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RANKED: Top 10 most talked-about football transfers of the past 10 years

Mykhailo Mudryk’s surprise move from Shakhtar Donetsk to Chelsea has been the biggest talking point in the footballing world since the news first broke. Splitting opinions and prompting debates, it is one of a myriad of highly talked-about football signings which have occurred in the past decade. 

With this in mind, experts scraped search volume and sentiment analysis data to determine, which is the most talked-about football transfer from the past 10 years, and how much did it manage to meet expectations?

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus to Manchester United, August 2021)

It is little surprise to see Cristiano Ronaldo topping the list. With over 530 million Instagram followers, the Portuguese striker is perhaps the most popular player of all time, and  his move from Juventus to Manchester United in 2021 is the most talked-about football transfer of the past decade. Ronaldo returned to the Premier League club which made him a household name for £15m, and our sentiment analysis shows that the initial response to this move was 81.8% positive

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Though CR7 scored a number of important goals upon his return, the period will most be remembered for its tension. Ronaldo’s fractured relationship with managers boiled over into conflicts with the club itself. 

The 37-year-old brought his United career to an end after a dramatic interview exposé, and has since been signed by Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr. Regardless, his 2021 move to Manchester still generates an estimated 14,050 global monthly searches, far more than any other on the list. 

2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, August 2021)

For anyone who watched football in the 2000s and 2010s, the name Lionel Messi was invariably tied to another word: Barcelona. Signed by the La Liga side when he was only 13, Messi went on to win pretty much everything there is to win with the Blaugrana, holding a club-record 35 trophies to his name. His contract expired in 2021, but Barcelona were shockingly unable to offer an extension due to their ongoing financial issues. 

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Within a month, the world’s most desired free agent was promptly scooped up by Ligue 1’s Paris Saint-Germain. The Argentine legend has thrived at PSG and helped the French side win their 10th league title last year. The reaction to the move was initially quite divided (59.1% positive), but it ultimately worked out and still generates an estimated 4,130 global monthly searches

3. Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan to Chelsea, August 2021)

In the summer of 2021Romelu Lukaku left Inter Milan to return to his former club Chelsea in the Premier League. Signing for a whopping £100m, the Belgian international’s blockbuster move received a split reaction from fans, which was 45.5% positive. Though his run with the Blues began promisingly, Lukaku’s injury problems plagued his effectiveness. 

Then in December of that year, the striker caused controversy by criticising the club in an interview for Italian television, turning Chelsea fans against their own player. Never managing to save face in the Premier League, Lukaku is now on loan back at Inter, but his infamous move to West London still generates an estimated 900 global monthly searches

4. Neymar (Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, August 2017)

No ‘top transfers’ list would be complete without Neymar’s record-breaking move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017. After a highly successful run in La Liga, the Brazilian forward transferred to France for an unprecedented £196m – the most expensive transfer in football history. 

Perhaps due to this jaw-dropping price tag, the response to the move was initially only 22.8% positive. But Neymar proved his doubters wrong: voted Ligue 1 Player of the Year in his debut season, he has since helped PSG win four league titles, and the transfer still generates an estimated 490 global monthly searches

5. Eden Hazard (Chelsea to Real Madrid, June 2019)

Belgian winger Eden Hazard is remembered by all Premier League fans for his incredible run at Chelsea, in which he was essential in helping the Blues attain two league titles. In 2019, Hazard signed for Real Madrid for a fee of £102m

The move seemed to make sense for a player of his calibre and received a reaction which was 72.7% positive, but things never quite worked out for Hazard in the Spanish league. Repeated injuries led to a significant decrease in form, and with his recent retirement from international football, it seems that Eden Hazard’s golden years are now officially behind him. Regardless, the move still generates an estimated 470 global monthly searches

6. Kylian Mbappé (AS Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain, July 2018)

These days, it’s common knowledge that Kylian Mbappé is one of the best footballers in the world. In 2017, having watched the striker lead AS Monaco to a league title in the previous season, Paris Saint-Germain invested in the belief that he could do the same for them through a loan deal – and the belief became a reality. Signing a full PSG contract in 2018 for a mouth-watering £159m, Mbappé has since helped the Parisian side win four Ligue 1 titles and three Coupes de France. 

Rumours circulated last year that the forward would be leaving to Real Madrid, but Mbappé dispelled such ideas by extending his PSG contract until 2025. With all that he has achieved in Paris, it is interesting to see that the initial reaction to the move was only 13.7% positive, likely due to its hefty price tag. He has well proved his worth, though, and the transfer still generates an estimated 360 global monthly searches

7. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid to Juventus, July 2018)

Cristiano Ronaldo’s near-decade-long tenure with Real Madrid has gone down in history as nothing short of legendary. After winning his fifth Champions League title with the club in 2018, though, the Portuguese striker headed for a new challenge, joining Juventus for an Italian record of£103m. Helping the Serie A side attain two league titles during his run, Ronaldo also became the first footballer to finish as top scorer in the English, Spanish and Italian leagues. 

The response to the move was initially split at 50% positive, but it still generates an estimated 240 global monthly searches

8. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal to Barcelona, February 2022)

In the first seasons of Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta era, there was arguably no player on the pitch that was more crucial for the Gunners than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Gabonese striker was a goalscoring machine, and helped his team win the FA Cup in 2020. By 2021, however, his form had dipped considerably. Missing a number of matches due to disciplinary misconduct, Aubameyang eventually had his captain’s armband stripped. 

In 2022, this rift culminated in the forward leaving North London to join La Liga’s Barcelona for free. Though the decision was a shock to many Premier League fans, the animosity which had been boiling between the player and the club meant his departure was welcomed, with a 68.2% positivity rating

Though the move still generates an estimated 90 global monthly searches, Aubameyang would only stay in Spain for a few months, before making the move to Chelsea in September. 

9. Darwin Núñez (Benfica to Liverpool, June 2022)

In the summer of 2022Liverpool signed Darwin Núñez from Benfica for £71m. Though the initial response to the move was only 36.4% positive, the Uruguayan striker got off to a promising start with the Reds. 

In the months since, however, Núñez has failed to capitalise on this buzz. Though he probably still needs more time to adapt to the Premier League, his consistent lack of attacking output has made many question his quality. The transfer generates an estimated 80 global monthly searches.

10. James Rodríguez (AS Monaco to Real Madrid, July 2014)

Though already a star player in AS Monaco’s 2013-14 season, it was during the 2014 FIFA World Cup that James Rodríguez really made his mark. The Colombian international scored the goal of the tournament, winning the prestigious Golden Boot award, ripping defences apart with ease throughout the competition. He was promptly bought by Real Madrid in July for £67m, a move with an initially 50% positive reaction. 

Given the club’s illustrious number 10 shirt, big things were expected of the young midfielder. Though his career at the Bernabeu started as expected, injury and fitness issues stalled Rodríguez’s progression as he was sidelined by the club. After an equally disappointing loan spell at Bayern Munich, the wonderkid which many had labelled ‘the future’ of Madrid signed on a free transfer to Everton in the Premier League. He currently plays for Greek side Olympiacos, but his headline-grabbing move to Madrid still generates an estimated 60 global monthly searches.


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Rahul Roy
Rahul Roy
I am a computer guy by profession and a sports fanatic by choice.



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