Real Madrid’s Five Most Expensive Signings

On the 20 February, 2024, it was announced that French megastar, Kylian Mbappé, 2017 winner of the Golden Boy Award and the top scorer at the 2022 World Cup, would be joining Real Madrid in the summer. Right now, Mbappé is reckoned to be the joint-most valuable player in world football, alongside Jude Bellingham and Erling Haaland – the trio all valued at €180m by one respected transfer website.

However, Real Madrid will not be paying that sum and will instead be paying around £154m as things stand at the time of the announcement. In fact, they will not pay PSG a penny, with the scenario coming to pass that the Paris outfit did everything they could to try and avoid – Mbappé moving on a free. Given the French ace will earn an estimated £13m a season, plus garner an outrageous signing on fee of around £125m and maintain some of his own image rights, many experts are calling this the most costly free transfer of all time.

However, whilst the Mbappé signing, or pre-announcement of a contract to be more accurate, is huge news, Real are, of course, no strangers to splashing huge amounts of money on players. Sometimes they even pay transfer fees – and these are the five biggest!

Note that info is correct after the winter 2024 transfer window and that fees are based on exchange rates at the time of the transfer. Additionally, where the full fee and guaranteed adds-ons have not been disclosed, these are best estimates based on authoritative reporting at the time.

Eden Hazard, £103.5m from Chelsea in 2019

Eden Hazard
Aleksandr Osipov, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikipedia

Real Madrid’s record signing has perhaps been one of the worst-value additions they have ever made. The Belgian was superb over several seasons for Chelsea and helped them win two Premier League titles, two Europa Leagues, an FA Cup and the League Cup. At his very best, which he was for much of his time at Stamford Bridge, he was unplayable, his low centre of gravity and supreme balance and control meaning he seemed able to jink past defenders at will.

He registered 85 goals and 54 assists for the Blues in just 245 Premier League outings and hit 16 goals in two of his last three seasons with the club (getting 12 in the other). Considering he played mainly as an attacking midfielder/wide player, those were impressive numbers and along with him being crowned the second-best player at the 2018 World Cup, they tempted Madrid to pay up to €146m once all add-ons were factored in.

Hazard, who bagged 33 goals in 126 games for Belgium, was an almost total flop in the Spanish capital though. He arrived in poor shape and before long was beset by a series of small but hugely frustrating injuries. He just never really managed to produce his best football for a sustained period, be it due to confidence, injuries, slips in form or a related combination of the three. He scored just seven goals for Los Blancos, not quite what the club wanted when they agreed to pay him £400,000 a week and, sadly, Hazard retired from football in 2023, aged just 32.

Gareth Bale, £85.3m from Spurs in 2013

Gareth Bale
Alejandro Ramos, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikipedia

By our reckoning, Bale cost ever so slightly more than the man third on our list and if Hazard was a definite flop, Bale’s career at the Bernabeu is far harder to categorise. Like the Belgian, the Cardiff boy was signed due to a stunning run of form for a London-based Premier League side, as well as some sterling displays for his nation.

Bale tore teams apart for Spurs in his final season at the club, netting 26 goals in 44 games and producing one virtuoso performance after another. His combination of searing pace and power, plus sensational ball-striking produced a magnificent highlights reel and he was a player who really led by example on the pitch.

The early part of his time in Madrid was a triumph as his form continued and in his first five seasons in Spain he netted 22 goals, then 17, then 19, followed by an injury-affected nine, before notching 21 in 2017/18. In that time he helped the club win four Champions League titles and his place as a Real legend seemed assured.

Sadly for a range of reasons his form and relationship with the club and fans soured and in 2019/20 and 2020/21 he rarely played. And the famous “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.” flag he waved on national duty certainly didn’t help. He had a brief loan spell with Spurs and a short stint in LA before retiring after the 2022 World Cup, albeit with five Champions League medals in total.

Jude Bellingham, £84m from Borussia Dortmund in 2023

Jude Bellingham
Struway2, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikipedia

Bellingham already looks like an incredible bargain, even at the €134m his transfer could rise to. Incredibly the former Birmingham and Borussia Dortmund man is still just 20 and whilst it is early days to judge his Madrid career, after just 29 appearances he already has 20 goals – more than Hazard and as many as Beckham managed in their whole Real careers.

The powerfully built midfielder has 27 England caps already and the biggest issue for Gareth Southgate now is where to play him. Generally thought of as a midfielder, albeit one who can play virtually anywhere, in Spain, Carlo Ancelotti has used him in a much more advanced role. He has played as a 10, a false 9 and even from the flank, as well as in his more conventional areas. If he continues to develop he could go on to become one of Real Madrid’s – and England’s – greatest players of all time.

Cristiano Ronaldo, £80m from Man United in 2009

Cristiano Ronaldo
katatonia82 via Bigstockphoto

Ronaldo needs no introduction and there is little else to say about a man that has attracted so much attention over the past 20 years. Undoubtedly one of the very best players of all time, many would say that the Portuguese is the best player ever.

That is a debate for another day but his 450 goals in 438 appearances for Real is a stat that almost defies belief. Throw in his four Champions League titles with the club (admittedly one fewer than Bale!) and the many Ballons d’Or he collected whilst there, and it is safe to say that it was £80m very, very well spent.

Zinedine Zidane, £46.6m from Juventus in 2001

Christophe95, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia

Some stats may show Aurélien Tchouaméni as costing slightly more but we think Zidane just edges it, and certainly if we allow for inflation, Real’s outlay on the former Juve man was far greater. Zidane was a generational talent, a joy to watch and, like others on this list, a world-record transfer at the time. Zidane was part of the Galactico era at the club and featured alongside other marquee signings including Luis Figo and Beckham, plus Brazilian Ronaldo.

Zidane’s stats may not look like much next to those of Cristiano Ronaldo but he was a player who, like so many who have worn the white shirt over the years, could really excite fans. He helped Real to the 2002 Champions League crown, plus La Liga glory the following season. However, he fully cemented his status as a Real legend by guiding the club to three more Champions League trophies as manager.