The past 12 months have seen some eye-opening transfer fees dished out for young talent, with a notable rise in elite clubs paying the big bucks for midfielders.
Below, we assess the four midfielders to have broken the nine-figure mark since the January window.
Enzo Fernandez to Chelsea – £108m
There was a queue of clubs waiting to knock on Benfica’s door after the relatively unknown Enzo Fernandez’s performances for Argentina in the 2022 World Cup, which saw the 21-year-old win the Young Player of the Year award. It was Chelsea who eventually secured the services of the former River Plate player after weeks of intense negotiations with Benfica, who commanded a fee that at the time was the British transfer record.
Enzo was certainly thrown in at the deep end, being asked to perform an unfamiliar holding midfielder role after the Blues sold their only defensive midfielder, Jorginho, to Arsenal. The Argentine put in some solid performances in an otherwise chaotic Chelsea team, whose 12th-place finish is their lowest since 1994.
Fast forward to the present, and Enzo is arguably the Blues’ most important player, occupying a more advanced number 8 role (and shirt number) to demonstrate his attacking quality. His forward passing, dribbling and link up play has notably improved since last season, and he even managed to net his first Chelsea goal in a 2-1 win over AFC Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup second round.
Jude Bellingham to Real Madrid – €103m
Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham was another youngster who lit up the World Cup in November, cementing his status as one of football’s most coveted young players. There certainly would have been a lot of interest from clubs around Europe, but it was Spanish giants Real Madrid who swiftly secured the former Birmingham man’s signature, for an initial fee of over 100 million euros.
Bellingham’s start to life in Spain has been nothing short of sensational. The 20-year-old, playing in advanced midfield role, has notched up five goals and one assist in just four La Liga appearances so far, including a dramatic 95th minute winner against Getafe at the start of September, and looks to already be a fan favourite at the Bernabeu. His celebration after that last goal – holding his hands aloft and staring back at the adoring Madrid faithful – may eventually go down as one of the most iconic celebrations of all time.
Declan Rice to Arsenal – £105m
Former West Ham captain Declan Rice made no secret of his desire to move on from the east London club in the summer transfer window, and he got his wish when both Manchester City and Arsenal came calling. Arsenal eventually won the race for the 24-year-old, smashing their own transfer record and forking out £105m for the England international.
There were some doubts about whether Rice could make the transition from a defensive-minded side like West Ham to a team that dominates possession and necessitates proactive decision-making on the ball. However the early signs are that he’s silencing the doubter’s with some brilliant performances in his opening four appearances for the Gunners.
He’ll certainly never forget his first goal for the north Londoners – a decisive 96th minute strike against Manchester United – whilst his performance against Crystal Palace when Arsenal were down to 10 men was also notable.
Moises Caicedo to Chelsea – £115m
Chelsea’s decision to break the British transfer record for the second time in 7 months to land Moises Caicedo from Brighton doesn’t even tell half the story about the dramatic nature of the transfer. After Liverpool hijacked the Blues’ move for the Ecuadorian with an eleventh-hour bid, Caicedo sensationally rejected Jurgen Klopp’s side, opening the door for Chelsea to complete the formalities.
Caicedo’s Chelsea debut was one to forget, however. Having not experienced any pre-season action, the 21-year-old looked miles off the pace in the Blues’ 3-1 defeat to London rivals West Ham, even conceding a penalty in the dying embers of the game. His more recent performances have been slightly more encouraging, but it seems as if he’ll need to do a lot more if he is to justify his price tag.
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