From Groves to Ronaldo and Bale, a short history of world’s most expensive footballers

Gareth Bale won’t forget the 2012-13 season in a hurry, for despite failing to reach a Champions League spot with Spurs, the Welshman swept every individual award available, from the  PFA Young Player of the Year to the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and the FWA Footballer of the Year.

The Welshman could soon add to that illustrious list the tag of world’s most expensive footballer, were he to complete a move to Real Madrid for an incredible £86m, usurping Cristiano Ronaldo’s status as dearest footballer of all times.

The amount of money Real Madrid are reportedly ready to fork out for bale would be 860,000 bigger than the fee Aston Villa agreed to pay to West Bromwich Albion when, in 1893, they secured Willie Groves, as the Scotsman became the first player to be transfered for a three-figure sum.

In a completely implausible scenario in this day and age – and not just because of the clubs’ financial conditions – Newcastle secured the second world record transfer when they signed Andy McCombie from arch-enemies Sunderland in 1904 for a mere £700, before the Black Cats cashed in again 12 months later as Alf Common became the first player to break the £1,000 barrier when he joined Middlesbrough.

Scottish clubs, not to be outdone by their neighbours south of the border, decided to splash out some cash of their own, but it might come as a surprise to discover that it was Falkirk, rather than one of the two Glasgow giants, to secure Scotland’s first and last world record transfer as they signed Syd Puddefoot from West Ham in 1922 for £5,000.

Sheffield Wednesday’s Jackie Sewell was the last world record transfer to grace English football when moved to Hillsborough from Notts County in 1951, as Italian clubs replaced their British counterparts as the undiscussed dominating force in the transfer market.

In 1961 Luis Suarez – the Spanish one, obviously – became the first player with a six-digit value attached to his name as he joined Inter Milan from Barcelona for £152,000, before the Nerazzurri paid twice as much for Harald Nielsen six years later.

The Danish striker had led minnows Bologna to their seventh and last Serie A title in the 1963-64 season when he had been crowned Serie A top-scorer for the second consecutive season, but only managed two goals in eight league appearances for Inter Milan.

Johan Cruyff enjoyed better luck after leaving Ajax for Barcelona in 1973, thus becoming the last player to be transfered for a world record fee under £1m as he joined the Catalans for £922,000, going on to win La Liga in his first season at the Camp Nou.

Diego Maradona gets the crowd going at his unveiling in Naples

Napoli might have sold Edinson Cavani for an enormous amount of money this summer, but there was a time when the Partenopei were the buyers rather than the sellers and, in 1975, they became the first club to break the £1m barrier for a player, by signing centre-forward Giuseppe Savoldi from Bologna for £1.2m, just over a fifth of what they would pay nine years later for a rather talented Argentine, called Diego Armando Maradona.

Prior to his £5m move to Napoli, Maradona had already broken the transfer record two years earlier when he had moved to Barcelona from Boca Juniors for £3m, less than what a top paid footballer earns in half a season these days.

Serie A was the place to be between the late 80s and the early 90s and Ruud Gullit and Roberto Baggio became the world’s most expensive footballer in 1987 and 1990, before the record tumbled three times in the summer of 1992.

Jean Pierre Papin became the first man to break the eight-figure sum as he joined AC Milan from Olympique Marseille for £10m, Gianluca Vialli moved to Juventus for £12m before Gianluigi Lentini joined Papin at the San Siro for £13m.

Four years later, in 1996, Alan Shearer became the first British to be heralded as the world’s most expensive footballer as he turned down Manchester United for a hero welcome at Newcastle after his £16m move from Blackburn Rovers.

With football rapidly spiraling towards an uncontrolled business toward the end of the 20th century, Ronaldo moved to Inter Milan from Barcelona for £19.5, a record bettered by fellow Brazilian Denilson 12 months later.

Hernan Crespo’s transfer to Lazio from Parma in the summer of 2000 signaled the last of Serie A’s mouthwatering deals, as Florentino Perez’s Galacticos romped into the transfer markets, by securing Luis Figo and Zinedine in successive summers between 2000 and 2001.

Perez inaugurated his second presidential spell at Bernabeu in the summer of 2009 by securing Kaka from AC Milan for £56m, before splashing an incredible £80m on Cristiano Ronaldo.

Four years on, the Portuguese’s record could soon be destined to history.

Do you think players’ prices and their impact have developed accordingly or is money just being thrown around these days?Is Bale really worth more than £90m? Let us know your views below or get involved via our Twitter or Facebook!   

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