Kyle Walker became the most expensive defender of all time last week when he completed a £50m+ move from Tottenham to Manchester City.
While an England international moving for a high fee shouldn’t really be out of the norm (albeit between two Premier League title rivals), the fact that Walker is now the most expensive defender of all time has raised a few eyebrows.
It continues the practice of English players being vastly overpriced in the transfer market, and is a ready-made answer to those who question why Premier League clubs will regularly target foreign imports that cost less.
The below XI is a list of some of the most expensive English players ever, and yet precious few of them would even be considered as starters in the national team, let alone justifying the fees.
Jordan Pickford – £30m (Sunderland – Everton, 2017)
Pickford may yet prove to be worth the outlay (and goalkeepers are generally undervalued), but to have the English under-21 international as the third most expensive keeper ever just doesn’t sit right at the current time.
Kyle Walker – £50m (Tottenham – Manchester City, 2017)
It was bound to happen sooner or later that £50m would become the benchmark for transfers involving massive clubs, and while Walker is one of the best right-backs in the league, the real winner from this deal is Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy.
John Stones – £47m (Everton – Manchester City, 2016)
Twelve months has done little for Stones to prove he was worth the £47m Man City shelled out for him. If anything he seems to have regressed and needs to have a big season at a club that will have no qualms about replacing him if he doesn’t.
Joleon Lescott – £22m (Everton – Manchester City, 2009)
£50m is now what £25m was ten years ago. Man City prised Lescott out of Everton’s iron grip in 2009 and while his time at the Etihad wasn’t a total disaster, Vincent Kompany (signed at a fraction of the price) regularly showed him up as the better defender.
Luke Shaw – £30m (Southampton – Manchester United, 2014)
Still the most expensive left-back of all time, and still yet to show why that is the case. Injuries and regular verbal beatings from Jose Mourinho have stifled his progress at Old Trafford, and it’s been pretty well signposted that this season is make-or-break for Shaw.
Shawn Wright-Phillips – £24m (Manchester City – Chelsea, 2005)
See above re: the £25m, In an ostentatious display of wealth (is there any other kind?) Chelsea wrestled Wright-Philips away from not-yet-loaded Man City in 2005. He struggled for form, for starts, and was sent back to Man City for a third of the price three years later.
Stewart Downing – £20m (Aston Villa – Liverpool, 2011)
Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli’s logic for of signing Downing was sound enough – he was a good crosser and Andy Carroll liked headers. However, the transfer fee and what actually transpired was not sound at all. Downing and Carroll rarely actually played together, and the former English international didn’t last long under Dalglish’s replacement Brendan Rodgers.
Raheem Sterling – £44m (Liverpool – Manchester City, 2015)
The original ‘£50m Englishman’, Sterlingeventuallyy went to Man City for £44m rising to £49m in 2015. While big things are still expected of him (and he is absolutely still young enough to make that happen), one gets the impression that, like Stones, he really needs to kick on this year and justify why he cost several million more than Leroy Sane.
David Bentley – £15m (Blackburn – Tottenham, 2008)
£15m might not seem a huge amount nowadays (insofar as it will buy you one Jordon Ibe or Harry Maguire) but back in 2008 it was a big investment. Bentley had looked impressive at Blackburn, but Tottenham were still taking a big gamble for that kind of money. It didn’t pay off. At all.
Andy Carroll – £35m (Newcastle – Liverpool, 2011)
Oh God, where to start with this? When Liverpool’s first bid of £30m was rejected by Newcastle, they should have just walked away and counted their blessings. Instead, they came back with a higher offer and made Carroll the most expensive player in their history. 11 goals in 58 appearances later, he was sold to West Ham.
Darren Bent – £19m (Sunderland – Aston Villa, 2011)
While Darren Bent was on a rich vein of form at the time, and £20m cheques are thrown around like confetti nowadays, Aston Villa bet the farm on the striker’s goals keeping them out of relegation trouble and agreed a fee of £19m rising to £24m. In that regard, it probably paid off as his nine goals in 16 games that season did help them stay up, but he would score just twelve times more before being sent to Fulham on loan in 2013.