Philippe Coutinho’s exuberant £142 million transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona this month has been touted as one of the more baffling moves in recent times. The switch itself is not a particular surprise – Coutinho wanted to move, Barcelona wanted to buy him – but the circumstances are a little more strange. Why now? Barcelona are pretty much a certainty to win the league, the player is ineligible for the Champions League, and £142 million is an awful lot of money.
Aside from this, there is the very real possibility that Liverpool won’t miss their playmaker all that much – the front three of Mo Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mané did perfectly well without the Brazilian when he was sidelined earlier in the season – and yet still stand to gain an absurd profit (which, given Naby Keïta’s arrival from RB Leipzig at the end of the season, they might do well to channel into a better goalkeeper and fullbacks).
But £142 million is just the kind of crazy football transfer world we live in nowadays. Neymar’s buyout clause was supposed to be a hands off warning, but Paris Saint Germain pulled the trigger without thinking twice. Barcelona have now spent more than that figure on just two players. To put all this absurdity into context, we decided to find out just exactly what this money would buy 10 years ago, based on actual transfers at the time. It could buy a whole team, as it turns out.
Mark Schwarzer – £0
When Mark Schwarzer’s contract with Middlesborough expired in June 2008, there were a whole host of teams clamouring for the Australian, including Bayern Munich and Juventus, no less. But Schwarzer turned these down in favour of guaranteed first team football, which led him to signing a deal with Fulham, where he was first choice keeper for five years. Backup spells with Chelsea and Leicester followed, meaning that Schwarzer became the first Premier League player since Eric Cantona to win back to back titles with different clubs.
Filipe Luis – £1,600,000
Long before his brief stint at Chelsea, Filipe Luis was a staple of Deportivo La Coruna’s defence. Initially joining in 2006 on loan, he eventually signed a permanent deal for approximately £1.6 million in 2008, going on to feature in La Liga’s team of the season, despite being just 22 years of age at the time. Now aged 32, he’s back at Athletico Madrid and is still one of the most consistent left backs in the league.
Vincent Kompany – £6,000,000
Despite recent recurrent injury problems, Kompany has been rock in the heart of Manchester City’s defence for a decade. He was initially purchased in the 2008 summer transfer window for £6 million from Hamburg, and made an instant impact at the Manchester club, making 45 appearances in his first season.
Branislav Ivanovic – £9,700,000
Usually deployed as a full back, Ivanovic proved to be an invaluable asset both on the right and in the centre for Chelsea. He moved to the London club for £9.7 million in the January 2008 transfer window from Lokomotiv Moscow. Having fallen out of favour with Antonio Conte, he has now returned to Russia to play for Zenit St Petersburg.
Pablo Zabaleta – £6,450,000
The Argentine spent 9 years as Manchester City’s right back, before signing for West Ham on a free transfer last summer, following the expiry of his contract at the Etihad. Arriving in Manchester from Espanyol, Zabaleta quickly established himself as a first team player for Manchester City in 2008, having chosen the English club over Juventus.
Samir Nasri – £14,000,000
Arsene Wenger had been tracking Nasri since before he was even born, apparently. Or at least since he was 17. So it was no great surprise when the Frenchman eventually joined his compatriot at Arsenal after making the switch from Marseille, after he topped Ligue 1’s assist chart for the 2007-2008 season. His form at Arsenal ensured a £25,000,000 switch to Manchester City in 2011.
Javier Mascherano – £18,700,000
Making his debut for Liverpool in 2007 on loan, Mascherano’s transfer from West Ham was blighted by contract difficulties. He eventually signed a permanent contract for the Reds in 2008, in a deal purported to be around £18.6 million, which included the player’s wages. Initially a defensive midfielder, his ability to slot into defence was fully by his current club Barcelona, who signed him in 2010, converting him into a fully fledged centre back the following season.
Luka Modric – £16,500,000
Still widely regarded as one of the best midfielders in the world, Modric moved from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham Hotspur, where he made 127 appearances over the next four years. When he was eventually sold to Real Madrid, Spurs got £30 million for the Croatian playmaker.
James Milner – £12,000,000
Where to begin with James Milner? Where to end? The Englishman has played all over during his career, from an auxiliary forward to Liverpool’s chief left back and penalty taker last season. But it was as a wide midfielder he made his name, moving to Aston Villa in 2008 from Newcastle. Former Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini described Milner as the most complete player in the modern English game. Boring or not, he remains perennially underrated.
Dimitar Berbatov – £30,750,000
The most expensive player in this team, Berbatov still represented good value for Manchester United after they bought him from Spurs, providing more assists than anyone else in the Premier League in his first season, and eventually going on to win the Premier League Golden Boot in 2010/2011.
Robbie Keane – £19,000,000
After a glistening six year spell at Tottenham Hotspur, Keane also departed White Hart Lane in 2008 alongisde Berbatov. His destination was Anfield, where he scored five times in 20 appearances, before moving back to Spurs the following January.
All things considered, this team at the time would have come to £134,600,000 – give or take. With that kind of money you’ve still got enough left over for half a Marouane Fellaini, too.