Picking a “most expensive” XI for the World Cup is an interesting task. The primary criterion is transfer fee ahead of talent. Lionel Messi is regarded by many as the world’s greatest player, but without a major transfer under his belt he is exempt from consideration.
Where possible, the team incorporates those players at the World Cup who have moved for the highest figure. However, there’d be no point simply listing the 11 most expensive players. This has to be a functional team.
Every team needs a goalkeeper. Fortunately, one of the most expensive goalkeepers in history will be at the tournament: Gianluigi Buffon. Buffon cost Juventus a massive £23 million back in 2001. However, his class and consistency have made that fee look a relative bargain. Aged 36, this could well be his last major tournament.
Defenders are not typically particularly expensive players. The exception to that rule seems to be Brazilians. In this team, there are three players from the Selecao. Dani Alves cost Barcelona around £23.5 million when he moved from Sevilla in 2008. He should have a good understanding with the two centre-backs: Thiago Silva and David Luiz.
Thiago Silva reportedly cost PSG €42 million when he joined from AC Milan in July 2012. If that price seems high, the Parisian club are about to beat it to recruit David Luiz. Although his move has not yet been officially announced, The Guardian report that a £50 million fee has already been agreed. That switch will make Luiz the most expensive defender in history.
The team’s left-back would be Portugal international Fabio Coentrao. When he moved from Benfica to Real Madrid, he cost as much as £27 million.
The team will be overloaded with attacking talent, so in order to provide balance it’s important to have two disciplined holding midfielders. First up is Manchester City’s destroyer Fernandinho. Although the £30 million man is not expected to start for Brazil, he remains a resolute and impressive midfield presence.
Fernandinho would protect the back four in tandem with Bayern Munich’s Javi Martinez. The Spaniard cost Bayern £32 million when they bought out his contract from Athletic Bilbao. That pair would present any attack with a formidable barrier.
It’s ahead of that where the fun really begins. On the flanks, this team can field the awesome combination of Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Depending on who you believe about the precise size of Gareth Bale’s transfer fee, Ronaldo might still be the most expensive player in the world. He is also the reigning World Player of the Year, and he is capable of taking a team apart single-handedly. The prospect of him cutting inside from the right with Dani Alves overlapping beyond him is absolutely mouth-watering.
He’d also have the freedom to switch to the left flank and interchange positions with Neymar. Neymar’s transfer to Barcelona was riddled with complexities and uncertainties. What is certain is that he was expensive: When his transfer was completed, the BBC reported the fee as a mammoth £48.6 million.
Neymar could well be the star of this World Cup. If he writes his name across the tournament as anticipated, that fee will begin to look like good value.
Through the middle, two South American forwards are deployed. Sergio Aguero, who cost Manchester City £38 million, will play off Uruguayan Edinson Cavani. Aguero prefers to play as the main man through the middle, but he has the creativity and instinctive positional play to function as a No. 10.
Cavani would provide a pivotal centre-forward for the team, linking with the trio coming from deep and snaffling up the chances they would inevitably lay on. A fee of around €64 million makes him the second-most expensive player in this side.
Were they able to compete in Brazil, an XI with this kind of quality would stand every chance of marching all the way to the final.