Sometimes losing a vital player is the best outcome for the selling club, even if that seemed impossible at the time. Some sales can be a blessing in disguise, helping you fund the signing of the club’s greatest player of all time in one club’s case, or helping a manager reinvest in other areas of the squad. Others can even save a club from going under.
Here is the best – not most lucrative – sale made by all 20 Premier League clubs.
Arsenal – Nicolas Anelka (£23.5m)
Nicolas Anelka moved to Highbury as 1997’s answer to Kylian Mbappe, scoring 28 goals in 87 appearances across two-and-a-half years. Arsenal made a very tidy £23million profit, which was obviously a hell of a lot of money in the 20th century.
The quick profit is not the main reason this is Arsenal’s best sale – nor is the fact they are rubbish at selling players – but the fact they reinvested the money into a) making their training ground the best in the country and b) Thierry Henry, who did OK in the Premier League.
Aston Villa – Jack Grealish (£100m)
Villa did not quite reinvest the Jack Grealish money as poorly as Tottenham did with their Gareth Bale funds or as well as Liverpool did with their best-ever sale, but the monstrous then-British record fee paid by Manchester City was a great bit of business by the Villans, who ensured they got what the player was worth to them, not what City were willing to pay in an ideal world.
Bournemouth – Nathan Ake (£41m)
The summer of 2020 was a busy one for Bournemouth following their relegation to the Championship. They raked in around £80m from the sales of Nathan Ake, Chris Wilson, Aaron Ramsdale and Harry Arter and backed their bid for promotion with the signing of Ben Pearson for a six-figure sum. They did not get promoted. What a surprise.
Ake is the Cherries’ record sale by a long way. In second place is Arnaut Danjuma, who left for Villarreal for £21m in 2021.
Brentford – Neal Maupay (£20m)
Brentford had a phenomenal record when it came to selling players during their time in the Championship, offloading Ollie Watkins, Ezri Konsa, Chris Mepham, Scott Hogan, Andre Gray, Ryan Woods, Said Benrahma and Neal Maupay for very tasty fees.
Since coming up to the Premier League the only important player they have let go is David Raya, who could yet return if his Arsenal loan goes tits up.
The £20m sale of Maupay – who cost them peanuts – allowed the Bees to sign a bunch of players who ended up being very important in their promotion to the top flight. Bryan Mbuemo, Pontus Jansson, Mathias Jensen, Christian Norgaard, Ethan Pinnock and Raya were all bought in the same summer the Frenchman joined Brighton.
Brighton – Moises Caicedo (£100m)
£100m, rising to £115m for someone bought for less than £5m…Brighton are too good at this. Not as good as Benfica, but still pretty bloody good.
Chelsea – Eden Hazard (£105m)
Given the player’s downfall since leaving for £105m – when he only had a year left on his contract(!) – Eden Hazard has to be Chelsea’s best-ever sale. Kai Havertz could take his spot if his Blues form carries over to Arsenal.
Crystal Palace – Victor Moses (£2.5m)
The £50m sale of Aaron Wan-Bissaka was obviously a great bit of business from a Crystal Palace point of view but none have proven themselves to be as important as Victor Moses and Jose Fonte’s in January 2010. To put it simply: these sales (Moses £2.5m and Fonte £1.2m) helped keep the club afloat. Without them, the Eagles might not be here today.
Everton – Wayne Rooney (£30m)
£30m for a teenager in 2004 is pretty f**king handy for a team like Everton, who did just fine without Wayne Rooney. The big question is: How much would Wazza be worth in the modern market?
The Toffees finished fourth in 2004/05, which was quite a bit better than their 17th-place finish the season before. The additions of Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill and Phil Neville – bought with the Rooney money – certainly helped David Moyes make Everton a constant fixture in the top half of the Premier League. At least we know where the Rooney money went. But Bill, where’s the Arteta money?
Fulham – Louis Saha (£13m)
Louis Saha was not happy when Fulham made it clear they would not sell him to Manchester United; so to get £13m for a disgruntled player in 2005 is not too bad. The options for the Cottagers are not great, as you are probably aware from this selection. Their record sale is Aleksandar Mitrovic but that’s left them with a massive headache as well as a massive pile of money.
Liverpool – Philippe Coutinho (£142m)
Liverpool got a ridiculous amount of money for a player whose career went dramatically downhill after leaving Anfield. The funds received from Barcelona allowed the Reds to sign Virgil van Dijk and Alisson and win the title.
Luton Town – Curtis Davies (£3m)
The Hatters got a decent fee for Curtis Davies when West Brom signed him in August 2005 and still stayed up in the Championship with ease.
Manchester City – Shaun Wright-Phillips (£21m)
City were not financially sound before those Abu Dhabi billionaires came in and the sale of Shaun Wright-Phillips to Chelsea went a long way to save them from potentially collapsing.
Manchester United – Romelu Lukaku (£74m)
Romelu Lukaku was essentially frozen out by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the summer of 2019 and was fined for not showing up for training. It was a bit of a mess. United still managed to get £74m for the Belgian despite his shaky situation at Old Trafford. That is good business for a club notoriously poor at selling players.
Newcastle United – Andy Carroll (£35m)
£35m in 2011 is probably the equivalent of £90m today but Newcastle knew the Fernando Torres money was burning a hole in Liverpool pockets. He flopped badly at Anfield as Newcastle spent the money signing Yohan Cabaye, Papiss Cisse, Davide Santon and Demba Ba.
Nottingham Forest – Jermaine Jenas (£5m)
Forest were another club suffering financially and the sale of teenage sensation Jermaine Jenas was a useful one. It didn’t help them get back in to the Premier League, mind.
Sheffield United – Lee Morris (£3m)
In the winter of 1999, Derby County paid a club-record £3m to sign Lee Morris from Sheffield United, where the striker came through the youth ranks. This was a big cash injection for the Blades and was definitely a more important sale than Aaron Ramsdale’s in 2021.
Ilman Ndiaye’s summer move to Marseille has helped Paul Heckingbottom reinvest in his squad, though it is safe to say the club’s supporters would have preferred to see the Senegalese playmaker stay at Bramall Lane.
Tottenham – Harry Kane (£86.4m)
How Spurs spent the Bale money makes it hard to justify putting that transfer as their best sale. Furthermore, the Welsh wizard did not have a year left on his contract when he joined Real Madrid for slightly more than Harry Kane cost Bayern this summer.
Splitting up with the England captain was the best outcome for all parties and to get close to £90m from a foreign club for a player one year away from walking to a direct rival for free is great business all things considered.
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West Ham – Declan Rice (£100m)
West Ham didn’t need the money and were reluctant to sell Declan Rice but he wanted to take on a new challenge and Arsenal eventually bit the bullet to pay an initial £100m.
Thankfully for the Hammers, Rice was not difficult during the saga and was not publicly forcing them to sell him, making it easier to receive a nine-figure sum. Just spend the money wisely, Mr. Moyes.