Ronaldo joined Inter 25 years ago: how transfer record has evolved

On June 20, 1997 Inter shook the football world when they shelled out a world-record 48 billion lire (about €23 million) to prise Ronaldo away from Barcelona.

It was the second time in 12 months the world transfer record has been broken to sign O Fenomeno and he would go on to win the first of his two Ballon d’Or awards later that year.

The Brazil international took Serie A by storm in his debut campaign as he netted 25 times in a division known for its tight defences but injuries meant he would never again reach 15 goals in a single season for the Nerazzurri and he left for Real Madrid in 2002.

In the subsequent 25 years, the world transfer record has been broken on 10 occasions with two of the next three by Serie A sides before the financial power began to shift.

Denilson, 1998: Sao Paulo to Real Betis – €25m

The midfielder broke through at Sao Paulo and was included in Brazil’s World Cup squad in 1998 at the age of 19.

Just prior to the tournament, however, Betis shelled out for his services, should was the hype around Denilson – but he struggled to justify the amount.

He suffered relegation with Betis in 2002. Though he was part of Brazil’s World Cup-winning side two years later.

Christian Vieri, 1999: Lazio to Inter – €37m

Nerazzurri president Massimo Moratti opted to break the transfer record for the second time in three years and this time completely obliterated it.

Fresh from winning the Cup Winners’ Cup and being named Serie A MVP while at Lazio, Vieri was considered Italy’s No. 1 striker and Inter fans were frothing at the mouth at the prospect of seeing him line up alongside Ronaldo.

However, injuries to Ronaldo prevented that from happening on a frequent basis and, while Vieri continued to find to find the back of the net regularly, the trophies didn’t follow.

Hernan Crespo, 2000: Parma to Lazio – €41m

The Argentina forward was briefly the world’s most-expensive player as joined the Serie A champions to help take them to the next level.

He scored 26 times in his debut campaign with Lazio as they club saw rivals Roma win the Scudetto.

Crespo would leave the club for Inter in one of the most dramatic transfer deadline days in recent memories just two years after signing due to financial difficulties which saw Alessandro Nesta join Milan on the same day.

Luis Figo, 2000: Barcelona to Real Madrid – €43m

Arguably the most controversial signing in world football history as incoming Madrid president Florentino Perez made good on his promise to snatch the Catalans’ star away.

One of only two men on this list to win the title in his first season, he followed it up with a Ballon d’Or, the Champions League and then another LaLiga success,

However, Madrid’s Galactico policy under Perez was ultimately flawed as he failed to win another trophy in his final three years at the club.

Zinedine Zidane, 2001: Juventus to Real Madrid – €54m


Just 12 months after joining, he scored the iconic goal his career as his outrageous volley earned Madrid their third Champions League title in five years.

Like Figo, he was brought on as part of the “Galacticos” model under Perez, yet his trophy haul did not do justice to his talent.

Zidane’s six major honours with Los Blancos all came within his first two seasons.

Kaka, 2009: Milan to Real Madrid – €65m

After seeing the world transfer broke on an almost annual basis, it was eight years before Zidane’s fee was beaten – and just six month prior to this, Milan had turned down a €125m bid from Manchester City.

Kaka, who had won the Ballon d’Or two years earlier, arrived as part of a revolutionary summer at the Bernabeu and was the first of two world-record transfers.

Injuries hampered the former Brazil international’s time in the Spanish capital, where he won a Copa del Rey and LaLiga title. He returned to Milan on loan in 2013.

Cristiano Ronaldo, 2009: Manchester United to Real Madrid – €93m

Surely the most successful player on this list. He spent nine seasons in the Spanish capital and left the club’s all-time leading goal scorer with an incredible 450 in just 438 appearances.

Although he didn’t win anything in his first season, he would go on to secure two LaLiga titles, the Copa del Rey twice, four Champions League triumphs as well as UEFA Super Cup twice and the FIFA Club World Cup on three occasions.

He also won the Ballon d’Or four times at the club and left to join Juventus for €100m.

Gareth Bale, 2013: Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid – €100m

For the fifth time in succession, Los Blancos had broken the world transfer record and this one had a revolutionary effect.

Bale scored decisive goals in the Copa del Rey and Champions League in his debut campaign to secure the coveted Decima.

The Wales winger would go on to win the Champions League on another three occasions with the club, scoring a penalty in 2016 shoot-out and two in the 2018 final including a sublime overhead kick.

Paul Pogba, 2016: Juventus to Manchester United – €105m

Just four years after joining the Bianconeri on a free transfer, the France midfielder returned to United as the Premier League became the financial power in world football.

Pogba helped United win the League Cup and Europa League – his only European trophy to date – scoring in the 2-0 win over Ajax in Stockholm.

However, he did not win any more silverware in the subsequent five seasons and, having left once more, he looks set to again join Juve on a free transfer.

Neymar, 2017: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain – €222m

Not quite Figo levels given the direct rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona but a shocking transfer nonetheless due to its sheer size – and again the Catalans were on the receiving end.

Having missed out on the Ligue 1 title the previous campaign, PSG showed their financial muscle as they met the Brazil forward’s buy-out clause which had been set at an amount deemed too unrealistic for potential suitors.

While Neymar has won Ligue 1 in four of his five seasons in Paris, the disappointment has been the club’s failure to make a serious impact in Europe, reaching the Champions League final just once.