Virgil van Dijk’s been worth every penny but Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba – and a string of others – failed to live up to their price… Sportsmail rates Britain’s most expensive buys after Chelsea SMASHED the record for £107m Enzo Fernandez
- Chelsea confirmed the signing of Enzo Fernandez for a British transfer record
- Not many big-money signings have been able to live up to their price tag
- Sportsmail rates how Britain’s most expensive signings have fared at their clubs
Chelsea broke the British transfer record on Tuesday to sign Argentine World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez from Benfica for £107m.
In doing so they surpassed the mark set by Man City who paid £100m for Jack Grealish in the summer of 2021.
Graham Potter should be wary however as not many of Britain’s most expensive signings have lived up to their price tag.
Virgil van Dijk has been a huge success at Liverpool, though the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba did not work out as hoped after their big-money moves.
The likes of Jadon Sancho, Pepe and Kepa Arrizabalaga have all cost over £70million but don’t even make the ten most expensive signings in Premier League history.
Sportsmail rates the ten players that do make that list (before Fernandez’s arrival) and see how they’ve performed at their respective clubs.
Chelsea forked out a British transfer record fee worth £107m to sign Enzo Fernandez
Everton to Manchester United for £75million (July 2017)
Lukaku’s two-year stint at Old Trafford is an interesting one.
When you look at the numbers, he scored 42 goals in 96 appearances before leaving for Inter Milan in 2019.
But after scoring 10 goals in his first 11 games for the club, questions were then quickly asked about his suitability to the team when he wasn’t netting with the same regularity.
At the time, United were cagey and laboured in their approach to attacking opponents, which limited the opportunities for Lukaku to get on the end of crosses or burst off the shoulder of the defender.
The fact Romelu Lukaku scored 42 goals in 96 games doesn’t tell the full story about his time at Man United
However, he didn’t help himself with a poor first touch often letting him down, and he also seemed to quickly drop his head when things weren’t going right.
He wasn’t the striker that United were looking for. As made clear by the fact he scored only once in 24 games against one of the other top-six clubs.
Similar to Pogba, his performances were nowhere near the level of when he played for his country, or in the Serie A where he scored 64 goals in 95 appearances during his first stint at Inter.
Lukaku (right) didn’t suit Manchester United and he was ineffective during big matches
Virgil van Dijk
Southampton to Liverpool for £75million (January 2018)
There were plenty of eyebrows raised when Liverpool announced the £75m acquisition of Van Dijk from Southampton – then the highest-ever fee for a defender.
But the Dutchman transformed a side who had been vulnerable at the back for nearly a decade, into the one that achieved Champions League and Premier League glory in the seasons that followed.
He quickly silenced the doubters and played an instrumental role in helping the Reds reach the Champions League within five months of his arrival, though falling short in a 3-1 loss to Real Madrid.
Virgil van Dijk transformed Liverpool’s fortunes when he joined the club back in 2018
The following season they lifted Europe’s most prestigious trophy with a 2-0 win over Tottenham, while just fell short of the Premier League title despite claiming 97 points – one less than Man City. His performances that season led to him finishing as runner-up in the Ballon d’Or behind Lionel Messi.
In 2019-20, he played a crucial role in helping the Reds end their 30-year wait for a Premier League title.
Then after he missed the majority of the following campaign with an ACL injury, he once again emerged as a genuine force helping the Reds achieve a double last season – which was almost a quadruple.
This season has been by far Van Dijk’s weakest at Liverpool, but there is no doubt that he is one of Liverpool’s greatest signings and without his signing then Jurgen Klopp’s side perhaps wouldn’t have won the trophies they have.
Van Dijk returned from a serious injury to help Liverpool push for a quadruple last season
Leicester to Manchester United for £80million (August 2019)
Maguire surpassed Van Dijk as the most expensive defender the following year, however, unlike the Dutchman, he has not proven to be worth every penny of his price tag.
The defender looks every bit of the £80m that United paid for him when he represents his country, however he looks a player that has struggled to live up to valuation, as well as his role as captain, when he plays for his club.
His first two seasons at Old Trafford were largely solid, playing every minute of his first campaign and nearly repeated this the following year where an injury against Aston Villa meant he was a costly absence for United in their Europa League final defeat by Villarreal.
Harry Maguire’s struggles at Manchester United started last season with some woeful displays
The 2021-22 season though currently appears to have marked the start of his demise, with some woeful displays in defeats to the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Leicester and Watford.
His place in the team, as well as as captain was constantly questioned – with even reports that some inside the United dressing room held their doubts over him.
It’s no surprise he has been dropped from the line-up this season, with Erik ten Hag preferring to start Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez.
While he has looked better this season than last when called upon, it appears as though his time at Old Trafford is coming to an end.
He has dropped to the bench and has a tough task at hand to win back his place in the team
Benfica to Liverpool for £85million (July 2022)
Compared to the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez hasn’t hit the ground quickly since making the move to Anfield.
In 25 appearances he has scored ten goals, though there is a strong argument that he should have double that amount.
The 23-year-old appears to have a big future ahead of him and he is doing everything right except for his finishing. There have been times though where he appears to look indecisive when an opportunity to score falls at his feet.
Darwin Nunez looks a big talent but he needs to improve his finishing if he is to succeed
This especially looks the case when he has time on the ball to make a decision about what he wants to do. When he has less time to take the shot, his finishing appears to be more accurate and instinctive.
It’s clear that Klopp has some confidence building to do with the Uruguayan striker.
However, from the level of his overall performance and the threat that he causes the opposition, if he can sort out his finishing then Liverpool will have a serious attacking force in the coming years.
Jurgen Klopp has a task at hand to build Nunez’s confidence to help improve at Anfield
Ajax to Manchester United for £85.5million
Similar story to Nunez in that you feel that there is a lot more to come from the Brazilian.
It’s clear he is a big attacking threat – he has scored seven goals and provided three assists in 24 games across all competitions this season.
However his decision making is questionable and his play is predictable as he always looks to go on his left foot.
Antony, similar to Nunez, also looks like a player who there is a lot more to come from
The 22-year-old has had a dip in form recently but it’s clear Ten Hag is a big fan of the player who he brought with him from Ajax and he will get many opportunities this season to prove himself and help him adjust more to Manchester United’s style.
Similar to Nunez, the jury’s out on Antony and it’s too early to judge him too harshly, so for the time being he also gets a rating of five.
Antony’s decision making and his predictable play has been a weakness this season
Shakhtar Donetsk to Chelsea for £88million
The Ukrainian forward was the most expensive signing of the January window before Chelsea decided to give him a new team-mate in Fernandez.
Going off the one cameo that Mudryk has played, a 0-0 draw with Liverpool, then the Blues have a serious talent on their hands.
But it will likely take some time for Mudryk to fully bed-in at Chelsea – especially with the competition for places at an extremely high level.
It’s too early though to rate Mudryk, given that he has been at the club for just over a fortnight.
Mykhailo Mudryk only just joined Chelsea but impressed in his cameo against Liverpool
Bayer Leverkusen to Chelsea for £89million (September 2020)
Havertz has had a mixed time so far at Chelsea with one high point far exceeding everything else he has achieved at the club.
The 23-year-old struggled during his first few months at the club, with manager Frank Lampard not appearing to know where his best position was, and with his coronavirus diagnosis in November 2020 also appearing to have an effect on his following displays.
It was only when Thomas Tuchel stepped in that the German youngster appeared to be playing with confidence, as he was played in a central attacking position.
Havertz was the hero in May of that season when he scored the goal that helped them beat Man City in the Champions League final.
Chelsea were rewarded for the heavy price the paid for Kai Havertz by his goal which won the Blues their second Champions League trophy in a 1-0 victory over Man City back in 2021
He then had a solid 2021-22 season scoring 14 goals and providing six assists in 47 appearances.
Though his form has been questioned at times this campaign, and has scored just six goals so far.
Havertz is still an important figure for Chelsea and has started the majority of the games he has competed in this season, though his performances might need to take another step given the club’s hefty January spending spree which will offer him even more competition.
His rating would have been a six, if it was not for his Champions League final goal – something that will make him fondly remembered among Chelsea fans when he leaves the club.
Taking aside the goal versus Man City, his time at Chelsea has been solid though unspectacular
Inter Milan to Chelsea for £98million (August 2021)
Both the player and club quickly came to regret his return to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2021.
After two impressive seasons at Inter Milan – who he helped win the title in 2020-21 – there were high hopes that he would return to England a better player following his struggles at Manchester United.
The move though turned out to be a disaster as he never suited Chelsea’s style under Tuchel and struggled with form and fitness.
Romelu Lukaku’s dream return to Stamford Bridge turned into a catastrophic failure
When he joined he was hailing a dream return to the club he supported a boy, and just four months later he was telling Sky Italia that he was ‘not happy’ with his role at the club.
He scored 15 goals over the course of the season but his move was nothing short of a failure and he was loaned out for a second stint at Inter Milan this season.
Given his price tag and seeing how things quickly fell apart, there’s a strong case for him to be the Premier League’s most expensive failed signing.
Lukaku returned to Inter Milan on loan – a club where he previously showed what he could do
Juventus to Manchester United for £100million (August 2016)
There was huge expectations surrounding Pogba when he returned in August 2016 – four years after leaving the club.
But Pogba was unable to inspire United to former glories. The 2017 League Cup and Europa League were the only trophies of his six-season spell.
He proved to be a big-money failure as his second stint was marred with inconsistent form and recurring injuries. His failings weren’t totally all down to him, as United’s managerial merry-go round, his constantly changing role and the club’s inability to get the right players around him also contributed.
Paul Pogba couldn’t match initial expectation due to inconsistent form and recurring injuries
Regarded as one of his generation’s most gifted talents, the glimpses where he showed what he could do at his best were few and far between.
The 2018-19 season was his best at the club, scoring 16 goals and providing 11 assists in all competitions.
However it all went downhill from there and he left the club last year at the end of his contract, after being booed off the pitch against Norwich and coming off with an injury inside ten minutes against Liverpool.
Man United couldn’t get the best out of Pogba like has been seen with France and Juventus
Aston Villa to Manchester City for £100million (August 2021)
Grealish has faced criticism since he joined Man City from his boyhood club, and a big part of that is due to the obvious comparisons people will make with the players around him, as well as what players previously at the club have contributed.
The England international has been solid since moving to the Etihad, but for a team that has won four out of the last five league titles, more is expected.
Particularly in terms of his attacking output. During his two seasons he has scored eight goals and provided as many assists in 64 appearances.
Jack Grealish has acknowledged the difficulty he has had at adapting to Manchester City
He is a menace for defenders but needs to improve his finishing if he is to stay in the City starting line-up long-term. Manager Pep Guardiola acknowledged that Grealish’s finishing needs to be better in December and said that it was an issue of ‘mentality’.
At Aston Villa everything appeared to revolve around Grealish, but at Man City, the player has admitted himself that it’s been difficult to adapt.
His form has improved this season, but it would be no surprise to see Guardiola’s side add another winger in the summer if they lose out on the title to Arsenal.
Pep Guardiola will likely want to see more from Grealish if he is to keep his place in the team
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