The majority of the most expensive football transfers of all time have involved attacking players. Such is the premium clubs will pay for a footballer who can score or create goals, the last time the transfer world record was broken by a defender was way back in 1922, when Sunderland paid South Shields the handsome sum of £5,500 for Warneford Cresswell. However, our focus here is the players tasked with preventing goals.
Whilst the biggest fees are typically paid for strikers, wingers and other attacking midfielders, that is not to say that clubs have not shelled out some huge wads of cash for shot-stoppers. Indeed, in recent times, probably due to the increased importance in the modern game of a goalkeeper who can play out from the back, fees for keepers have soared. As you can see below!
Five Most Expensive Goalkeepers of All Time
|Kepa Arrizabalaga||€80m||Athletic Bilbao||Chelsea||August 2018|
|Gianluigi Buffon||€52.9m||Parma||Juventus||July 2001|
|Andre Onana||€50.2m||Inter Milan||Man United||July 2023|
|Ederson||€40m||Benfica||Man City||June 2017|
Note that we have shown all fees in Euros as all the selling clubs used this currency. There can be discrepancies in reported fees due to exchange rate issues, plus the fact that fees are not always disclosed and often include add-ons and other complex clauses. However, the table above is an accurate reflection of the fees paid for the five most expensive goalkeepers of all time.
To say that Kepa has struggled at Chelsea would be something of an understatement. They signed the Basque keeper from Athletic Bilbao in 2018 for a fee that remains a world record sum for a goalie. At 29 years old he is no longer a young player, though he still has a good six seasons or more in him, but he has to start delivering on the promise he showed in Spain.
When the Blues signed him, they thought they were getting a world-class stopper who would be their number one for a decade. However, things didn’t work out for him and after a steady start mistakes began to creep in. He was dropped and then in September 2020 Chelsea signed Edouard Mendy for £22m and he became their number one, with Kepa relegated to the bench.
Chelsea’s near-constant managerial changes and an ownership change which has seen them embark on the wildest spending spree in football history have not helped Kepa. But ultimately he just didn’t produce the goods and in 2023 he was loaned to Real Madrid as cover for the injured Thibaut Courtois (himself one of the world’s most expensive keepers having been sold by Chelsea to Real for around £35m). Prior to this, the club had signed Robert Sanchez from Brighton and so despite being capped 13 times by Spain, Kepa found himself unwanted at the Bridge.
Alisson was very briefly the most expensive goalie in history but around a month later Kepa eclipsed him. Thankfully for the Brazilian, on the pitch it is he who has outshone the Spanish stopper. Alisson has been a huge hit at Anfield and is a big fan favourite. Liverpool fans would claim he is the best goalkeeper in the world and has been for some time and most experts would certainly put him in the top five or so.
The Reds had struggled for a top keeper for some time and so Jurgen Klopp spent a then-world-record fee of €62.5m on him, though some reports put the fee around €10m higher. It has been money well spent and the Brazilian, who battles it out with Ederson for the role of national team keeper, was vital to Liverpool’s Premier League title success. A great shot-stopper, he is perhaps the best in the world in one-on-ones, is exceptional with his feet and commands his box very well.
An outlier on this list, having been signed over 20 years ago, Buffon is one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. His €52.9m fee in 2001 equates to around €85m today, which shows just how much Juve thought of him. He spent 18 years in Turin and played a massive 656 games for Juventus, playing well over 1,100 games in his career if we include his mammoth 176 caps for Italy that came over a 21-year international career!
Buffon’s longevity is one of his great strengths and he only retired in 2023 at the grand old age of 45, after a stint back with his first club Parma. He won the World Cup with Italy in 2006, earning his first club honours in 1999 when he helped Parma to the Coppa Italia, the Supercoppa Italia and the UEFA Cup. He never quite managed to win the Champions League, losing in three finals with Juve, but won his last trophy in 2021, meaning he lifted silverware in four different decades!
Onana is in the early days of his Man United career following a big-money move from Inter Milan, where he helped the club to the Champions League final in 2022/23. He was immense in Inter’s run to the final and after a shaky start at Old Trafford has begun to make the incredible saves which earned him his move. He made a few errors early in his United career but is the sort of stopper who saves unsaveable efforts and boasts good distribution too. He will turn 28 in April 2024 so has a long career ahead of him and the Cameroonian, capped 36 times, may prove to be a rare good signing by the Red Devils.
Ederson has won it all at Man City and were it not for Alisson (61 caps) he would have played far more than 25 times for Brazil. Quite possibly the best goalkeeper in the world with his feet, his distribution is stunning and the former Benfica man has plenty of highlights reels around the internet. He is a great goalkeeper too, athletic, commanding and possessing superb reflexes. His very high starting position is crucial to City’s style of play and at “just” €40m City fans must feel their club got a real bargain.