Five most expensive under-21 transfers

In 2004, Wayne Rooney became the most expensive teenager in world football when he signed for Manchester United from Everton for a fee of £27 million.

Since then, the transfer record for a teenager has multiplied almost eight-fold.

In the modern day, we are used to seeing players transfer for fees upwards of £70 and £80 million. Neymar‘s move to Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona in 2017 cost the Parisians £198 million.

Let’s take a look at the five most expensive transfers involving players under the age of 21 (all values via Transfermarkt):

5. Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea, £57.60m)

Pulisic under-21 transfers
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The highly-rated American winger Christian Pulisic initially signed for Chelsea in January 2019, although it wasn’t until the beginning of the next season that he would make his debut for the club.

As a result of the move, he became the most expensive American footballer of all-time.

Pulisic scored nine Premier League goals in his first season with Chelsea. In his second, he scored four goals and came off the bench in the Champions League final, which the Blues won.

4. Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax to Juventus, £76.95m)

De Ligt under-21 transfers
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Matthijs de Ligt became the most expensive defender under the age of 21 when he joined Juventus from Ajax in the summer of 2019.

The transfer followed one of Ajax’s most successful Champions League campaigns. They came within a few seconds of reaching the final of Europe’s biggest continental competition before Lucas Moura’s famous late goal sent Spurs through instead.

Two of the team’s most vital members – de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong – would leave the club that summer, with de Ligt joining the Italian giants.

He has since established himself as one of his new side’s key defenders, and won Serie A in his first season.

3. Joao Felix (SL Benfica to Atletico Madrid, £114.48m)

Joao Felix under-21 transfers
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After a breakthrough season at Benfica, where he scored 15 goals in 26 Primeira Liga appearances, Joao Felix moved to Atletico Madrid for a fee of £114.48m in 2019.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing in Spain so far for the 21-year-old, although he has contributed effectively to Atletico’s LaLiga title-winning campaign this term.

He won the LaLiga Player of the Month award for November 2020, scored three Champions League goals in eight appearances and represented Portugal at Euro 2020.

2. Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona, £121.50m)

Dembele under-21 transfers
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Ousmane Dembele’s move to Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund earned him the accolade of being the most expensive player under the age of 21.

Barca made their move for the Frenchman just weeks after Neymar departed for PSG in the summer of 2017.

Despite showing his immense quality when fit and available, Dembele’s time at Barca has been headlined by a number of injuries.

He missed four months of his debut season due to injury. The forward then played just five times in the 2019/20 season, mainly due to a hamstring tear in February that ruled him out for the rest of the campaign.

He did make 30 appearances for Barca in the most recent campaign, scoring on six occasions and combining well with Lionel Messi.

1. Kylian Mbappe (AS Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain, £130.50m)

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Kylian Mbappe became the second-most expensive player of all-time when he made the permanent move across Ligue 1 to join Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco.

The Frenchman initially joined the Parisians on loan in 2017, scoring 13 goals in 27 league appearances.

That move was then made permanent, with Mbappe going on to reach new heights. He won the World Cup with France in 2018, becoming the second teenager behind Pele to score in a World Cup final in the process.

He has won Ligue 1 on three occasions, was named the 2017 Golden Boy and was included in the 2018 and 2019 FIFPro World11.

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