The hype around teenage footballers seems only to be getting greater in recent years as transfer fees become more and more inflated and football becomes ever more global.
The ability to see any player’s highlights with a few clicks makes life easier for clubs to drive up prices and with everyone able to scout the same players, bidding wars soon start.
This summer there’s every chance the likes of Kylian Mbappe or Gianluigi Donnarumma could break world transfer records at the young age of just 18, whereas in the past they may have slipped under the radar.
In contrast, in 1997 Arsenal were able to sign Nicolas Anelka for just £500k from PSG despite the French striker being viewed as one of the hottest prospects in world football.
Teams, however, have in fairness, always been paying big bucks for young talents, the likes of Antonio Cassano and Javier Saviola made big money moves at the turn of the century, their transfer fees being higher than ones paid for the likes of Thierry Henry, Ruud van Nistelrooy or Andriy Schevchenko, who moved around the same time period.
For some, their moves at a young age have more than paid off, Wayne Rooney’s 13 years with Manchester United has seen him usurp Sir Bobby Charlton as their highest ever goalscorer whilst Gabriel Jesus could become Manchester City’s first choice centre-forward for the foreseeable future.
For others, it was too much too soon, their careers may still yet be in their infancy but for Renato Sanches and Luke Shaw their times at the club’s that spent those massive fees could be coming to an end sooner rather than later.
Below are the ten most expensive teenagers in world football, with Gabriel Jesus just knocking off three-time UEFA Champions League winning captain Sergio Ramos from the list whose move to Real Madrid in 2005 for €27m was the tenth spot on the list.
10) Antonio Cassano – Bari to Roma (£20m)
A Bari native, Cassano earned huge acclaim as one of the best young talents in Italy after his winning goal against Inter Milan in December 1999. The creative forward was the most expensive teenager ever in 2001 when he moved to Rome and won two Serie A Young Player of the Year awards in 2001 and 2003 but he regularly clashed with coaches in the Italian capital and was sold to Real Madrid in January 2006 for €5m. Image Source: Twitter
9) Marquinhos – Roma to PSG (£22m)
The young Brazilian has been seen as one of their best CB prospects in recent years and nouveau riche Paris Saint Germain sprang to sign him in 2013 after one season in Europe with Roma. Linked with moves away since he signed as he struggled to displace compatriots Thiago Silva and David Luiz, he has started to breakthrough as the first choice defender since Luiz’s return to Chelsea and was part of the Brazil U23 squad that won Olympic Gold in Rio last summer. Image Source: Twitter
8) Anderson – Porto to Manchester United (£25m)
A UEFA Champions League winner and four-time Premier League winner, the Brazilian was rather a cult figure at Old Trafford rather than an integral first team starter and would lose his place in the squad after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. Fergie’s replacements David Moyes and Louis van Gaal rarely gave him opportunities, Moyes loaning him to Fiorentina, whilst van Gaal eventually sold him to Brazilian side Internacional.
Image Source: Twitter
7) Javier Saviola – River Plate to FC Barcelona (£25m)
Scoring a staggering 45 goals in 86 league games at River Plate, the 1999 South American Footballer of the Year was once viewed as the heir to Diego Maradona. Like Maradona in 1982, Barcelona snapped up the exciting striker and started well scoring 41 times in his first two seasons. Frank Rijkaard, however, loaned him to Monaco and Sevilla where he won the UEFA Cup in 2006 and went down in infamy in 2007 when he joined arch-rivals Real Madrid on a free transfer. He was less successful in Madrid and later joined Benfica where he won the Portuguese double in 2010. Image Source: Twitter
6) Wayne Rooney – Everton to Manchester United (£26m)
After firing England into the UEFA Euro 2004 Quarterfinals before injury ended his tournament, Manchester United smashed the teenage transfer record for 18-year-old Rooney and he repaid them instantly with a hat-trick against Fenerbahce on his debut. In his 13 seasons with United he’s won five league titles and the UEFA Champions League and in 2017 surpassed the great Sir Bobby Charlton as their record goalscorer months after surpassing Charlton’s England goalscoring record also. Image Source: Twitter
5) Gabriel Jesus – Palmeiras to Manchester City (£27m)
The most recent signing on the list, another Brazilian gold medalist last summer and voted the best player in Brazil in 2016, Jesus was instrumental in Palmeiras’ winning Serie A and soon found himself coveted by all Europe’s top clubs. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City was his destination where he’s already taken to England like a duck to water, scoring seven goals in 11 games for City and looking likely to be replacing Sergio Aguero as first choice striker as soon as next season. Image Source: Twitter
4) Lucas Moura – Sao Paulo to PSG (£28m)
As highly rated as the likes of Neymar whilst in Brazil, Lucas joined PSG in January 2013 and has enjoyed mixed success in the French capital. This season has been his most fruitful as the No.7 has bagged 19 goals in 52 games, however, this was the first season he’s failed to capture the French title since his move and PSG’s lack of substantial UEFA Champions League progress has remained a concern. Image Source: Twitter
3) Renato Sanches – Benfica to Bayern Munich (£28.5m)
The breakout star of UEFA Euro 2016, Sanches had his fair sharer of suitors following Portugal’s success in France in which he was voted Player of the Tournament. Bayern Munich beat out the likes of Manchester United to his signature but despite being named Golden Boy in 2016, he’s struggled to adapt in the Bundesliga in his first season. Playing 17 league games and starting just four and failing to contribute any goals or assists. At 19, he still has more than enough time to recapture his form. Image Source: Twitter
2) Luke Shaw – Southampton to Manchester United (£31m)
Shaw graduated from the Southampton youth setup and was viewed very much as their best prospect since Gareth Bale, being named in the PFA Team of the Season and in Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Manchester United made him the most expensive teenager in world football but Shaw has regularly struggled with fitness at Old Trafford, especially after his horrific leg break in a UEFA Champions League game against PSV in September 2015. Image Source: Twitter
1) Anthony Martial – Monaco to Manchester United (£36m)
Just a few weeks after smashing the transfer record for a teenager for Luke Shaw, United did it again with Anthony Martial in a deal that may still rise to £58m. Martial drew comparisons to Thierry Henry in his first season with his excellent ability to drift in from the left and strike in a composed finish and found the net 17 times in his first season, including in the FA Cup semi-final. His second season under Jose Mourinho hasn’t been as successful, the Frenchman eventually lost his place in the team and could only find the net eight times all season. Image Source: Twitter
Whilst some of these players repaid their massive fees, others were rather disappointing; it’s too late for the likes of Saviola and Casino, whose careers are over, or look to be over in the case of the Italian.
However, despite their disappointing seasons at Bayern Munich and Manchester United, Sanches and Shaw could easily turn their careers around, even if the latter might have to do it away from Old Trafford, away from the ire of Jose Mourinho