As Manchester United stand poised to break the British transfer fee record with the imminent purchase of Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid for a figure of around £60 million, they will smash the £50 million that Chelsea paid Liverpool for the services of Fernando Torres back in 2011. Torres has struggled to live up to his billing and the headline makers will be sharpening their pencils in case Di Maria similarly struggles to lift the fortunes of the Red Devils. Who have been the men through the years to have similarly made transfer fee headlines involving British Football clubs and how successful have their moves been for their new clubs?

Kevin Keegan’s departure to German club Hamburg for a massive £500,000 in 1977, after three titles and a European Cup with Liverpool, ushered in the legendary figure of Kenny Dalglish as his replacement. It didn’t damage Keegan’s career too much though as he was named European Footballer of the Year in both 1978 and 1979 and reached another European Cup final in 1980 whilst with his new club.

Trevor Francis’ move from Birmingham City to Nottingham Forest in 1979 is often cited as the first million pound transfer fee paid by a British club. The official transfer fee was actually only £975,000 with VAT, fees paid to the Football League and the signing fee to Francis himself pushing the value over the ‘magic’ £1 million mark. At the time it marked a statement of intent by Brian Clough’s team and a doubling of the previous highest figure set only a month earlier, when David Mills joined West Brom. Francis repaid the fee somewhat straight away though when scoring the winner in the 1979 European Cup Final as Forest beat Malmo 1-0. His overall goalscoring return between 1979 and 1981 was reasonable if not spectacular, although some would say that he suffered by being played on the wing in many matches rather than his preferred central striking role.

During the 1980s and 90s, Ian Rush became one of the most prolific strikers of all time during his two spells with Liverpool, but in the midst of his success in 1987 he moved to Juventus for a British record of £3.2 million. The move was seen by some as maybe a chance to heal some wounds between the two clubs after their clash in the European Cup final of 1985 in Heysel, when 39 Italian supporters lost their lives, besides allowing Rush to compete in Europe again after English clubs had been banned after Heysel. Rush was not a success though and returned to Liverpool after a season to resume his prolific scoring career in Britain.

The 1990s saw the British record fee soar, with 1995 particularly significant as Andy Cole (£7 million), Dennis Bergkamp (£7.5 million) and Stan Collymore (£8.5 million) all moved for large fees to demonstrate the power of the bigger teams (Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, respectively). All three had successful spells with their new clubs. Bergkamp in particular has often been referred to as the best foreign import brought into English football, whilst Cole formed a formidable partnership with Dwight Yorke and Collymore similarly with Robbie Fowler. Alan Shearer’s £15 million move to Newcastle in 1996 made headline news, but he repaid them by becoming their and the Premier League’s all time leading goalscorer.

Since the millennium the fees have continued to soar, but haven’t always guaranteed money well spent. Veron’s purchase by Manchester United in 2001 for £28.1 million could hardly have been described as moving the club forward, whereas their capture of Rio Ferdinand for £29.1 million the following year provided the bedrock for their subsequent solid defence and major honours.

Chelsea brought Shevchenko to England for £30.8 million in 2006 but it did not prove to be one of their best pieces of business. However, even that figure was surpassed when Manchester City splashed out £32.5 million for Robinho from Real Madrid in 2008. Robinho was City’s top scorer in his first season, but injury curtailed his appearances the following term and he left the club in 2010.

Robinho’s fee remained the British record up to Torres (although Ronaldo and Bale have moved to Real Madrid for fees in excess of £80 million since then). Torres was not the only player to suffer under the weight of the high fee paid for him in the January transfer window of 2011, as Liverpool added to their own strike force by bringing Andy Carroll in from Newcastle for around £35 million. Seemingly unstoppable for the North-East club, Carroll failed to convince for the Reds and after a year's loan with West Ham he made the move permanent in June 2013 but has suffered seemingly constant injury problems over the past few years. His time may come again with his new club.

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