfers in football history

Fernando Torres broke the British record transfer fee in a move worth 50m from Liverpool to Chelsea
Fernando Torres broke the British record transfer fee in a move worth £50m from Liverpool to Chelsea
Joseph Jacob

Football has changed drastically in a number of ways since the introduction of professionalism by the Football Association in 1885. The biggest and most obvious change that has taken place is the amount of money involved in the game.

The investment of large amounts of money has impacted every aspect of football, from the infrastructure of the clubs to the television rights and most significantly, the valuation and wages of the players.

“No player in the world is worth £10,000”, said Sir Charles Clegg, the British FA President in 1928 when Arsenal came to an agreement with Bolton Wanderers for their star man David Jack for the then world record fee of £10,890. Little did he know just how much the landscape of football would change in the coming years.

Keeping that quote in mind, let’s take a look at the milestone transfers in football history.


The first £100 player - Willie Groves

Willie Groves 100 transfer was the first of its kind between professional clubs
Willie Groves’ £100 transfer was the first of its kind between professional clubs

The first professional player transfer took place in 1893 when Scottish striker Willie Groves was transferred to Aston Villa from West Bromwich Albion for a fee of £100. The transfer took place in rather odd circumstances. West Brom were in talks with Everton over a possible transfer of their star player, but in the meantime, Groves himself was in personal discussions with Aston Villa.

Much to the chagrin of West Brom, the 24-year-old Scotsman agreed to sign with Villa of his own volition. Albion approached the FA over the matter, which resulted in Villa being fined £50 for an illegal approach. The massive transfer fee of £100 was of little consolation to West Brom, as Groves went on to lead Villa to their first ever league championship.

The first £1,000 player - Alf Common

Record signing Alf Common helped Middlesbrough beat the drop in his first season with them
Record signing Alf Common helped Middlesbrough beat the drop in his first season with them

English striker Alf Common became the first player to break the £1000 barrier in February of 1905, a mere 12 years after the Willie Groves transfer saga. Middlesbrough signed the 25- year-old forward from Sunderland for the sum of exactly £1000, in an effort to avoid relegation from the first division.

In his debut game for Middlesbrough, Common scored a penalty which won the game for his team. It was their first away win in almost two years. Middlesbrough would go on to avoid relegation and stay in the first division.

Common scored 58 goals in 168 league games for the team which he would eventually leave at the age of 30, to go to Woolwich Arsenal.

The first £10,000 player - David Jack

David Jacks transfer was the result of some shrewd planning byHerbert Chapman
David Jack’s transfer was the result of some shrewd planning by Herbert Chapman

In 1928 David Jack smashed the previous transfer record of £6,500. Arsenal’s Herbert Chapman negotiated the deal with Bolton Wanderers’ representatives in a hotel bar. He stayed sober himself while getting the Bolton representatives intoxicated. They came to an agreement to sign the forward for what Chapman considered an affordable price, at £10,890.

Football ran in David Jack’s blood - his father and both his brothers were also footballers. Before becoming the first £10,000 player, Jack had already written his name in the history books in 1923 by being the first player to score at Wembley.

Jack scored 124 goals in 208 games for Arsenal, where he still holds a place in the top 10 all time best goalscorers for the club.

The first £100,000 player - Luis Suarez Miramontes (Luisito)

Then record signing Luisito is still associated with Inter Milan today, working as a scout
Then record signing Luisito is still associated with Inter Milan today, working as a scout

Luis Suarez Miramontes became the first ever player to be sold for a six-figure sum when Inter Milan signed him from Barcelona in 1961. Suarez scored 55 goals in 328 appearances for Inter, where he became a regular fixture in the legendary team that won three Serie A titles, two consecutive European Cups and two Intercontinental Cups.

In 1963 Luisito scored a hat-trick against Genoa, which would remain the only hat-trick scored by a Spaniard in the Serie A for 53 years. Suso became the second Spaniard to do so earlier this year when he scored a hat-trick for Genoa. Luisito is currently a scout at Inter Milan.

The first £1,000,000 player - Giuseppe Savoldi

Savoldi had a great first season for Napoli, but soon realised he was on a sinking ship
Savoldi had a great first season for Napoli, but soon realised he was on a sinking ship

Napoli signed Giuseppe Savoldi from Bologna for £1,200,000 in 1975, giving him the distinction of being the world’s first million pound footballer. His first season at Napoli was the stuff of fairytales. He scored seven goals in his first seven games for the club, going on to win the Italian Cup with them that very same season.

However, he soon realised that he joined a club that were beginning to decline. “I arrived in Naples too late,” he said. “Vinicio (Napoli manager from 1973-76) confirmed it for me a few years later: that Napoli had already given their best, it was at the end of the cycle. We won one Italian Cup, but I had come to Naples late.”

Savoldi left the club in 1979 at the age of 32 and returned to his previous club Bologna. In 1980 the Bologna captain was accused of being involved in an underground betting ring, following which he was banned from the game for two years.

On his return, he played for Atalanta aged 34. He managed to play 16 games and scored 1 goal in that season before retiring. Today, Savoldi is still the 13th highest goalscorer in Serie A with 168 goals to his name in 405 games.

The first £10,000,000 player - Jean-Pierre Papin

Jean-Pierre Papin was unable to live up to his price tag due to injury issues
Jean-Pierre Papin was unable to live up to his price tag due to injury issues

In 1992 Jean-Pierre Papin signed for Italian giants AC Milan from Marseille, where the Frenchman had won four French league championships in a row. Unfortunately, the 29-year-old striker struggled to start regularly for the Rossoneri as he was plagued by injury problems.

He never went on to regain the deadly form he showed at Marseille, and eventually retired from the game in 1998 at the age of 35. However, he did learn a lot during his time at the San Siro, often naming former AC Milan coaches Fabio Capello and Arrigo Sacchi as the biggest influences in his coaching career.


The first £100,000,000 player - ???

Frenchman Paul Pogba may soon become the worlds first 100,000,000 player
Frenchman Paul Pogba may soon become the world’s first £100,000,000 player

The current world record transfer fee is £86,000,000, paid by Real Madrid to sign Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspurs. With many reports claiming that Manchester United are close to a £100,000,000 for Paul Pogba, that record may not survive this transfer window.

However, even if the Pogba deal fails to materialise, it won’t be long before we do have the world’s first £100,000,000 player. With the amount of money clubs are willing to spend in order to attract the biggest talents, it’s only a matter of time.

If Sir Charles Clegg could see the numbers being thrown around in player transfers today, he would surely have to pinch himself. After all, “no player in the world is worth £10,000”.

PLAYERYEARSELLING CLUBBUYING CLUBVALUE (£)
Willie Groves1893West Bromwich AlbionAston Villa100
Alf Common1905SunderlandMiddlesbrough1,000
David Jack1928Bolton WanderersArsenal10,890
Luis Suarez 1961BarcelonaInter Milan152,000
Giuseppe Savoldi1965BolognaNapoli1,200,000
Jean-Pierre Papin1992MarseilleAC Milan10,000,000
Edited by Staff Editor

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