It’s often said a top-class goalkeeper can save their club more than 10 league points over the course of a season with a handful of match-defining punches, blocks, interceptions and catches. To cite an example of such heroics, David de Gea is estimated to have helped Manchester United end the 2014-15 Premier League campaign 18 points better off than it would’ve without his contribution.
The Spanish stopper produced dozens of miraculous saves to keep out spot kicks and injury time winners and equalisers last season, not to mention would-be goals earlier in matches that might’ve put Louis van Gaal’s men on the back foot. Simply put, United could’ve missed out on European football if not for having De Gea in goal.
But even with this in mind, the limelight so often shuns goalkeepers in favour of the more glamorous roles performed by strikers, creative midfielders, electrifying wingers and team captains. Media and fan attention isn’t the only part of football in which goalmouth custodians trail outfield players; the fees paid to secure the services of a goalkeeper are vastly lower than that of their forward, defensive, and midfield counterparts.
With the football world throwing astronomical money at whoever is supposedly deemed the wonderkid of the month, the keeper, who bears the tremendous responsibility of providing the last line of defence, is very rarely the most expensive member of a squad.
No goalkeeper has ever held the transfer fee world record and history suggests one probably never will. However, clubs have been willingly to part with sizeable amounts of cash in order to land a reliable guardian between the sticks and hopefully rescue a smattering of league points throughout the season.
Here are the top 15 highest goalkeeper transfer fees of all-time.
*All transfer fees are sourced from transfermarkt.co.uk.
15 T14. Claudio Bravo to Barcelona – £8.4m
Only a select few goalkeepers in world football would be given the chance to take a direct free kick in a competitive match, let alone ripple the net with a rocketing drive past their opposite number. Claudio Bravo made his share headlines after he it pulled off during a 1-0 victory for Real Sociedad in February 2010, but his permanent claim to fame occurred on June 18th, 2014 when he signed for FC Barcelona and became one of the most expensive footballers ever to play in his position. Given his contribution throughout the 2014-15 campaign, an £8.4m transfer fee doesn’t do justice to the status the Chilean has forged within the Catalonian capital.
14 T14. Samir Handanovic to Inter Milan – £8.4m
A penalty-saving specialist can be the difference in a single match or an entire tournament, and that’s exactly the kind of expertise Inter Milan signed in the form of Samir Handanovic in 2012. The £8.4m acquisition holds the record for the joint-most penalty kicks saved in an individual league season with six successful stops during the 2010-11 campaign, which he played with Udinese. But with more senior caps under his belt than other Slovenian goalkeeper in history, Handanovic offers much more to his position than just a reliable record from the spot. The 31-year-old is a superb shot-stopper with a knack for producing marvellous saves thanks to his world-class agility and reflexes.
13 Fraser Forster to Southampton – £8.75m
Having made a name for himself over the course of four seasons at Celtic Park, it’s no great surprise Fraser Forster is comfortably holding his own donning the gloves for Premier League outfit Southampton. Boasting the most clean sheets in the division after 24 matches, the 27-year-old was on track to produce a remarkable debut season in the English top-flight until it was cut short by a broken kneecap he suffered against Burnley in late March. Knowing Forster is capable of rubbing shoulders with the best stoppers in the country, Saints fans will be chomping at the bit to see their bargain £8.75m man return to action for the 2015-16 campaign.
12 Hugo Lloris to Tottenham – £8.82m
Hugo Lloris has attracted interest from top European clubs throughout most of his senior career, so it was only a matter of time before one of his many admirers decided to pay big money for his services. Tottenham was the first to pounce on the France international, parting with £8.82m to prise him away from Ligue 1 giant Lyon on transfer deadline day in August 2012. Lloris has lived up to his reputation as one of the best shot-stoppers in the world to become the undisputed number one goalkeeper at White Hart Lane, while earning vice-captain duties to boot. However, one ponders how long a player of his quality can remain at a club bereft of Champions League football.
11 Petr Cech to Chelsea – £9.1m
The £9.1m transfer fee that brought Petr Cech to Stamford Bridge is arguably the most gratifying purchase Roman Abramovich has made since taking over Chelsea in June 2003. The towering Czech goalkeeper joined the west London club from Rennes in July 2004 and was promoted to the first eleven to replace Carlo Cudicini, who suffered an elbow injury during preseason. Cech earned a clean sheet in his Premier League debut in a 1-0 win over Manchester United and it was a sign of things to come as he went on to make the Chelsea goalkeeper shirt his own for an entire decade. Now the most decorated Blues keeper of all-time, the 33-year-old will forever be considered a legend by those who frequent the Shed End.
10 T9. Sebastien Frey to Inter Milan – £9.8m
Conscious of the immense talent they were paying for, Inter Milan officials didn’t bat an eyelid when the club shelled out £9.8m to sign 18-year-old Sebastien Frey from French side AS Cannes in July 1998. The teenage goalkeeper was behind both Andrea Mazzantini and Gianluca Pagiluca in the pecking order for much of his debut season at the San Siro, but still managed seven league appearances by the season’s end. Struggling for first-team action, Frey was shipped loaned to Hellas Verona in July 1999 before returning to the Nerazzurri to become first-choice between the sticks for the 2000-01 campaign. Sub-par team performances evoked a reshuffle throughout the squad the following season and saw Frey loaned to Parma before the switch was made permanent in the summer of 2003 (which we'll see shortly).
9 T9. Petr Cech to Arsenal – £9.8m
The fact Chelsea made a profit on the sale of one of its shrewdest pieces of transfer business ever is a testament to the incredible standard Petr Cech upheld throughout his Blues career. Although he forged a reputation as one of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation over a decade-long career at Stamford Bridge, the Czech international provided little more than a back-up option during his swansong campaign in west London. Arsene Wenger seized the opportunity to at last add a world-class stopper to his Arsenal squad, coughing up £9.8m to secure the signature of the 33-year-old on 1 July 2015.
8 Jan Oblak to Atletico Madrid – £11.2m
Moving to Atletico Madrid to replace then-outgoing Chelsea loanee Thibaut Courtois, 21-year-old Jan Oblak had a big pair of gloves to fill when he arrived at the Vicente Calderon from Benfica in July 2014. The young Slovenian is yet to cement his place as the number one choice between the sticks, managing a mediocre 11 La Liga appearances during the 2014-15 season. But with time very much on his side, it’s clear Oblak is next in line to become a mainstay behind the Atletico defence in the coming years. At the discretion of Diego Simeone, he might even inherent a more regular starting role for the 2015-16 campaign.
7 Angelo Peruzzi to Lazio — £12.53m
Revered as one of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation, Angelo Peruzzi was blessed with all the attributes required to be a top-class all-round keeper. Although he would be considered short compared to modern players in his position, the stocky Italian was a fine shot-stopper who was quick off his line and boasted remarkable positioning and reflexes. Well versed in his goalkeeping abilities, Lazio parted with £12.53m to sign Peruzzi from Inter Milan in July 2000 and he would play out seven seasons at the Stadio Olimpico before retiring in 2007.
6 Angelo Peruzzi to Inter Milan – £13.3m
Prior to joining Lazio at the turn of the century, Angelo Peruzzi commanded the most expensive transfer fee of his career when Inter Milan prised him from Juventus a year earlier in July 1999. The goalkeeper endured a standalone season of little success at the San Siro under ex-Juventus boss Marcello Lippi, finishing fourth in the Serie A table before succumbing to defeat against Lazio over two legs in the Coppa Italia final. Peruzzi rekindled his career by signing for the victorious Stadio Olimpico club, where he went on to enjoy a seven-year stint in the national capital.
5 David de Gea to Manchester United – £14m
Carrying a £14m price tag places an immense pressure on the shoulders of a 20-year-old goalkeeper, but when the player in question is hand-picked by Sir Alex Ferguson to replace the legendary Edwin van der Sar, the expectations increase fourfold. Former Atletico Madrid starlet David de Gea has coped well with such a burden, his resilience culminating in the stellar performances he produced throughout the 2014-15 season. The Spaniard looks to have grown into role he was signed to fulfil at Old Trafford, but unfortunately for Manchester United and its supporters, his signature is fast becoming one of the most sought after in world football.
4 Sebastien Frey to Parma – £14.7m
After two seasons on loan at Parma, Sebastien Frey returned to Inter Milan only to be deemed surplus to requirements following the arrival of Francesco Toldo from Fiorentina. Based on his efforts during his double spell between 2001 and 2003 at the Stadio Ennio Tardini, the Frenchman was the prime candidate to permanently replace Gianluigi Buffon, who had been sold to Juventus. Over the course of the next two seasons, Frey became a key member of the Parma squad before financial problems forced the club to loan out its first choice goalkeeper to Fiorentina in 2005. The £14.7m signing never played another game for Parma and was eventually sold to the Florence club a year later.
3 Francesco Toldo to Inter Milan – £18.55m
Francesco Toldo was part of a transfer merry-go-round in the summer of 2001. His £18.55m move to Inter Milan forced Sebastien Frey out of the San Siro to replace Gianluigi Buffon, who was leaving Parma to join Juventus, where Edwin van der Sar had departed from Fulham. Toldo enjoyed the best years of his career with the Nerazzurri, winning five Serie A titles, three Coppa Italia crowns and a UEFA Champions League medal before hanging up his gloves in July 2010.
2 Manuel Neuer to Bayern Munich – £21m
Statistical and financial figures are most common measurements associated with football, but they don’t apply in every case. The £21m fee paid to transfer Manuel Neuer from Schalke to Bayern Munich is minimal compared to the deep rift the move has caused between the goalkeeper and fans of his boyhood club. Supporters within the Allianz Arena once refused to call the German one of their own, but with three Bundesliga titles, two German cups and UEFA Champions League medal to his name, Neuer could hardly seem more at home. Although the 29-year-old is widely considered the greatest keeper on the planet, he misses out on the top spot in this article by some distance.
1 Gianluigi Buffon to Juventus – £37.02m
Considering Gianluigi Buffon is still top-class in the twilight of his career at 37-years-old, the £37.02m fee Juventus paid Parma to secure his services in July 2001 seems close to just compensation. Although it’s a world-record, the fee equates to roughly £2.5m per season to field arguably the best keeper of his generation for over 15 years. His contract is set to expire in June 2017, meaning chances are Buffon will add to his six Serie A titles and perhaps even lift the elusive Champions League trophy with the Old Lady reemerging as a European heavyweight in recent seasons.