Loan fees are not a new development in football, but just as transfer fees have become increasingly inflated in recent years, so have the sums it takes to sign players on temporary deals.

Chelsea made headlines in January 2023 when they snapped up Atletico Madrid’s record signing Joao Felix on loan as part of their record-breaking spending spree. The Blues paid a reported loan fee of €11 million for the Portuguese and unfortunately, it did not turn out to be money well spent.

Just a few months prior, the Blues themselves had received a sizeable fee for a loan transfer when Inter paid €8m to take Romelu Lukaku back for a season. More recently, David Raya moved to Arsenal from Brentford with the Gunners paying a loan fee of €3.5m.

But the above-mentioned numbers pale in comparison to the biggest fees ever paid. FootballTransfers lists some examples of players to embark on expensive loan deals.

Carlos Tevez – West Ham to Man Utd

The tricky case of Carlos Tevez. The Argentine was never permanently owned but Manchester United, and despite their attempts to sign him in 2009, he chose to join their city rivals Manchester City.

But, his two-year loan deal at Man Utd was rather successful, winning the Champions League with the club. He cost around €12m, the figure varies from report to report and was a large financial commitment from Man Utd for a player they never owned.

However, he did help them assert their dominance in English football at the time.

James Rodriguez – Real Madrid to Bayern Munich

A star at Porto and Monaco, James Rodriguez continued that vein of form upon arrival at Real Madrid, but soon lost his place in the team once Zinedine Zidane took over.

He joined Bayern Munich on a two-year loan deal for roughly €14m, and enjoyed a fruitful time in the Bundesliga, registering 15 goals and 20 assists during his time at the club.

Duvan Zapata – Sampdoria to Atalanta

Duvan Zapata bounced around Serie A without finding a home until he found Atalanta in 2018. After spells at Napoli, Udinese and Sampdoria, the forward found his feet under Gian Piero Gasperini at Atalanta, but not before a huge loan fee had to be paid.

Despite his goal-scoring form, Atalanta only paid roughly €12.5m to sign him in 2020, but that’s because they shelled out even more than that to loan him for two years prior.

He cost a whopping €14m for two seasons without the guarantee of signing permanently. There was, however, an option to buy in the deal, which Atalanta activated after 18 months. Zapata had scored 23 Serie A goals in his first full campaign with the side.

Giovani Lo Celso – Real Betis to Tottenham

This move essentially saved Real Betis millions and cost Paris Saint-Germain. When Real Betis signed Giovani Lo Celso from PSG, a 20% sell-on clause was placed in the contract.

Instead of outright selling him, Betis loaned the Argentine to Tottenham for a reported €16m, before selling him after 12 months. Due to it being a loan, the 20% clause didn’t apply, so Betis essentially saved themselves €3.2m.

Spurs then signed him permanently in July 2020 before they loaned him to Villarreal one-and-a-half years later.

Alvaro Morata – Chelsea to Atletico Madrid to Juventus

Incredibly, Alvaro Morata has been the subject of not one but two of the most expensive loan deals in history. The journeyman forward initially joined Atletico Madrid for 18 months for a reported fee of €18m.

After his move to Spain’s capital was made permanent, Morata again headed out on loan, this time arriving at Juventus for a whopping €20m, but the buy option was never triggered.

Kylian Mbappe – Monaco to PSG

The biggest loan move ever occurred between then-champions Monaco and PSG. Star forward Kylian Mbappe was a hot property after his breakout season, and the Parisians swooped to sign him on an initial one-year loan deal before making the Frenchman the second-most expensive player in history.

A reported €45m loan fee was paid to secure Mbappe’s signature one year earlier before PSG signed him permanently. It’s a move that hasn’t exactly gone badly.

By Lylla

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