Real Madrid are no strangers to breaking transfer records. Their Galacticos era is richly adorned with players who have joined for hefty sums.
More recently, it was the young French defensive midfielder Aurelian Tchouameni who joined from AS Monaco for €100m. Though the deal included €20m in add-ons, the fee is still a very sizeable amount for any player.
Tchouameni has instantly become the fifth-most expensive French transfer ever. However, he still did fall some way short of the world record. FootTheBall lists the top 10 most expensive French signings of all time.
10. Anthony Martial – €60m (Monaco to Manchester United)
The Monegasque side will feature quite a few times on this list. Martial was one of their earliest big-money moves, joining the Red Devils in 2015. There were heavy doubts over his quality, given he was only 19.
— Stretford Paddock (@StretfordPaddck) August 31, 2015
However, Martial scored 11 goals and made four assists in his debut league season. He continued to be an able goal-getter, including a career-high 17 goals and six assists in the 2019-20 Premier League campaign. However, his career has taken a sharp dive since then, and he spent the second half of the 2021-22 season on loan at Sevilla.
9. Tanguy Ndombele – €60m (Lyon to Spurs)
The Londoners’ most expensive signing ever, Ndombele failed to live up to his Lyon days. He joined Spurs in 2019, but the pace and physicality of the Premier League overwhelmed his performances.
Jose Mourinho did not trust him to win duels or put in the necessary work required to start regularly. Ndombele started 40 league games in the first two seasons before the arrival of Nuno Espirito Santo saw his game time decrease further.
Ndombele made nine appearances in the first half of 2021-22 before Antonio Conte let him leave on loan to Lyon. He signed on a permanent transfer with the French side in the summer of 2022.
8. Thomas Lemar – €72m (Monaco to Atletico Madrid)
One of the most reliable players for Diego Simeone, Lemar rose to fame with the 2016-17 Monaco side. He had nine goals and 11 assists in that spectacular season, which convinced Atletico to sign him in 2018.
Lemar has racked up more than 100 appearances for Los Rojiblancos and is one of the most effective forward players on the left.
He had four goals and five assists in La Liga in 2021-22, his best numbers since his Monaco days. The 2018 FIFA World Cup winner will be aiming to continue his good form in Qatar too.
7. Zinedine Zidane – €77.50m (Juventus to Real Madrid)
The mercurial midfielder joined Los Blancos in 2001 and was an instant legend that season. Zidane’s incredulous half-volley on his left foot against Bayer Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League final is considered one of the best goals in the history of the competition.
‘Zizou’ was an unstoppable force, who teamed up with the other legends of his time to take the Galacticos era to heart. Moreover, he was an extremely efficient goal scorer and playmaker who performed at the peak of his powers.
Zidane would return to Real Madrid as a manager in the late-2010s, leading them to three consecutive UEFA Champions League triumphs before leaving in 2021.
6. Lucas Hernandez – €80m (Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich)
The left-sided fullback/centre back has developed into one of the finest players in his position. Hernandez is an adept ball player, who can start attacks, and advance up the pitch superbly.
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) July 8, 2019
Bayern Munich are already a dominant team, and Hernandez has done increasingly well. In the Bundesliga in 2021-22, Hernandez had 7.23 progressive passes and 7.51 progressive passes per 90, putting him in the 99th and 98th percentile of players respectively. France are blessed to have such a player, blessed with offensive and defensive acumen.
5. Aurelien Tchouameni – €100m (Monaco to Real Madrid
Madrid are planning for the eventual departures of Luka Modric, Casemiro, and Toni Kroos. They already locked up Eduardo Camavinga in 2020, before signing Aurelian Tchouameni in 2021.
The former Monaco star has had a meteoric rise to the top, becoming an ever-present over the past two Ligue 1 seasons. Tchouameni recorded 3.56 interceptions and won 2.46 aerial duels per 90 in 2021-22.
That put him in the 99th and 87th percentile of players across Europe, and his reading of the game is immaculate. The “successor to Paul Pogba” has big boots to fill and his mentor is coming up next.
4. Paul Pogba – €105m (Juventus to Manchester United)
One of the most confusing transfer sagas for the Red Devils in recent history. Pogba joined the Old Lady in 2012 on a free transfer, going on to become a superstar. Pogba was a mercurial talent, who could produce magic out of nothing.
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Manchester United are ready to pay €120m [£103m] for Paul Pogba. It will be a world-record transfer. This is happening. (Source: Various)
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) July 6, 2016
United paid a record fee to bring him back in 2016, but the reunion did not go to plan. Pogba performed admirably in his first three seasons, including 13 goals and nine assists in the 2018-19 Premier League season. However, some persisting problems kept cropping up.
Late super-agent Mino Raiola’s comments about Pogba wanting to leave, the player’s tendency to make headlines, a perceived lack of effort, and more made the marriage uncomfortable as it went on. Pogba returned to Turin in 2022 as a free agent, and United were left to count their costs.
3. Antoine Griezmann – €120m (Atletico Madrid to Barcelona)
Barcelona could not understand what to do with the money from the Neymar sale, so they went on a transfer spree. Griezmann was not the most perfect fit, but did decently enough. 22 goals and 11 assists in two La Liga seasons with the Blaugrana are certainly not bad.
However, it was a far cry from the days of old, and with cutting costs imperative, Barcelona loaned him back to Atletico in 2021. By the end of the season, it was clear that the player wanted to stay with his former club, and he will continue to be on loan till 2023.
2. Ousmane Dembele – €140m (Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona)
A player beset by injuries who never realized his true potential. Dembele racked up six goals and 11 assists in the Bundesliga in 2016-17. That convinced Barcelona to spend big on him, to fill the gap left by Neymar.
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However, the move was fraught from the start as a myriad of issues prevented Dembele from regularly contributing. He was often too injured or played poorly, meaning Barcelona had to look for other alternatives.
Aug 2015: Dembele is playing in the 5th division for Rennes reserves
Aug 2017: Dembele becomes the 2nd most expensive player in history
— Football Factly (@FootballFactly) August 25, 2017
Dembele recaptured his old form after Xavi was appointed manager, finishing the 2021-22 season with one goal and 13 assists. However, his wage demands and uncertainty surrounding his future make his next destination unpredictable.
1. Kylian Mbappe – €180m (Monaco to PSG)
No prizes for guessing the number one. Mbappe is the deadliest goal scorer in world football right now. A multiple Golden Boot winner, he was subjected to an almighty tug-o-war between Real Madrid and PSG in 2022.
Mbappe eventually ended up staying with the Parisians, and they are dreaming of the Champions League once again. Moreover, Mbappe is a guaranteed threat from any position and his offensive numbers are off the charts. Therefore, PSG were wise in keeping him and the record-fee is certainly no cause of loss.