Football has come a long way since first £100 deal
Transfers between football clubs have become the subject of increasingly frenzied scrutiny and speculation in recent years.
But they have been around for well over a century and the first player to cost in excess of £100 (Dh488) was the Scottish striker Willie Groves who moved from West Bromwich Albion to Aston Villa in 1893.
At the start of the 20th century the United Kingdom was the only place where clubs were willing to pay significant amounts of money to purchase a player. In 1928 Arsenal smashed the world transfer record, buying the English inside forward David Jack from Bolton Wanderers for a sum slightly in excess of £10,000.
Four years later this fee was eclipsed by the Argentinian team River Plate who paid £23,000 to acquire the Argentinian striker Bernabé Ferreyra from local rivals Tigre. This record would stand for another 17 years, a period during which Europe’s major leagues were interrupted by the Second World War.
After that the transfer record was broken with increasing regularity. The inside forward Johnny Morris became the first player to cost more than Ferreyra when he moved from Manchester United to Derby County for £24,000 in 1949.
This record would be broken again in 1949, 1950 and 1951 with all of these trades involving two English clubs. The following year signalled the start of a distinct power shift in the football world with Napoli paying £52,000 to acquire the Swedish striker Hasse Jeppson from fellow Serie A side Atlanta.
It was the first time an Italian club had broken the world transfer record but it would not be the last. In fact, a new record would be set six times over the course of the next 18 years and on every occasion it was a Serie A side doing the buying.
In 1973 a new record was set when the Spanish side Barcelona paid Ajax £922,000 to acquire a flamboyant Dutch forward by the name of Johan Cruyff, who became something of a superstar after his “wonder turn” against his marker during a Holland versus Sweden group stage game in the 1974 World Cup.
Barcelona broke the world transfer record for a second time in 1982 and no one could question the calibre of the Argentinian midfielder they paid River Plate £3 million for. It was Diego Maradona and two years later he was on the move again, costing Napoli a world record £5m, which would also prove to be money very well spent. That was the start of a 12-year period during which the record would remain in Italy while being broken six times.
Ruud Gullit, Roberto Baggio, Jean-Pierre Papin, Gianluca Vialli and Gianluigi Lentini all wore the mantle of world’s most expensive player with the latter costing AC Milan £30m in 1992.
Over the course of the next nine years new transfer records would be set by Newcastle United, Inter Milan (twice), Real Betis and Lazio. 2000 signalled the start of Real Madrid’s “galactico” era with the club paying world record breaking fees to acquire a superstar player on no fewer than five occasions.
In 1992 the French striker Jean Pierre Papin became the first player to break the £10m mark when he moved from Marseille to AC Milan. The same Italian club were involved in another landmark deal 17 years later when they sold the Brazilian forward Kaka to Real Madrid for £56m.
The deals for Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, in 2009 and 2013, respectively, were significantly bigger with Real Madrid paying in excess of £80m for each player. The record was smashed again last month when Manchester United purchased Paul Pogba from Juventus for £89m.
No record has stood for longer than the 17 years during which Bernabé Ferreyra remained the most expensive player in the game. The next historic barrier to be broken will be the £100m mark and it would be no surprise if a transfer of this magnitude took place in 2017.
The balance of power in the game has shifted to such an extent that EPL relegated Aston Villa, the side that set a new world transfer record way back in 1893, were sold to a Chinese businessman for £76m in May.
It is unlikely Willie Groves could have imagined a time when it could be cheaper to buy an entire football club than to acquire the services of one star player.
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Published: September 5, 2016 04:00 AM