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History of how the football transfer record was broken over the last century - Slide 1 of 5

How many times has the football transfer record been broken?

Football transfer records Paul Pogba most expensive player 89m
Paul Pogba is currently the most expensive player ever

The first football transfer of a player between clubs took place in 1893 – a few years after the Football Association in England made the sport professional. Until then, only amateur teams with part-time players who had other jobs played for clubs. But once it became a professional sport, so did the players. 

With that move, players soon became in demand throughout the country and, later, throughout the world. Since that first transfer, more than 12 decades have passed and thousands of players have moved from one club to another.

We look at the various transfers that broke the record over more than a century of football. 

Last updated: 12 August 2016

#1 1893-1925: British clubs pave the way

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Willie Groves
Willie Groves (circled) – The first ever professional footballer to be transferred at £100

The first player to ever be transferred between two clubs was Willie Groves – a striker from Scotland. Back in 1893, Groves was sold by West Bromwich Albion to Aston Villa for £100 – a huge sum of money back in the day. 

It was also probably the first ever case of a club poaching a player and convincing him to sign, a move which landed Villa in trouble with the FA who fined the Midlands club. However, the club would have no complaints as he would help them win the league title the next season.

It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that the record would be broken, again by another Scottish footballer, Andy McCombie. The right-back was bought by Newcastle from derby rivals Sunderland for £700. McCombie played for the Magpies for six years and eventually became a member of the coaching staff after his retirement. 

English forward Alf Common then became the first player to be sold for £1,000 when Middlesborough bought him from Sunderland (who had allegedly paid £520 for him). But Middlesborough didn’t sign him to win the title – they needed him to avoid relegation. They would eventually survive the drop.

YearPlayerFromToAmount
1893Willie GrovesWest BromAston Villa£100
1904Andy McCombieSunderlandNewcastle United£700
1905Alf CommonSunderlandMiddlesbrough £1,000
1913Daniel SheaWest HamBlackburn Rovers£2,000
1913Tommy BarberBolton WanderersAston Villa£2,500
1914Percy DawsonHeart of MidlothianBlackburn Rovers£3,500
1922Syd PuddefootWest HamFalkirk£5,000
1922Warney CresswellSouth ShieldsSunderland£5,500
1925Bob KellyBurnleySunderland£6,500
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