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The 10 most expensive defenders of all time

Sports Mole counts down the 10 most expensive defenders of all time.

As domestic seasons draw to a close all across Europe, managers and sporting directors are now working down their list of candidates for transfers, both those arriving and leaving.

While transactions of on-field playing personnel often dominate the talk of the summer window, the managerial merry-go-round has been making multiple headlines this summer, and big-money fees are being shelled out to sever highly-rated head coaches from their contracts.

However, many top defenders could be on the move too - Chelsea have already signed Tosin Adarabioyo on a free transfer - but what about the rearguard members who cost a pretty penny or more?

Here, Sports Mole counts down the most expensive defenders to ever grace the game.


10. Marc Cucurella - Brighton & Hove Albion to Chelsea - £55.5m

Chelsea's Marc Cucurella is shown a yellow card by referee Simon Hooper on November 25, 2023© Reuters

Having excelled in a Brighton & Hove Albion jersey, Marc Cucurella was one of a handful of expensive defenders to join Chelsea in the summer 2022 window, costing the Blues just north of £55m.

However, the Spaniard has never truly found his feet in West London, despite the best efforts of a multitude of managers, although Ben Chilwell's frequent injury problems at least means that he enjoys regular game time.


9. Matthijs de Ligt - Juventus to Bayern Munich - £57m

Matthijs de Ligt in action for Bayern Munich on July 20, 2022© Reuters

The only player to feature twice on this list, Matthijs de Ligt swapped the black and white of Juventus for the block red of Bayern Munich in 2022 and immediately formed a part of the Bavarians' latest Bundesliga-winning season.

However, things took a turn for the worse for both player - who struggled with injuries - and club in the 2023-24 campaign, but De Ligt remains a key figure in the Bayern backline and for the Netherlands.


8. Achraf Hakimi - Inter Milan to Paris Saint-Germain - £57.9m

Paris Saint-Germain's Achraf Hakimi during the warm up before the match on January 3, 2024© Reuters

Real Madrid could have done with an Achraf Hakimi amid Dani Carvajal's perennial injury woes, but they instead allowed the right-back to head for Inter Milan and have a direct hand in 17 goals during their 2020-21 Scudetto triumph.

However, Inter's volatile financial situation would see Paris Saint-Germain take advantage with a £57.9m swoop, and the goal contributions did not dry up for the Morocco international in Ligue 1.

Still a prolific attacking force, Hakimi will seemingly retain his spot as the club's first-choice right-back, although his agent was forced to bat away rumours that he is unhappy in Paris during his earlier days.


7. Ruben Dias - Benfica to Manchester City - £60.9m

Manchester City's Ruben Dias applauds the fans after the match on March 6, 2024© Reuters

Man City did not think twice about spending upwards of £60m on Ruben Dias back in 2020, with the Portugal international developing quite the reputation in the heart of the Benfica backline.

Dias represents the third of three worthwhile expenses for Man City in the top 10 of this list, as he has continued to enhance his reputation as one of the best centre-backs in the land, even while becoming a regular victim of Pep Guardiola selection roulette.


6. Lucas Hernandez - Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich - £68.1m

Bayern Munich's Lucas Hernandez pictured in March 2022© Reuters

Formerly holding the record for the most expensive ever signing by a Bundesliga club, Lucas Hernandez was the new £68.1m man at the Allianz Arena in 2019 after ending his stint at Atletico Madrid.

As a World Cup winner with France, Hernandez slotted straight into the Bavarians' backline, whether that was in the heart of defence or at left-back, and he scooped European and Bundesliga titles with the Munich giants.

Legal and injury problems overshadowed Hernandez's largely impressive exploits at the back for Bayern, though, and he was sold to PSG after a couple of seasons.


5. Wesley Fofana - Leicester City to Chelsea - £68.4m

Chelsea's Wesley Fofana celebrates scoring against Leeds United on March 4, 2023© Reuters

Even though his brief time at Leicester City was hampered by fitness problems, Chelsea did not think twice about splashing out £68.4m on Wesley Fofana, whose potential was evident during his time at the King Power.

Unfortunately, the Frenchman's horrendous luck with injuries has stalled his Blues and international career as well, as he failed to make a single appearance in the 2023-24 season due to an ACL problem.


4. Virgil van Dijk - Southampton to Liverpool - £72m

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk pictured on April 18, 2024© Reuters

At the time of Virgil van Dijk's £72m transfer from Southampton to Liverpool, the towering Dutchman boasted the tag of being the most expensive defender in world football - a label he has since lost.

However, Liverpool have not lost very often with the Dutchman in peak condition, as Van Dijk continues to be mentioned in debates for the Premier League's greatest-ever centre-backs after winning multiple pieces of silverware with the Reds since 2018.

The centre-back's devastating ACL injury in 2020 has had very little impact on his ability to read the game and provide a constant threat at the other end of the pitch, and only Lionel Messi finished above him in the voting for the 2019 Ballon d'Or.


3. Matthijs de Ligt - Ajax to Juventus - £72.7m

Matthijs de Ligt in action for Juventus on May 11, 2022© Reuters

After excelling during Ajax's run to the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finals, Matthijs de Ligt was quickly snapped up by Juventus in the memorable summer.

The Netherlands international was still a teenager when he became the Eredivisie champions' youngest-ever captain and won the Golden Ball in 2018, seeing him command a £77m fee to leave Ajax for Juventus.

While at the Allianz Stadium, De Ligt won all three major domestic trophies Italy has to offer, but the Dutchman informed Juve of his wish to leave after three years and saw his request granted with a lucrative move to Bayern.


2. Harry Maguire - Leicester City to Manchester United - £74m

Manchester United's Harry Maguire on April 21, 2024© Reuters

It only took Harry Maguire six months to wear the captain's armband for Man United after his record-shattering £74m switch from Leicester City, but it has not all been sunshine and rainbows for the England international.

Several Red Devils defenders were criticized for their showings under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick, but Maguire was undoubtedly the most scrutinized of them all and also lost the captain's armband under Ten Hag

However, the England international regained his former status at the end of the 2023-24 season, although a calf injury robbed him of the chance to represent England at Euro 2024.


1. Josko Gvardiol - RB Leipzig to Manchester City - £76.6m

Manchester City's Josko Gvardiol celebrates scoring their third goal on May 11, 2024© Reuters

Bumping Maguire down to second place when it comes to the most expensive defenders in the land, Josko Gvardiol's dream Premier League move materialised in 2023, when Man City forked out just shy of £77m to prise him away from RB Leipzig.

The Croatian would often be shoe-horned into a left-back role in his debut season, but he developed a taste for goals in the final few weeks and ended the term with a Premier League winners' medal around his neck.


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