Five times that clubs included hopeful Ballon d’Or clauses in player transfers

Including a Ballon d’Or clause in a transfer can be a tricky proposition. On paper, it makes sense. Untapped potential is a valued commodity, as the insane amounts paid for mere teenagers in recent years have shown.

Football transfers have grown more complex in recent years. Most big transfers between top flights clubs come with many clauses attached to them.

Teams are expected to shell out a few more million if their desired player scores a certain number of goals or overcomes his injury history to play 40 games a season.

Of all these provisions, the Ballon d’Or clause is the most intriguing one. It’s a high-stake bet that has given us our fair share of laughs. The decision to include a Ballon d’Or clause can turn from rational to ludicrous in a heartbeat.

With this in mind, we have compiled five of the most interesting Ballon d’Or clauses in recent history.

Anthony Martial

Anthony Martial had a rocky first few years at Manchester United. However, things seemed to be looking up for him during the 2019/20 season. The Frenchman scored a total of 23 goals and dished out an impressive 12 assists, solidifying his status as Manchester United’s number nine.

It all went south quickly. Anthony Martial only scored four times in last season’s Premier League. This year, the last-minute return of Cristiano Ronaldo has relegated him to the deep end of the bench, having scored only one goal in 350 minutes across all competitions.

In fairness to Martial, he has struggled with injuries, including a ruptured knee ligament last season.

In any case, he is on his way out of Manchester United, with recent reports that he could join Sevilla in the January transfer window.

It’s not what United expected in 2015 when they paid £36 million for the then 19-year-old. Monaco, who had signed Martial from the Lyon academy, included a clause by which United would have to pay an extra £7.2 million if he won the Ballon d’Or.

With Martial close to leaving the club, it’s safe to assume United will be keeping the extra cash in their pockets.


Neymar‘s transfer from Santos to Barcelona in 2013 remains the source of much discussion. Sandro Rossell, the then president of Barcelona, claimed that the superstar cost them a mere €17 million.

After many legal disputes, the actual amount was revealed to be closer to €100 million.

The amount included several clauses. Most of them were somewhat realistic, including the Ballon d’Or clause – at this point, Neymar was already one of the best players in the world.

Neymar won a lot of trophies and awards during his Barca days, but not the Ballon d’Or. He would be nominated for it a few times, though – and Barca had to pay Santos a couple more million for it.

PSG signed Neymar by paying his release clause, so Barcelona won’t be seeing any extra cash if he wins the Ballon d’Or. Neymar, on the other hand, would probably be able to afford a new house or two if that happens.

André Gomes

André Gomes? That André Gomes?

It was 2016, and Barcelona had some spare cash to spend. André Gomes was coming off two excellent seasons in Valencia, where he dominated the midfield with his tenacity and passing.

Xavi and Iniesta weren’t getting any younger, and Barcelona needed a promising replacement. They bet hard on the Portuguese metronome and paid a staggering amount for his services.

Valencia would make at least €35 million in the deal, and they were optimistic enough to add a few clauses to ensure they made even more in case Gomes fulfilled his potential.

Those provisions included a Ballon d’Or clause that would pay Valencia an extra €15 million if Gomes won the award during his time at Barca.

Spoiler alert: He did not.

Philippe Coutinho

As you have probably gathered at this point, Barcelona were basically handing out Ballon d’Or clauses in the streets for almost ten years.

Philippe Coutinho’s case looks bad in hindsight, but it was hard to predict he would be such a flop for the Culés. Barcelona paid a fixed amount of £105m for the then-Liverpool star. Throw in the realistic add-ons, and it would be a jaw-dropping £142m final bill for Barcelona.

The add-ons included a Ballon d’Or clause that never materialized. Barcelona also had to pay Liverpool an extra £4m if Coutinho won the Champions League for them.

Funnily enough, Coutinho did win the Champions League while being under contract for Barcelona. In the summer of 2019, the Brazilian went on a season-long loan to Bayern Munich, where he would win the treble.   

However, the Champions League clause was never activated as he won the title for a different team.

Ángel Di María

It was summer 2014, and Real Madrid needed funds after buying James Rodríguez from Monaco. Manchester United wanted a new star player to kickstart their post-Fergie years after their disappointing previous season. And Ángel Di María didn’t feel valued enough at Madrid.

It was a match made in heaven. Except it went all wrong.

Di María’s only season at Manchester United is still one of the biggest disappointments in recent Red Devil history. The Argentinian was coming off his best season at Madrid, having given out 26 assists and playing a crucial part in their Champions League title run.

But it didn’t work out for him at United. Twelve months later, he was on his way to Paris for a £56.70m fee.

United recovered most of the money they’d shelled out on Di María, whose value barely dipped after one mediocre year. They had paid a £56.70m fee for the winger, but that did not include add-ons.

Di María’s transfer from Real Madrid to Manchester United included a Ballon d’Or clause of £4m. El Fideo has excelled at PSG but has never been close to winning the award. At age 33, it’s hard to see him doing it.

Featured image credit: Getty