Football clubs can make or break their season in the pivotal January transfer window. For power clubs like Real Madrid, sometimes the best move is no move at all. For Premier League title contenders like Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham, adding an expensive but dependable striker could make a significant difference in a top-four finish and, thus, qualify for the Champions League. With a week remaining in the winter transfer window, let's look back at the top 10 most expensive January transfers of all time. Will your club spend big this term?
10. Diego Costa (Chelsea to Atletico Madrid) – $64.8 million
Diego Costa's return to Atletico Madrid in 2018 was more than a mere transfer; it was a homecoming. Interestingly, Costa's aggressive playing style (re: shithousery), which endeared him to Atletico fans, often clashed with his productivity during his second stint at Atletico. He only netted 18 goals across his two latter seasons under Diego Simeone. Meanwhile, the striker netted 59 times in three seasons across all competition for Chelsea. He was, quite simply, a beast.
9. Bruno Fernandes (Sporting to Man United) – $68.04 million
It's been four years since Portuguese maestro Bruno Fernandes signed for the Red Devils — a rare January signing for the club at that. But he proved to be an instant success and true leader, having backed boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before the Norwegian got canned.
“My best signing? Bruno Fernandes came in and directly energized the team,” said the boss.
The midfielder, now Manchester United captain, is trying to turn United's 23/24 season around. He leads Europe's top five leagues with shot-creating chances with 110.
8. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Dortmund to Arsenal) – $68.8 million
Aubameyang's transfer to North London was Arsene Wenger's last signing at Arsenal. It was also Wenger's most expensive signing ever. After a roaring start and strike partnership with Alexandre Lacazette, including the 2018-2019 Golden Boot in his first debut season, the forward fell out with new coach Mikel Arteta, ended his contract by mutual consent, and signed for Barcelona in February 2022.
7. Christian Pulisic (Dortmund to Chelsea) – $69.12 million
Chelsea made a trademark signing when they inked ‘Captain America' Christian Pulisic to a $69.12 million transfer in January 2019. The young American enjoyed a fruitful start to his Blues career, scoring 11 goals and tallying 10 assists in his first season. The following year he became the first American player to score in the Champions League semis against Real Madrid.
Pulisic became the first American to win the Champions League during the 2020/21 season. At 25, Pulisic now leads the line for the I Rossoneri in Italy.
6. Aymeric Laporte (Bilbao to Manchester City) – $70.2 million
Center-back Aymeric Laporte lined up perfectly in Guardiola's system which emphasizes playing from the back. The defender helped Manchester City kickstart many of their attacks through high composure and deft left-footed passing.
The five-time Premier League winner left City to play for the Saudi Pro side after the triumphant treble during the 2022/23 season. He joined Ronaldo-led Al Nassr in August 2023 for $30 million, making him the priceiest defender in the emerging league.
5. Dusan Vlahovic (Fiorentina to Juventus) – $88.56 million
Dusan Vlahovic has morphed into Serie A's most dynamic striker, proving his $88.56 million transfer from Fiorentina. During the 23/24 season, the Serbian became the second player in 50 years to score 10+ goals in consecutive Serie A seasons before turning 24.
It looks like Juve will reward the No.9 with a contract extension before the end of this season.
4. Virgil van Dijk (Southampton to Liverpool) – $91.8 million
The former Southampton center-back became a then-record fee of $91.8 million when he signed for Liverpool during the 2017 January transfer window. The result? Not too shabby — he's easily become the best signing of the Klopp era with a Premier League and Champions League title to his name. He also finished second behind Lionel Messi in the 2019 Ballon d'Or.
3. Mykhailo Mudryk (Shakhtar to Chelsea) – $108 million
Chelsea outbid Arsenal to win the transfer of winger Mykhailo Mudryk during the 2022/23 winter transfer window. Needless to say, it looks like the Gunners dodged one. Mudryk has not lived up to expectations, scoring 0 goals in 15 EPL appearances last season and 3 goals in 17 games this season. On the flip side, he's only 23 and has the speed and dribbling ability of Arjen Robben. Can the Ukrainian youngster live up to the hype?
2. Enzo Fernandez (Benfica to Chelsea) – $130.68 million
Enzo Fernandez took the football world by storm when they helped guide Argentina to a World Cup triumph in 2023. His stellar performances earned the former Benfica man a $130 million move to Stamford Bridge as part of the club owner Todd Boehly's initial spending spree.
After a debatable start, the 23-year-old midfielder is now proving his worth to the Blues.
1. Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool to Barcelona) – $145.8 million
Is Philippe Coutinho the worst transfer in football history? For the price Barcelona paid for him and his output, he's up there. In 106 games, he scored 25 goals and provided 14 assists. After winning his second domestic title with the Catalan giants, the much-maligned Brazilian — once predicted to become Barca's Iniesta and Neymar replacement — moved to Bayern Munich on loan upon a brief return in 2022.
Coutinho's excessive signing and abrupt departure represented Barcelona's spendthrift and mismanagement over the last few years to also include Griezmann and Dembele.