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Jan 21, 2009

The most expensive team in the world

Manchester City may have failed with their £108 million bid for AC Milan star Kaka but it seems only a matter of time before the billionaire club do eventually smash the world record for a transfer fee.

Earlier this season the Abu-Dhabi United Group marked their takeover of City with the £32.5 million purchase of Robinho from Real Madrid - the first piece of what they declared would become a bona fida fantasy football team - and the ill-fated Kaka deal this January is a statement by the owners that money is no object.

But while lots of lovely lucre can help lure some of football's top talents, money doesn't always buy success. Some of the most expensive transfers in history have proven to be flops.

Below Soccernet has constructed the most expensive team in world football, based on transfer fees, along with a synopsis of what success, if any, those big money signings brought to their clubs.

• The majority of the biggest transfer fees are paid for attacking players but we have taken the most expensive deals in each position - goalkeeper, defence, midfield, attack - and used an attacking 3-4-3 formation to reflect the proportion of cash spent on forward talent.

Also, the "Trophies" sub-section only lists major trophies, not curtain-raising events like the English Community Shield, Spanish Super Cup or Italian Supercoppa.

Striker: Robinho, Real Madrid to Manchester City, £32.5 million
Trophies at Man City: None

Rumours still abound that Robinho only joined Manchester City in August 2008 because he was unhappy with Real Madrid trying to offload him as part of the deal to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United.

Although Real won silverware during his time there he never really reached the high-standards expected of him at the Bernabeu. Robinho arrived with a big reputation from Brazilian side Santos, where he won the 2002 Campeonato Brasileiro in his debut season, and we are still waiting to see what he can do in the Premier League.

He has scored 11 league goals for City this season (that's £2.95m per goal) and although that's a good start to his career in England it is still too early to tell what impact he will have at Eastlands. The Citizens are a long way off claiming the league title - something Robinho did twice with Real Madrid.

Striker: Hernán Crespo, Parma to Lazio, £35.5 million
Trophies at Lazio: None

The Argentina international became the world's most expensive player when he signed for Serie A champions Lazio in 2000. He arrived from Parma as a UEFA Cup winner, runner-up for the Scudetto - the Italian league title - and with a Coppa Italia trophy, but despite scoring twenty-six goals to top the scoring charts he didn't win a bean in two seasons at the Stadio Olimpico under Sven-Göran Eriksson, Dino Zoff and then Alberto Zaccheroni.

In the end Crespo left Lazio to join Inter Milan for £16.5m as the Rome club sought desperately to balance the books. A £16.8m move to Chelsea came next, where he won the Premier League in 2006, and following loan spells at both Milan clubs the former River Plate star is now back at Internazionale, although not a regular in the side.

Striker: Christian Vieri, Lazio to Internazionale, £32 million
Trophies at Inter: 2005 Coppa Italia

In 1999 Christian Vieri left Serie A runners-up Lazio to join Inter Milan for what was then a world record fee of £32m. The journeyman striker arrived in Milan with nearly as much silverware as he had previous clubs, including a fresh triumph in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup during his single season in Rome.

But at Inter it all changed as the striker settled down and the trophies dried up. Although in 2001/2002 Vieri scored 22 goals in 25 games, Inter still missed out on the Scudetto after a last day defeat to former club Lazio. Despite prolific partnerships with Ronaldo and Crespo that resulted in an impressive tally of 103 goals in 144 games, the Italian international's only silverware was the 2005 Coppa Italia in his final season.

Following his six years at Inter, Vieri, whose best achievement came in 1997 when he won the Scudetto with Juventus, resumed his one-club-a-season nomadic life. The 35-year-old is currently on a pay-as-you-score deal at Atalanta.

Midfielder: Pavel Nedved, From Lazio to Juventus, £30.6 million
Trophies at Juve: Serie A: 2001/02, 2002/03, Serie B: 2006/07

Czech international Nedved was yet another star signing to leave Lazio and in 2001 Juventus paid £30.6m for the playmaker as they sought a replacement for Zinedine Zidane, who had been sold to Real Madrid.

Nedved was an instant hit, helping the club to the win the Scudetto in his debut season and the three subsequent seasons, although the two titles won under Fabio Capello for 2003/04 and 2004/05 were later stripped from the club as part of the calciopoli match fixing scandal which also saw the club relegated to Serie B.

But Nedved stuck around to help the Bianconeri win Serie B in 2006/07 to return to the top flight. Amid all that he was also instrumental in leading Juventus into the 2003 Champions League final but was suspended and could only watch as AC Milan triumphed. The 36-year-old is now in his eighth season with Juventus and will retire from football at the end of this campaign with a host of individual awards.

Midfielder: Gaizka Mendieta, From Valencia to Lazio, £29 million
Trophies at Lazio: None

As Nedved headed out of Lazio the Rome club spent £29m on Spanish playmaker Gaizka Mendieta, who arrived as a twice defeated Champions League finalist with Valencia in 1999/00 and 2000/01.

The Spaniard landed with a big reputation after breakthrough seasons in La Liga under Italian manager Claudio Ranieri and future Internazionale boss Hector Cuper but his time in Italy proved to be the death knell of his career in top level football.

Injury and a serious dip in form resulted in Mendieta being sent back to Spain on loan to Barcelona, he then signed for Premiership club Middlesbrough on a free transfer, where he wound down his career. The two-time European finalist was later released by Boro, with whom he won the Carling Cup in 2004, and is now without a club.

Midfielder: Zinedine Zidane, From Juventus to Real Madrid, £48.1 million
Trophies at Real: La Liga 2002/03, Champions League 2002, UEFA Super Cup 2002, Intercontinental Cup 2002

Despite having already won a World Cup in 1998, European Championship in 2000, two FIFA World Player of the Year awards and an armful of trophies while with Juventus, including two Serie A titles, many still baulked when Real Madrid paid the Italian club a world record £48.1m in 2001.

But any worries about the magnitude of the transfer fee were quickly dispelled as 'Zizou' help Los Blancos win the UEFA Champions League in his debut season, scoring the winning goal in Madrid's 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen, and scooping FIFA's WPOTY award for good measure.

Zidane help to herald the galactico era at the Bernabeu and after picking up the European Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup in 2002, he helped the club to win La Liga in 2002/03. But surprisingly that was all she wrote for Zidane.

The glamour that the galacticos brought quickly turned to discord when manager Vicente Del Bosque was sacked after the league triumph and for the final three years of his career Zidane endured a trophyless and tumultuous time before retiring in 2006 after being sent off in the World Cup final.

Midfielder: Luís Figo, From Barcelona to Real Madrid, £38.7 million
Trophies at Real: La Liga 2000/01 & 2002/03, Champions League 2002, UEFA Super Cup 2002, Intercontinental Cup 2002

When Luis Figo swapped Barcelona for arch-rivals Real Madrid in 2000 the world record transfer fee of £38.7 million did nothing to placate the outraged Catalan fans, who expressed their fury by raining down debris, including a pig's head, when he returned to the Camp Nou with his new employers.

The Portuguese winger had been the hero of Catalonia, leading the club to two La Liga titles and other assorted silverware during his five years with the club. The treachery of the Pesetero was made all the worse as he continued his winning ways in Madrid.

In his first season at the Bernabeu he helped Real win La Liga and reach the Champions League semi-finals, as well as scooping the FIFA World Footballer of the Year award for himself. The following season Figo went one better to win the Champions League with Madrid and in 2002/03 won another league title before falling foul of the galactico era.

After two seasons without a trophy at Madrid, Figo went on a free transfer to Inter Milan where he continued to win trophies, including three Serie A titles, and at 36-years-old will probably end his career there.

Defender: Lilian Thuram, From Parma to Juventus, £22 million
Trophies at Juve: Serie A 2001/02 & 2002/03

In 2001 Thuram became the most expensive defender in the world when Juventus paid £22m for the French international whose stock was at its peak after winning the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

He arrived from Parma, along with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, having won the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia in 1999, and quickly justified his transfer fee by helping Juve win the Scudetto in his debut season as part of an expensively assembled defence, and indeed squad.

Juventus retained the title for the next three seasons but were stripped of their 2003/04 and 2004/05 titles as part of the calciopoli match fixing scandal which also saw the club relegated to Serie B in 2006.

At 34-years-old Thuram wasn't willing to spend a season in the doldrums so hot-footed it to newly-crowned Spanish champions Barcelona where he spent two trophyless seasons before retiring in 2008 with a heart problem.

Defender: Rio Ferdinand, from Leeds United to Manchester United, £29.1 million
Trophies at United: Premier League 2002/03, 2006/07 & 2007/08, Champions League 2007/08, League Cup 2006, FIFA Club World Cup 2008

Rio Ferdinand has the distinction of holding the title of "world's costliest defender" on two occasions. In November 2000 Leeds paid West Ham United £18m for his services, beating the £13m fee that Roma paid Boca Juniors for Walter Samuel, and in July 2002 Manchester United set the current record of £29.1m, beating the £22m Juve paid for Thuram.

And while Ferdinand won nothing with Leeds his time at Old Trafford has made him the player who most represents value for money in our Expensive XI, in terms of trophies won.

Despite suffering from a dip in form in his first season he still helped United to win the Premier League but missed out on the club's next trophy, the 2004 FA Cup, because he was serving an eight month ban for "failure or refusal" to attend a drugs test.

He returned to action the following campaign and picked up the League Cup in 2006 and reclaimed the Premier League title in 2006/07. Ferdinand's finest moment came in 2007/08 when his defensive partnership with Nemanja Vidic helped deliver another Premier League title and he was captain as United won the final of the Champions League in Moscow in the same year.

Defender: Daniel Alves, from Sevilla to Barcelona, £23.5 million
Trophies at Barca: None

Sevilla full-back Daniel Alves arrived at Barcelona in the summer of 2008 with two UEFA Cup and Spanish Cup doubles under his belt from his six years at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán and a £23.5m price tag around his neck.

Although it is still early in Alves' career at Barcelona the Brazilian has already played 26 games as the Catalan club racked up a record points tally at the half-way point in La Liga and the 25-year-old looks almost certain to win the title in his debut season.

Barca are playing some of the best football in Europe and are also amongst the favourites to win this season's Champions League so the former Esporte Clube Bahia player looks like a good buy for the Camp Nou outfit.

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon, from Parma to Juventus, £32.6 million
Trophies at Juve: Serie A 2001/02 & 2002/03, Serie B: 2006/07

At £32.6m the world's most expensive goalkeeper was also the costliest recruit of Juventus' 2001 summer spending spree that also brought Pavel Nedved (£30.6m) and Lilian Thuram (£22m) to the Turin club.

And like his fellow new recruits the former Parma player brought instant success, winning the Scudetto in his debut season and the following three campaigns, only to have the last two stripped away due to the calciopoli scandal.

Despite being rated as the world's best goalkeeper the Azzurri No.1 stuck with Juventus and helped them fight back to the Italian top flight, scooping the Serie B title along the way.

However, the 2006 World Cup winner's only European trophy remains Parma's UEFA Cup triumph in 1998/99 despite reaching the Champions League final with Juventus in 2003 and saving a spot-kick from AC Milan's Clarence Seedorf, his team eventually lost the penalty shoot-out.

Buffon is still at Juventus but the 30-year-old could well become the world's most expensive player if the links with Manchester City are to be believed. Whether or not that will bring the success of a major trophy remains to be seen.

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