Evaluating the Premier League’s top five most expensive signings

April 8, 2024

The Premier League has seen many fantastic players in its time. From skilled strikers such as Thierry Henry and Sergio Aguero, to imposing defenders like John Terry and Nemanja Vidic to speedy wingers like Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah. 

But who are the most expensive signings to sign for Premier League clubs, and how often do they live up to the billing. We’ve decided to delve deep into the careers of the five most Premier League signings of all-time to judge whether you truly get what you pay for.

  1. Moises Caicedo – £115 million – August 2023

In the summer of 2023, Moises Caicedo was the transfer target every big club was after. Ecuadorian midfielder was coming off a phenomenal season with Brighton, where he had been the lynchpin of their midfield as they achieved a club record sixth place finish.

Liverpool were in hot pursuit, but Chelsea delivered the killer blow, bidding £115 million. Caicedo initially found it difficult to settle in at Stamford Bridge, the chaos from the boardroom filtering down to the pitch. Despite being given time to find his feet, Caicedo along with his Chelsea team-mates have punched well below their weight, with the Blues currently sitting in 12th place.

At just 22, there is still time for Caicedo to turn his form around, and with an eight-year contract it is almost certain that Chelsea will give the talented youngster the time deserves.

  1. Enzo Fernandez – £107 million – January 2023

Enzo Fernandez caught Chelsea’s eye during the 2022 World Cup. Fernandez was an integral member of Argentina’s triumphant World Cup squad, so much so that he won the award for young player of the tournament. 

Despite having played only 17 games for Benfica, Chelsea did not hesitate and signed the midfielder for a then record breaking fee of £107 million. 

The consensus is that the 23-year-old midfielder hasn’t quite lived up to the hype, and hasn’t yet adapted to the intensity of the Premier League. There have been glimpses of promise, such as his performance in Chelsea’s 6-0 Carabao Cup semi-final win over Middlesbrough, but these have been largely few and far between.

  1. Jack Grealish – £100 million – August 2021

Jack Grealish is one of English football’s most fascinating characters. Initially written off as a playboy footballer who had been given far too much credit, far too young, Grealish evolved. Given the captaincy of his boyhood club Aston Villa, Grealish played a star role as Villa returned to the Premier League in 2019.

After strong performances for club and country, Man City gambled, and paid £100 million to sign the winger. Grealish took time to adapt to Guardiola’s complex systems and spent much of his first season at the club on the bench. 

In his second season, Grealish came alive. Playing 50 matches in all competitions, Grealish played his role to a tee as Manchester City picked up a historic treble. The 28-year-old has spent much of the 2023/24 season outside of the starting line-up, but for what he did in City’s treble season, he won’t be forgotten by the Etihad faithful.

  1. Declan Rice – £100 million – July 2023

The career Declan Rice has had shows that there is still no substitute for perseverance and resilience. Rice was let go by the Chelsea academy at the age of 14, the chances of a career at the very top now appearing unlikely. Snapped up by West Ham, Rice would go on to make 204 appearances for the Hammers. What’s more he captained the side to their first major trophy in over 40 years as they were victorious in the Europa Conference League.

In that time he also became a regular starter for England. It’s why Mikel Arteta felt he was the ideal fit to replace Granit Xhaka as the base of Arsenal’s midfield. Rice has taken to the Emirates like a duck to water, not just providing but chipping in with goals too. The 25-year-old has had a stellar start to his Arsenal career as they chase domestic and European glory.

  1. Romelu Lukaku – £97.5 million – August 2021

Romelu Lukaku has chartered a strange career, one where he could be considered both a journeyman striker, and yet one of the most elite players in his position. Lukaku first burst into the public consciousness when he was signed by Chelsea at the age of 17. Never settling in at Stamford Bridge, Lukaku did enjoy fruitful loan spells at West Bromwich Albion and Everton.

Lukaku would go on to sign permanently for the Toffees and would establish himself as one of the most feared marksmen in the league. His best season came in 2016/17, when netted 25 times in the Premier League. This caught the attention of Manchester United.

Lukaku never quite hit the heights at Man Utd, although he did have some good moments in a United shirt, most notably a brace against PSG in the Champions League.

A move to Internazionale followed, who did manage to get the best of the Belgian international. He led the line, as Internazionale ended Juventus’ reign of dominance to win Serie A.

It was at this point, Lukaku set his sights back to Stamford Bridge, an attempt to rectify his ropey Chelsea legacy. The club forked out £97.5 million, but Lukaku failed to make the impact he desired. In his second spell, Lukaku mustered just eight goals, before returning back to Inter on loan.

The Verdict

Well of the five players we’ve analysed only two can be considered genuine successes, and even then with some caveats. Jack Grealish has often contributed to the most dominant team in the Premier League, and remains a valuable part of their squad even if it is often off the bench. 

The signing of Declan Rice certainly looks like money well spent, although the England international is still only in his first season at the Emirates. 

Of those who have struggled, Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo remain relatively inexperienced, with both having time on their hands to adjust to the Premier League. Lukaku’s move to Chelsea is the only one that can be classed as an outright mistake.

With some of the world’s most expensive footballers playing in England’s top-flight it is easy to see why Premier League tickets are in such high demand. Fans have to act fast to secure seats for a League that always bring high drama and unpredictable results.

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