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Ranking the 5 most eventful transfer windows in the 21st century

Real Madrid v Marseille - UEFA Champions League
Real Madrid v Marseille - UEFA Champions League
Sushan Chakraborty

Every football club in the world wishes to improve upon their last-season exploits. The teams want to score more, defend better and, ultimately, celebrate wildly after the end of a successful campaign. Unfortunately, the desire to win is not the only prerequisite for success. The transfer market arguably has the most crucial role to play.

Reinvigorated by the recently-concluded, highly explosive transfer window, we will be looking at the most noteworthy transfer windows of the century. We will consider the impact of the transfers for the respective clubs, the amount spent on transfers, and more to create a list of five. Now, without further ado, let us have a quick look at

5 most spectacular transfer windows of the century

#5 Summer of 2000

Luis Figo in Real Madrid v Barcelona
Luis Figo in Real Madrid v Barcelona

The summer of 2000 was not particularly explosive in terms of money spent. But it still ended up making a massive impact on the sport, changing the way we see politics in football.

The summer transfer window of 2000 is infamous for the transfer of Barcelona captain Luis Figo to Real Madrid. Los Blancos presidential candidate Florentino Perez struck a deal with Figo, stating that the Portuguese would have to sign for Real Madrid if Perez won the election. Figo agreed to the deal, thinking it was impossible for Perez, who had no experience in the field, to win the election.

Surprisingly, Perez won the election, and signed Figo from Barcelona for €60m, which was a world-record at the time. Barcelona fans were furious with the deal and infamously hurled a pig’s head at Figo during a Clasico at the Camp Nou in 2002.

Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand also moved in the same window, signing for Leeds United from West Ham United for €21m. Furthermore, Real Madrid added Claudio Makelele to their roster, who later on went on to redefine the central defensive-midfielder role as a “destroyer.”


#4 Summer of 2014

Newcastle United v Chelsea - Premier League
Newcastle United v Chelsea - Premier League

In 2014, many top clubs signed world class players, with some paying high dividends down the road.

Chelsea signed the likes of Diego Costa (€38m), Cesc Fabregas (€33m), Juan Cudrado (€31m), and Filipe Luis (€20m). They even got their former player Didier Drogba on a free and sent Romelu Lukaku to Everton, with the Belgian striker continuing his development at the Merseyside club. Thanks to their ambition, Chelsea won the Premier League at the end of the season.

La Liga club Barcelona broke the bank to sign Luis Suarez from Liverpool, spending €81.72m on the Uruguayan sharpshooter. They also picked up Ivan Rakitic for €19m from Sevilla and Marc-Andre ter Stegen for €12m from Borussia Monchengladbach. Suarez formed a devastating front-three with Neymar and Lionel Messi, while Rakitic became an integral part of the midfield. The Blaugrana completed their second treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and the UEFA Champions League at the end of the season.

Real Madrid, too, signed Toni Kroos (€25m) and James Rodriguez (€75m) from Bayern Munich and AS Monaco, respectively. The former is serving the club diligently to this day and has cemented his place in Real Madrid's illustrious history.

#3 Summer of 2017

Paris Saint-Germain v Celtic FC - UEFA Champions League
Paris Saint-Germain v Celtic FC - UEFA Champions League

Economics in football turned on its head in the summer of 2017, thanks to Paris Saint-Germain's ambitious swoop of Neymar. After failing to negotiate with Barcelona for their star man, the French side agreed personal terms with Neymar and triggered his €222m release clause. The transfer saw the Brazilian become the most expensive player in history, changing the course of football.

Despite having Neymar on their books, PSG went after Ligue 1 star Kylian Mbappe. Due to Financial Fair Play restrictions, PSG got the player on loan from Monaco for the 2017-18 season, with the option to buy for €145m and €35m in variables the next summer.

Having sold Neymar to PSG, Barcelona immediately signed Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho for €135m each. Neither has come close to justifying the fee and has only contributed to the lop-sidedness of the transfer market.


#2 Summer of 2009

Barcelona v Real Madrid - La Liga
Barcelona v Real Madrid - La Liga

The summer of 2009 saw the most successful transfer in the 21st century, with Cristiano Ronaldo moving from Manchester United to Real Madrid. The 2008 Ballon d’Or winner cost €94 million at the time, becoming the most expensive player in history.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored 450 goals for the club between 2009 and 2018, helping them to four Champions Leagues and two La Liga titles amongst other trophies.

Apart from Ronaldo, Real Madrid signed the 2007 Ballon d’Or winner Kaka (€67m), Lyon forward and current club captain Karim Benzema (€35m), 2005 Champions League winner Xabi Alonso (€34.5m), Liverpool defender Alvaro Arbeloa (€4m) and five other stars.

The transfer window also saw Bayern Munich sign Arjen Robben from Real Madrid for €25m, with the Dutchman going on to define an era in the German Bundesliga.


#1 Summer of 2021

Paris Saint Germain v RC Strasbourg - Ligue 1 Uber Eats
Paris Saint Germain v RC Strasbourg - Ligue 1 Uber Eats

The transfer window we just witnessed, in the summer of 2021, has easily been the craziest of the century. We have seen Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos leave Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively, and join PSG as free agents. We also witnessed Cristiano Ronaldo move to his old club, Manchester United, from Juventus, for a reported fee of €15m plus €8m in add-ons. And we even learned about PSG reportedly turning down Real Madrid’s bid of over €220m for Kylian Mbappe.

Romelu Lukaku, who fired Inter Milan to the Serie A title, has returned home, to Chelsea, for €115 million. Austrian left-back David Alaba has joined Real Madrid from Bayern Munich on a free transfer, hoping to pitch in for Ramos. Four-time Champions League winner Raphael Varane has committed to United for €41m, looking for a new challenge. And finally, reigning Premier League champions, Manchester City, have made Jack Grealish the most expensive Englishman in history, signing him from Aston Villa for €117.5m.

Topping the summer transfer window of 2021 will be a tough task. However, given how unpredictable the market currently is, we will not bet against the transfer windows to come.

Edited by Samya Majumdar

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