The Most Expensive January Transfers in World Football in the Last Decade

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVDecember 17, 2022

The Most Expensive January Transfers in World Football in the Last Decade

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    Philippe Coutinho
    Philippe CoutinhoJOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

    Although the largest deals in world football tend to happen in the summer, the January transfer window occasionally features a huge move.

    Over the last decade, seven players have commanded a fee north of €60 million euros during the winter months. (Exchange rates continually vary, but the current comparison is $63.5 million dollars.)

    Brazilian winger Philippe Coutinho headlines the group, which also features Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk and American star Christian Pulisic. Not coincidentally, two clubs—Premier League side Liverpool and Bundesliga team Borussia Dortmund—are involved in two of the seven big-money January transfers as well.

    All transfer data is from Transfermarkt.

7. Bruno Fernandes

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    Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes reacts during the FA Cup fifth round soccer match between Derby County and Manchester United at Pride Park in Derby, England, Thursday, March 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
    AP Photo/Rui Vieira

    After a half-decade as a professional, Bruno Fernandes joined Sporting CP in 2017. The transfer to the Primeira Liga club served as the springboard to a greater move.

    The two-time Player of the Year in Portugal's top flight, Fernandes scored 39 goals in 83 appearances and helped Sporting win the Taça de Portugal in 2019. The midfielder then secured a high-profile transfer to Manchester United €63 million in January 2020.

    And it's been a successful signing for United.

    Fernandes finished the 2019-20 Europa League as the top goalscorer, the 2021-22 Champions League atop the assists chart and is a four-time Premier League Player of the Month.

    Fernandes has twice represented Portugal at the World Cup—most recently providing two goals and three assists in 2022.

6. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

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    Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates with his teammates after scoring his side's opening goal from a penalty spot during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium in London, Sunday Dec. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
    AP Photo/Tim Ireland

    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang emerged as a dominant scorer with 25 goals in the Bundesliga for Dortmund in 2015-16. He netted 31 more the following season, and a hot start in 2017-18 led to his departure for the Premier League.

    Arsenal put up €63.75 million for the striker, whose form largely continued for a couple of seasons.

    The Gabon international tallied 10 goals in his first half-season with the Gunners, 31 in 2018-19 and 29 in 2019-20 while captaining his side to an FA Cup title.

    Unfortunately for both Auba and Arsenal, the partnership unraveled. Eventually, his tenure ended with a once-unthinkable free transfer to Barcelona in early 2022. He soon returned to the Premier League with a €12 million fee to join Chelsea.

5. Christian Pulisic

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    Chelsea's Christian Pulisic fights for the ball against Lille's Boubakary Soumare during the Champions League Group H soccer match between Chelsea and Lille at Stamford Bridge stadium in London Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
    AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

    One year following Aubameyang's transfer to Arsenal, Christian Pulisic followed his former Dortmund teammate to London.

    Pulisic, though, linked up with rival Chelsea.

    In the most expensive transfer for a United States international, he cost €64 million to acquire in January 2019. Pulisic stayed with Dortmund on loan for the remainder of the season prior to his Chelsea arrival.

    Between a handful of injury setbacks, a few coaching changes and positional instability, Pulisic's time in West London has been a roller coaster. He excelled in the return from the COVID-19 pause but otherwise has struggled to find a consistent role, although he played a key part in Chelsea winning the 2020-21 Champions League.

    Pulisic headlined the U.S. squad at the 2022 World Cup, tallying an assist in his tournament debut and scoring the goal that secured the Americans a trip to the knockout round.

4. Aymeric Laporte

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11: Aymeric Laporte of Manchester City in action during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Etihad Stadium on November 11, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Aymeric Laporte's story is a fascinating tale.

    Born and raised in France, he represented his home country at youth international levels despite developing in Spain. The center back broke into Athletic Bilbao's first team at 18 years old. Laporte made 161 appearances for Athletic until his transfer in 2018.

    Manchester City landed him for €65 million, and he became a fixture in the lineup. Knee injuries have since hampered Laporte, but he's started more than 100 games for City.

    Along the way, Laporte's international tone shifted from Spain not being an option he would pursue to receiving Spanish citizenship in 2021. He started three games for Spain in the 2022 World Cup.

3. Dušan Vlahović

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    Juventus' Dusan Vlahovic controls the ball during the Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Juventus at the San Siro stadium, in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
    AP Photo/Antonio Calanni

    The metaphorical jury is out on Dušan Vlahović and the €81.6 million transfer that brought him to Juventus.

    During the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons with Fiorentina, he amassed 41 goals in 64 appearances. Serie A counterpart Juve shelled out the massive fee to fill its void at striker following Cristiano Ronaldo's departure.

    Vlahović scored seven goals in 15 Serie A matches to close 2021-22, but a groin injury has limited him so far in 2022-23. Juventus has immense expectations for Vlahović, who turns 23 on January 28.

    Serbia did not advance out of the group stage at the 2022 World Cup, but Vlahović scored once in Qatar.

2. Virgil van Dijk

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    Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, left, and Liverpool's Virgil Van Dijk challenge for the ball during the Champions League Final soccer match between Real Madrid and Liverpool at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
    AP Photo/Sergei Grits

    Virgil van Dijk is a well-traveled defender who's played professionally in the Netherlands, Scotland and England. He broke into the Premier League with Southampton in 2015 and starred for the Saints until the checkbook at Liverpool changed his uniform.

    The towering center back cost an €84.65 million fee, but van Dijk has proved well worth the price.

    Van Dijk has been a mainstay in Liverpool's lineup and played an integral role in the Reds' many recent successes. The club won the Champions League in 2018-19 (a season in which he earned UEFA Men's Player of the Year honors), the Premier League in 2019-20 and both the FA and Carabao Cups in 2022.

    The longtime captain of the Dutch team, Van Dijk helped the Oranje reach the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup.

1. Philippe Coutinho

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    FC Barcelona's Coutinho celebrates after scoring during the team's Spanish La Liga soccer match against Alaves at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
    AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

    The most expensive player in this exclusive group is also one of the most experienced.

    Philippe Coutinho debuted for Serie A club Inter Milan as an 18-year-old attacker in 2010. From there, he joined Liverpool in January 2013 for a modest €13 million fee.

    It's safe to say Liverpool made a bit of money. The same cannot be said for Barcelona, though.

    After 201 matches with the Reds, Coutinho headed to the La Liga power for €135 million in a 2018 transfer—which also aided Liverpool's pursuit of van Dijk. Coutinho played well initially, but his Barcelona tenure ultimately had a relatively minor impact, including a handful of injuries and season-long loans to Bayern Munich and Aston Villa.

    Villa paid €20 million to add the Brazilian during the summer window in 2022.