Ranking the 5 most high-profile transfers in football history

Lionel Messi's move to PSG is the talk of the town currently
Lionel Messi's move to PSG is the talk of the town currently

Clubs make player transfers for various reasons, ranging from strengthening a particular position to making a statement signing to boost their profile.

A few recent examples in this regard would be Robert Lewandowski moving from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich, Virgil van Dijk arriving at Liverpool from Southampton and Cristiano Ronaldo moving to Juventus from Real Madrid.

However, when a club manages to land a superstar player after warding off interest from a plethora of suitors, it tends to send a message across that they mean business.

Throughout the game's history, there have been several high-profile transfers that have either shaken up the status quo or garnered plenty of attention for various reasons. On that note, here's a look at the five most high-profile transfers in the game's history.

#5 Johan Cruyff from Ajax to Barcelona | 1973

Johan Cruyff
Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff is widely regarded as one of the best players to have graced the game.

Cruyff brought Rinus Michel's revolutionary 'Total Football' philosophy to life, a blueprint copied by later successful teams like Barcelona, Spain and Bayern Munich. A prolific goalscorer, Cruyff could play literally anywhere on the field and was equally at ease conjuring goalscoring opportunities for teammates.

The legendary Dutchman first made his name at Ajax, transforming the mediocre Eredivisie side into a European powerhouse and winning three consecutive European Cups in the 70s.

But after Cryuff was stripped of the club captaincy, the then 26-year-old snubbed interest from Real Madrid to Barcelona in the summer of 1973 in a world-record transfer worth $2 million. The rest, as they say, is history.

The three-time European champion made an immediate impact, helping his new team win 5-0 at the home of their arch-rivals Real Madrid en route to winning their first league title in more than a decade.

After five years as a player at Camp Nou, Cruyff returned a decade later to become Barcelona's longest-serving manager and assembled a dream team that won four consecutive La Liga titles and the European Cup.

#4 Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid to Juventus | 2018

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo was a bonafide legend of the game when he arrived at Juventus from Real Madrid on a gargantuan €100 million transfer in the summer of 2018. That was a record fee paid by any club for a player aged 30 and above.

During a prolific nine-season stint in the Spanish capital, Ronaldo scored a whopping 450 goals and maintained an astounding goals per game ratio. He played a key role in Madrid becoming the first club to successfully defend their title in the UEFA Champions League era en route to doing a three-peat between 2016 and 2018.

Ronaldo, one of the best-paid players in the team, also achieved individual success during his Real Madrid stint. He won four Ballon d'Or awards and became the first to breach the 40-goal mark in a La Liga season. But after Real Madrid's third-consecutive Champions League triumph in 2018, he sought a different challenge.

Juventus were happy to splurge and land the man who could end their more than two-decade-long Champions League drought. Although that hasn't happened yet during his three seasons with the Bianconeri, Ronaldo has already racked up a century of goals and won two league titles. Juventus finished a distant fourth in the league last season, but Ronaldo won his first Capcannoniere award.

After a prolific Euro 2020 campaign with Portugal, Ronaldo will look to hit the ground running under new Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri as the Bianconeri seek a return to title-winning ways.

#3 Neymar from Barcelona to PSG | 2017


Neymar, arguably one of the finest players to have played the game, caused quite the stir when he left Barcelona in a record-breaking deal worth €222 million transfer in the summer of 2017 to join Paris-Saint Germain (PSG).

During a prolific four-season stint at Barcelona, Neymar racked up an impressive 181 goal contributions (105 goals, 76 assists) in nearly as many games. During his last three seasons at the club, the Brazilian formed a fearsome attacking triumvirate with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez as Barcelona won two league titles and their second continental treble.

Despite being a key player in the team, he largely operated under the shadow of his illustrious teammate Messi, which hindered his chances of winning the Ballon d'Or award. The Brazilian made the move to a star-studded PSG team as he sought to carve out a niche for himself.

Although Neymar hasn't hit the heights expected of him during an injury-plagued four-season stint, he has tallied an impressive 87 goals and 52 assists in over 100 appearances.

In 2019-20, the three-time Ligue 1 winner narrowly failed to win a quadruple with the Parisian giants, as they lost out to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League final.

#2 Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United to Real Madrid | 2009)

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo realized a childhood dream when he arrived at Real Madrid on a world-record transfer from Manchester United in the summer of 2009.

Ronaldo had arrived at Manchester United as a precocious teenager. But under the able tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson, he blossomed into one of the world's finest players. Making a name for himself with his blistering pace, aerial prowess and ability to score from distance, Ronaldo produced the breakthrough campaign of his career in 2007-08.

He scored 42 goals in all competitions, including 31 in the Premier League and eight in the Champions League, as United won both competitions and Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or award that year. Real Madrid made an approach for the player that summer, but United managed to persuade a reluctant Ronaldo to stay put for another season.

Ronaldo scored 25 goals in all competitions, helping United successfully defend their Premier League title and reach another Champions League final. With the player still keen to fulfill his dream of playing for his boyhood club, United let Ronaldo leave, and the rest, as they say, is history.

He scored a staggering 450 times in all competitions during a hugely successful nine-season stay at Madrid, winning four Champions League, two La Liga titles and four Ballon d'Or awards.

#1 Lionel Messi from Barcelona to PSG | 2021

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi

In arguably the most high-profile transfer in football history, Lionel Messi, widely regarded as one of the best players to have graced the game, landed at French giants PSG after a 17-season stay at Barcelona.

One of the last vestiges of a true one-club man, Messi scored goals and won titles galore. The diminutive Argentinian tallied a staggering 1077 goal contributions (672 goals and 305 assists), winning ten La Liga titles, two continental trebles and a record six Ballon d'Or awards.

After his contract at Barcelona ran out this summer, Messi was widely expected to re-sign with the only club he has ever played for. However, that did not happen, as the Blaugrana, inhibited by La Liga's financial fair play rules, failed to jettison enough players to accommodate their crown jewel's contract.

French champions PSG, keenly monitoring the situation, jumped into the fray and acquired the 34-year-old free agent on a two-year contract to become the team to beat in every competition in 2021-22.

In the process, Messi reunites with his good friends Neymar and Angel Di Maria in a star-studded PSG dream team brimming with quality in every position.

The Ligue 1 giants recently acquired Italy's Euro 2020-winning goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, Real Madrid legend Sergio Ramos to add to the likes of Marquinhos, Marco Verratti and Mauro Icardi, to name a few.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if Messi will be able to replicate his Barcelona heroics at a club looking to win their first UEFA Champions League title.

Edited by Vishal Subramanian


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