It’s often said that the most important figure at any football club is the manager, but you wouldn’t think that when you look at the finances involved. The fees exchanged between clubs when it comes to managers making the switch are a tiny fraction of the astronomical amounts paid for the world’s top players.
But that could be set to change in the coming years, after Chelsea lured Graham Potter to Stamford Bridge following Thomas Tuchel’s sacking. The former Brighton manager breaks straight into the top 10 and might not be the last manager to go for a hefty fee. FootTheBall takes you through the most expensive fees for managers in football history.
10. Mark Hughes (Blackburn to Manchester City) – £5m
The £5m Blackburn received for Hughes was then a world record and came shortly after City were taken over by Abu Dhabi United Group Investment.
Hughes, who replaced Sven-Goran Eriksson and famously signed Robinho for a British record of £32.5m, lasted 18 months before being replaced.
9. Ronald Koeman (Southampton to Everton) – £5m
Hughes’ Blackburn spell has some parallels with Ronald Koeman’s at Southampton, with the Dutchman similarly taking the Saints into Europe.
He also cost £5m when Everton came calling for him. Koeman finished seventh, spent crazy amount of money in the transfer window and was fired months later.
8. Maurizio Sarri (Napoli to Chelsea) – £5m
Chelsea had splashed the cash on Maurizio Sarri the season before they appointed Lampard, paying Napoli in excess of £5 million to buy him out of his contract. Despite the high fee, Sarri was gone in a flash and lasted less than 12 months despite winning the Europa League.
Surprisingly, the sum paid by Chelsea for Sarri is the same as what Manchester City paid for Mark Hughes immediately after their Abu Dhabi takeover.
7. Adi Hutter (Eintracht Frankfurt to Borussia Monchengladbach) – £6.5m
After a decent but hardly groundbreaking spell with Eintracht Frankfurt, Borussia Monchengladbach paid £6.5m for Adi Hutter. He left after just one season having finished tenth in the Bundesliga.
Borussia Monchengladbach parted company with coach Adi Hütter after the 52-year-old tactician led the Foals to a disappointing 10th-placed Bundesliga finish in his first and only season in charge at Borussia-Park. It was also their worst top-flight finish since 2010/11.
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6. Jose Mourinho (Inter to Real Madrid) – £6.9m
Mourinho’s career peaked in 2010 after leading Inter to their first and only Treble. Knocking Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona off their European perch made him extra appealing to Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.
The biggest name going at the time, the Portuguese coach had masterminded the Champions League semi-final victory over Barcelona, which denied Real’s old rivals the opportunity to win the trophy at the Santiago Bernabeu. After Inter’s celebrations, Mourinho stayed in the Spanish capital to sign for the club. Perez announced Mourinho’s arrival as “this year’s Galactico” – a reasonably-priced one at just £6.9m
5. Ruben Amorim (Braga to Sporting CP) – £8.6m
Former Benfica midfielder Amorim, who was capped 14 times for Portugal, went straight into coaching after retiring in his early 30s.
He didn’t need long in charge of Braga (less than three months) to convince Sporting Lisbon to pay out £8.65m for his signature back in March 2020. Ruben Amorim miraculously led Braga to 10 wins from his 13 games in charge, but the hasty appointment raised eyebrows across Portugal. It appears to have been a sound investment, with the coach maintaining his 70%+ win ratio.
4. Brendan Rodgers (Celtic to Leicester) – £9m
After a few years of getting his groove back at Celtic, Rodgers returned to England in 2019 after Leicester paid £9m for him.
While he’ll probably be remembered for twice squandering Champions League qualification on the final day of the season, Rodgers led the Foxes to their first FA Cup in 2021.
Rodgers hasn’t started the 2022/23 season in fine fashion either and could soon face the axe. Whether or not another club snaps him before that is a different matter.
3. Andre Vilas-Boas (Porto to Chelsea) – £13.3m
Andre Villas-Boas was supposed to be the next Mourinho and Chelsea quickly snapped him up for a massive £13.3m back in 2011. Villas-Boas was only 33 at the time and had just led Porto to a famous quadruple, winning the league, cup, Super Cup and Europa League as well as going unbeaten domestically all season.
The Portuguese boss came with huge promise but proved to be a costly mistake. Boas fell victim to Abramovich’s ruthless hire-and-fire policy at Chelsea, lasting just nine months in the job before being shown the door.
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2. Graham Potter (Brighton to Chelsea) – £20m
This might be the most unexpected entry on the list. Graham Potter was recently unveiled as Chelsea’s new head coach after the abrupt sacking of Thomas Tuchel.
Potter had undoubtedly overachieved in his time with Brighton and started the 2022/23 season brightly as well. The English manager will take over at Stamford Bridge after lavish spending from the Blues this summer with signings such as Raheem Sterling and Wesley Fofana. Chelsea have spent almost £20m on Graham Potter and his backroom staff.
1. Julian Nagelsmann (RB Leipzig to Bayern Munich) – £21.7m
Bayern Munich won the sextuple under Hansi Flick back in 2020, but the German manager left the Bavarians the next season, leaving big shoes to fill at the Allianz Arena. The German Champions got young managerial prodigy Julian Nagesmann and were required to pay £21.7m.
That was a world-record fee for a manager, by some distance. The hottest young property in European coaching had been linked with the job at the Allianz Arena when Carlo Ancelotti was sacked back in September 2017, when he was just 30 years old and still making a name for himself at Hoffenheim.
Bayern ended up going down on a different track, while Nagelsmann’s stock has continued to rise at RB Leipzig, which made Bayern poach him in time-honoured fashion.