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13 Biggest Selling Clubs in Football

Laura GreeneFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2014

13 Biggest Selling Clubs in Football

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    Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

    As we delve into this slideshow, it's important to define, first of all, what constitutes a "selling club."

    It's a term that could be applied to those who have generated more transfer revenue than any other team, but it more accurately applies to sides who need to sell to survive and will wave goodbye to any player, no matter their skill, for the right price.

    They could be clubs who have a production line of young up-and-comers who are regularly exchanged for handsome sums of money. Or they could fit the model of Udinese Calcio or FC Porto, who have scouting networks that reach far and wide, where emerging talent is bought on the cheap, nurtured and developed before being sold on.

    The slides are arranged in an order from 13-1, which reflects the income these clubs have received from their sales over the last 10 seasons (including summer 2014).

    All transfer data comes from Transfermarkt

13. Roma

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    Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

    AS Roma are a club adept, in recent years, at buying players and selling them on for hugely increased prices.

    Until the 2011 buyout, in which the side's new American investors spent in the region of $160 million to acquire its share and pay off debt, contracts and other legacy costs (h/t Brian Straus on SI.com), Roma had outspent on arrivals rather than departures in all but one season since 2004/05.

    Transfer fees received from player sales from 2005/06—2014/15: €292.5 million

    Key Sales in That Period:

    Mehdi Benatia: Bought in July 2013 from Udinese Calcio for €13.5 million. Sold to Bayern Munich one year later for €26 million.

    Marquinhos: The Brazilian youngster arrived at Roma in January 2013 for a fee in the region of €5 million. Paris Saint-Germain didn't balk at his €31.4 million asking price just six months later.

    Erik Lamela: Cost the Serie A side €17 million in 2011, brought in €30 million when Tottenham Hotspur acquired his services in August 2013.

    Michael Bradley: Came to the Stadio Olimpico from Chievo Verona for €3.75 million and was on his way out for €7.4 million in January 2014.

    Fabio Borini: Joined Roma from Parma for €7.6 million. Departed for Liverpool six months later for almost double that fee.

12. Valencia

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    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    Until they were bought by businessman Peter Lim in May 2014, Valencia's financial situation looked bleak, with huge debt seeing the La Liga side stripped of many of its prized players. Los Che's finances were so bad that in 2009, with the club estimated at £500 million in the red, Sid Lowe wrote in World Soccer that, "Valencia's debts threaten the very existence of the club."

    Transfer fees received from player sales from 2005/06—2014/15: €312 million

    Key Sales in That Period:

    Jeremy Mathieu: Signed on the dotted line with Barcelona in summer 2014 for €20 million.

    Juan Bernat: Sold to Bayern Munich for €10 million.

    Roberto Soldado: Arrived at the Mestalla for €10 million in 2010. Just 141 games and 82 goals later, he joined Tottenham Hotspur for €30 million.

    Jordi Alba: After joining Valencia's youth set-up in 2007, Jordi Alba was snapped up by Barcelona in July 2012 for €14 million.

    Juan Mata: Swapped Real Madrid's B-team for Valencia for free in July 2007. Sold on to Chelsea for €27 million in 2011.

    David Villa and David Silva: Two of Valencia's brightest talents—were sold in July 2010, to Barcelona (€40 million) and Manchester City (€28.75 million), respectively. 

11. Sevilla

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Sevilla have been forced to part ways with legions of top players in recent years, due to financial woes resulting from the Spanish economic crisis, club debts, a failure to qualify for any European competition in 2011/12 and 2012/13, plus outstanding wages still owed to players, as seen on ESPNFC.com

    It remains to be seen whether the side's 2013/14 Europa League win will have any positive bearing on their finances in the years ahead.

    Transfer fees received from player sales from 2005/06—2014/15: €338 million

    Key Sales in That Period:

    Federico Fazio: Moved to to Tottenham Hotspur this summer for €10 million.

    Alberto Moreno: Penned a deal with Liverpool for €18 million in August 2014.

    Ivan Rakitic: The 26-year-old midfielder was sold to Barcelona for €18 million.

    Dani Alves: Bought in January 2003 for €500,000 from Vitoria after a 2002 loan spell from Bahia, Alves made over 200 appearances for Sevilla, before being sold to Barcelona in summer 2008 for €35.5 million.

    Seydou Keita: Bought in July 2007 for €4 million from Lens. Sold on to Barcelona one year later for €14 million. 

    Gary Medel: Bought in January 2011 for €3 million. Sold on to Cardiff City for €13 million after 18 months at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

    Jesus Navas: An academy product, sold to Manchester City for €20 million in summer 2013, along with €25 million striker Alvaro Negredo.

    Geoffrey Kondogbia: Bought in summer 2012 for €4 million from Lens and bought for €20 million by Monaco in summer 2013.

10. Arsenal

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    Akira Suemori/Associated Press

    There aren't many Premier League sides with the financial stability of Arsenal, yet—until summer 2013—a reluctance to pay exorbitant transfer fees and a strong commitment to balancing the books while paying off their new Emirates Stadium and bringing through young talent, saw the Gunners become known as a selling side.

    Between 2006 and 2012, it was Manchester City and Barcelona who prospered most through Arsenal's apparent willingness to sell.

    Transfer fees received from player sales from 2005/06—2014/15: €354 million

    Key Sales in That Period:

    Thomas Vermaelen: The 28-year-old was sold to Barcelona for €10 million in August 2014, five years after joining the club.

    Robin van Persie: The Dutchman's 2012 move to Manchester United came as a shock, costing the Old Trafford side €30.7 million.

    Alex Song: Switched to Barcelona in 2012 for €19 million.

    Cesc Fabregas: The Spaniard moved to Barcelona in 2011 for €34 million.

    Samir Nasri: Moved to Manchester City in 2011 for €27.5 million, along with €7.75 million Gael Clichy.

    Emmanuel Adebayor: Made the switch to Manchester City in 2009. The cost? €29 million.

    Kolo Toure: Manchester City shelled out €18.7 million for the Ivorian in 2009.

    Alexander Hleb: Sealed a 2008 move to Barcelona for €17 million.

    Thierry Henry: After eight years with Arsenal, moved to Barcelona for €24 million. 

    Ashley Cole: Crossed London to join Chelsea in 2006 for €7.4 million, plus William Gallas.

9. Udinese Calcio

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    Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

    They are no Italian powerhouse, they finished 13th in Serie A last season and their last piece of silverware (the Intertoto Cup, no less) was won in 2000. Yet Udinese Calcio's scouting system is one of the best in the world. 

    Experts at bringing in raw young talent for the smallest of transfer fees and selling them on for vastly inflated sums, a look back at the club's transfer activity reads like a who's who of some of Europe's best.

    Transfer fees received from player sales from 2005/06—2014/15: €355 million

    Key Sales in That Period:

    Juan Cuadrado: Joined Udinese from Colombian side Medellin in 2009 for an unknown fee. Sold on to Fiorentina in 2013 for €20 million.

    Mehdi Benatia: Arrived at the Stadio Friuli on a free transfer in 2010. Udinese sold him on to Roma in 2013 for €13.5 million.

    Antonio Candreva: Signed by Udinese for €500,000 in 2007. After six years of loan moves (which earned the side over €3 million), the winger put pen to paper with Lazio for €10.7 million.

    Kwadwo Asamoah: Joined Udinese for €1 million in 2009. Bought by Juventus for €18 million in 2012.

    Mauricio Isla: Cost just €525,000 in 2007. Signed up by Juventus for €13.9 million five years later.

    Samir Handanovic: Arrived on a free transfer in 2004. Departed a €12 million-player in 2012.

    Alexis Sanchez: Cost €3 million in 2007. Sold on for a whopping €26 million to Barcelona in 2011.

    Gokhan Inler: The Swiss midfielder cost just €1 million in 2007. Napoli were prepared to pay €18 million for his services in 2011.

8. Genoa

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    New Press/Getty Images

    Competing outside of Serie A for 12 seasons, Genoa were forced to sell some of their best players after winning promotion in 2006/07, in a bid to strengthen the backbone of the team.

    Financial struggles have consigned Il Grifone to the fate of being one of Italy's selling clubs, with president Enrico Preziosi admitting just last year that he had lost €140 million on his side and would be forced to continue selling star players.

    As told to Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t football-italia.net), he said:

    Over the last few years I have lost €140m and in a period of financial crisis in the country I am even ashamed to admit it. It was my money and I spent it for the good of Genoa. However, the time has come for a change of approach. In the next two years we’ll try to balance the books and to do that there have to be some sacrifices.

    Transfer fees received from player sales from 2005/06—2014/15: €357 million

    Key Sales in That Period:

    Stefano Sturaro: The Genoa youth product was sold to Juventus in summer 2014 for €5.5 million.

    Mattia Destro: Sold on to AS Roma in July 2013 for €4.5 million.

    Ciro Immobile: For €2.75 million, the striker was the third Genoa player to be sold to Torino in summer 2013.

    Rodrigo Palacio: Genoa sold Palacio to Inter Milan for €10.5 million in July 2012. Kevin Constant, Miguel Veloso, Nenad Tomovic, Sokratis, Robert Acquafresca and Chico Flores were among were among 12 further players to leave the Stadio Luigi Ferraris that summer. 

    Stephan El Shaarawy: Genoa pocketed €15.5 million for the young winger in 2011.

    Domenico Criscito: Sold to Zenit St. Petersburg for €15 million in summer 2011.

    Diego Milito: Sold for €25 million in July 2009, Milito notched 24 Serie A goals for Genoa in 2008/09, before joining Inter Milan. Leonardo Bonucci and Thiago Motta also departed the club that summer, for €10.5 and €10.2 million, respectively.

7. Inter Milan

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    New Press/Getty Images

    Helped along by gigantic revenue generated when Zlatan Ibrahimovic departed the club in 2009—coming in at number seven are Inter Milan.

    The club have failed to reach the heights of their 2009/10 treble-winning season in recent times, finishing fifth, ninth, sixth and second over the last four Serie A campaigns. Bought by business tycoon Erick Thohir in 2013, the club have been offloading players and arranging incoming loan deals, rather than ploughing money into new signings as they did pre-treble.

    Transfer fees received from player sales from 2005/06—2014/15: €380 million

    Key Sales in That Period:

    Ishak Belfodil: Transferred to Parma for €3.5 million this summer.

    Giulio Donati: A product of the club's youth academy, Donati was sold to Bayer Leverkusen for €3 million in summer 2013.

    Luca Caldirola: Inter's under-20 team captain was sold to Werder Bremen for €2.25 million in July 2013.

    Giampaolo Pazzini: Sold to rivals AC Milan in 2012, Inter took a hit on the €18 million they paid for Pazzini in 2011, with a €12.5 million sale.

    Philippe Coutinho: Bought by the Nerazzurri for €3.8 million in 2010. Sold on to Liverpool for €10 million in 2013.

    Davide Faraoni: Acquired for free from Lazio in 2010, Faraoni was sold on to Udinese in 2012 for €8 million.

    Wesley Sneijder: Snapped up by Galatasaray for €7.5 million in 2013.

    Samuel Eto'o: Headed to Russia to join Anzhi Makhachkala for €27 million in summer 2011.

    Thiago Motta: Joined Paris Saint-Germain for €11.5 million in January 2012.

    Mario Balotelli: Exited the San Siro for a fee of €29.5 million in 2010, Manchester City his new home.

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Bought by Inter in 2006. Moved to Barcelona for €69.5 million in 2009.

6. Atletico Madrid

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Atletico Madrid are a club that have been forced to sell some of their best players over the last decade, just in order to function through years of mismanagement and financial hardship. 

    Some of the best strikers in world football have passed through the Vicente Calderon in recent memory, quite often at the peak of their powers. 

    The team's incredible La Liga title win in 2013/14, plus their journey to the Champions League Final, has seen talk of their financial situation die down, but as Iain Rogers reported for Reuters in April 2014, the club's current success is "built on shaky economic foundations."

    The sale of top players helps Atletico's cause and it came as no surprise to see Diego Costa heading for the exit this summer. He's not the first big name to leave in recent years and he won't be the last.

    Transfer fees received from player sales from 2005/06—2014/15: €381 million

    Key Sales in That Period:

    Diego Costa: Sold to Chelsea for €38 million on the back of a 36-goal season for Diego Simeone's side (in all competitions).

    Filipe Luis: Bought by Chelsea for €20 million in July 2014.

    Radamel Falcao: Fetched €60 million when the Colombian was sold to Monaco in 2013.

    Sergio Aguero: Manchester City paid €45 million for Aguero, who had made more than 200 appearances for the Spanish club.

    David de Gea: Manchester United shelled out €20 million for the (then) 20-year-old goalkeeper in 2011.

    Fernando Torres: Went to Liverpool in 2007, for a fee of €38 million. 

5. AC Milan

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    Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

    AC Milan have been working to reduce their debt in recent seasons. The Rossoneri's years of living way beyond their means have been replaced by big-money sales and modest—by their standards—buys since summer 2011.

    Milan have not won a trophy since the 2011 Italian Supercoppa—which acts as the curtain raiser to the Serie A season—and qualifying for the Champions League is no longer the "given" that it once was. The related shortfalls in revenues and the introduction of UEFA's Financial Fair Play have combined to turn Milan into a selling, not buying, European force.

    Transfer fees received from player sales from 2005/06—2014/15: €391 million

    Key Sales in That Period:

    Mario Balotelli: Departed for Liverpool this summer for a cut-price €20 million.

    Bryan Cristante: Signed by Benfica in 2014 for €6 million.

    Kevin-Prince Boateng: Bought for €7.5 million in 2011. Sold to Schalke for €10 million last summer.

    Thiago Silva: The Brazilian put pen to paper with Paris Saint-Germain in July 2012. The cost? €42 million.

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic: On the back of a 35-goal season for Milan, the Swede was sold to PSG for €21 million in 2012.

    Alexandre Pato: Went back to Brazil with Corinthians as part of a €15 million deal in January 2013.

    Klaas-Jan Huntelaar: Swapped AC Milan for Schalke in 2010, for €14 million.

    Kaka: Summer 2009 saw Kaka sold to Real Madrid for a huge €65 million.

4. Benfica

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    EuroFootball/Getty Images

    It's relatively easy for Portuguese clubs to attract foreign players to Europe—especially those from Brazil, whose transition to a new country is made a lot smoother by the lack of a significant language barrier. However, once established in the Primeira Liga, the lure of astronomical wages in other European leagues often proves too much to resist. 

    Incredibly successful in the process of acquiring new players and turning them into some of Europe's most in-demand players, Benfica are experts in the transfer market.

    Transfer fees received from player sales from 2005/06—2014/15: €406.60

    Key Sales in That Period:

    Lazar Markovic: Bought by Benfica in 2013 for €10 million. Sold to Liverpool for €25 million.

    Jan Oblak: Became La Liga's most expensive goalkeeper when Atletico Madrid purchased him for €16 million this summer. In 2010, Benfica paid €1.7 million to sign the Slovenian.

    Nemanja Matic: Chelsea paid €25 million for the Serbian, four years after selling him to Benfica for €5 million.

    Axel Witsel: Sold to FC Zenit St. Petersburg for €40 million in 2012. Exiting with €20.2 million Javi Garcia, who was sold to Manchester City.

    Fabio Coentrao: The Portugal international was signed up by Real Madrid for €30 million in 2011.

    Angel Di Maria, David Luiz and Ramires: All left the Estadio da Luz in 2010, for €33, €27 and €22 million, respectively.

    Simao Sabrosa: Joined Atletico Madrid for €20 million in 2007.

3. Liverpool

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Liverpool have the departure of several high-profile strikers to thank for the fact that they rank so highly in this slideshow.

    Players such as Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez have been seduced by offers to leave Anfield for pastures new in recent years. A period of destabilisation that followed the club's purchase by Tom Hicks and George Gillett also saw players sold, as revenue from Champions League qualification disappeared, not to mention a rise in increasing debt that reached figures in excess of £230 million, as reported by Paul Joyce in the Express

    Following John W. Henry's takeover and Brendan Rodgers' subsequent appointment as manager, several players have been sold to make way for new signings, with a big-money offer for Suarez also proving too good to turn down.

    Transfer fees received from player sales from 2005/06—2014/15: €442 million

    Key Sales in That Period:

    Luis Suarez: Bought by Liverpool from Ajax in 2011 for €26 million. Sold to Barcelona in 2014 for €81.25 million.

    Andy Carroll: The Reds were forced to take a hit on the €41 million they paid for the striker in 2011 when they sold him to West Ham for €17.5 million in summer 2013.

    Fernando Torres: Broke the British transfer record when Chelsea shelled out €58.5 million to sign him from Liverpool in 2011.

    Javier Mascherano: Sold to Barcelona for €20 million in 2010.

    Xabi Alonso: Swapped Anfield for the Bernabeu in 2009, Real Madrid paying €35.4 million to sign the Spaniard.

    Peter Crouch and John Arne Riise both departed in 2008, for €13.7 and €5 million, respectively.

    Craig Bellamy: Sold on to West Ham in 2007 for €11.25 million, with Mohamed Sissoko, Djibril Cisse, and Luis Garcia also exiting the club.

2. Tottenham Hotspur

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Tottenham Hotspur do not shy away from selling their top players, with the likes of Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Dimitar Berbatov all being sold to the highest bidder on the back of excellent performances at White Hart Lane.

    Multiple managerial changes and the failure to qualify regularly for the Champions League are reasons that players start to look elsewhere, as well as the clubs' inability to compete with rivals like Manchester United and Real Madrid when it comes to players' wages. 

    Transfer fees received from player sales from 2005/06—2014/15: €486 million

    Key Sales in That Period:

    Sandro, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jake Livermore all departed during summer 2014 to Queens Park Rangers, Swansea City and Hull City, respectively. The trio had a combined transfer sum in the region of €30 million.

    Gareth Bale: Sold to Real Madrid for €94 million. 

    Summer 2013 also saw Steven Caulker (Cardiff City), Jermain Defoe (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders) and Tom Huddlestone (Hull City)—among others—leaving the club.

    Luka Modric: The Croatia international was bought by Real Madrid in August 2012 for €30 million.

    Dimitar Berbatov: The Bulgarian scored 46 goals (in all competitions) for Spurs, before being sold on to Manchester United for €38 million in 2008.

    Michael Carrick: The midfielder was bought by Spurs for €4 million in 2004. Sold to Manchester United for €27.2 million two years later.

1. FC Porto

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    FC Porto are the undisputed champions when it comes to importing foreign talent, developing the players in Portugal and selling them on for some of the biggest fees in world football, while still maintaining a stranglehold on Primeira Liga—where they have won the competition seven times out of the last 10 seasons.

    As Harvey Taylor wrote in The Guardian last January, "Under the stewardship of their shrewd president, Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, Porto have not only sold their key on-field assets for large profits but done so without damaging the club's success on the pitch."

    Transfer fees received from player sales from 2005/06—2014/15: €657.5 million

    Key Sales in That Period:

    Danilo: A fee was agreed with Real Madrid during the 2014/15 season of €31.5 million for his services. He had cost €18m in January 2012.

    Eliaquim Mangala: Joined Manchester City for a huge €53.82 million—just three years after putting pen to paper with Porto for €6.5 million.

    Fernando: The Brazilian also joined Manuel Pellegrini's side in summer 2014, for €15 million. Porto bought the midfielder for just €720,000.

    James Rodriguez: Sold by Porto to Monaco in 2013 for €45 million.

    Joao Moutinho: Joined Rodriguez on his way to Ligue 1, when Porto sold him to Monaco for €25 million.

    Hulk: Zenit St. Petersburg paid through the nose for the Brazil international in September 2012, to the tune of €55 million.

    Radamel Falcao: Netted €47 million for the Portuguese club who had paid €5.43 million for his services just two years earlier.

    Lisandro Lopez: Bought in 2005 for €2.3 million. Sold to Lyon for €24 million in 2009.

    Anderson: Agreed a deal with Manchester United in 2007. The cost? €31.5 million.

    Pepe: Signed for Real Madrid for €30 million in 2007, three years after being bought by Porto for €2 million.

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