Football managers often live and die by transfers. They might not always be directly in charge of signings, but being handed expensive players by their club will always bring huge expectations.
Everyone on this list has seen more than £500m worth of new players sign for their clubs over the years. But who are the biggest spending managers in history?
Note: Only players who commanded a fee for a permanent transfer are included in the number of signings. Any difference between fees stated here and reported fees may be down to a number of factors, such as currency fluctuation, add-ons/bonuses or other potential variables.
20. Brendan Rodgers – £503m
Avg. per signing: £7.7m
Most expensive: Christian Benteke (£41.85m – Liverpool, 2015)
Brendan Rodgers’ most expensive signing at a club anywhere other than Liverpool or current side Leicester comes in at under £10m. He had a big budget at Anfield, but few of the players that arrived were successes, not that it was necessarily solely his decision.
19. Fabio Capello – £513m
Avg. per signing: £7.9m
Most expensive: Gabriel Batistuta (£32.5m – Roma, 2000)
Several of the most expensive players Fabio Capello managed during his storied career were signed during his spell at Roma, including the likes of Gabriel Batistuta, Antonio Cassano, Vincenzo Montella and Walter Samuel. Three of those won Serie A in 2000/01.
18. Marcello Lippi – £524m
Avg. per signing: £8.9m
Most expensive: Gianluigi Buffon (£47.5m – Juventus, 2001)
Italian football led the way in big transfers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with Marcello Lippi afforded plenty of expensive players at Juventus and Inter around that time. The capture of Gianluigi Buffon from Parma in 2001 stood as a world record for a goalkeeper for 17 years.
17. Leonardo Jardim – £528m
Avg. per signing: £7.9m
Most expensive: Wissam Ben Yedder (£36m – Monaco, 2019)
Having narrowly avoided an embarrassing relegation in 2018/19, Monaco spent big to try and equip Leonardo Jardim with a squad good enough to return to the right end of the table. It included the most expensive signing of his career to date in Wissam Ben Yedder
16. Mark Hughes – £536m
Avg. per signing: £8.6m
Most expensive: Robinho (£38.7m – Manchester City, 2008)
Mark Hughes was installed as Manchester City manager shortly before the Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008 and reaped the rewards of a massively inflated transfer budget. That being said, he was also backed with considerable money at both Stoke and Southampton later on.
15. Luciano Spalletti – £569m
Avg. per signing: £6.5m
Most expensive: Hulk (£36m – Zenit St Petersburg, 2012)
Luciano Spalletti might not have been an obvious contender for this list, but Inter spent very big during the Italian’s relatively short-lived time at San Siro. The double capture of Axel Witsel and Hulk stand out from his spell at Zenit St Petersburg.
14. Jurgen Klopp – £577m
Avg. per signing: £8.5m
Most expensive: Virgil van Dijk (£76.19m – Liverpool, 2018)
Such was Borussia Dortmund’s financial position 10 years ago, Jurgen Klopp initially had very little to spend on players during his time there. That has significantly changed at Liverpool, with well over half of his career spend coming just since the summer 2017.
13. Louis van Gaal – £588m
Avg. per signing: £9m
Most expensive: Angel Di Maria (£67.5m – Manchester United, 2014)
Louis van Gaal famously enjoyed a lot of success as a manager using home-grown players, but the situation he found himself in at Manchester United required serious cash. That, plus inflation, is why nine of his 15 most expensive signings came in just two years at Old Trafford.
12. Rafael Benitez – £695m
Avg. per signing: £7.5m
Most expensive: Gonzalo Higuain (£35.1m – Napoli, 2013)
Rafa Benitez is revered a manager, but many of his most expensive signings fell short of being home-runs. He had success with Fernando Torres, while Gonzalo Higuain exploded into life under someone else, but then there’s Robbie Keane, Djibril Cisse and Alberto Aquilani.
11. Antonio Conte – £700m
Avg. per signing: £10.3m
Most expensive: Alvaro Morata (£59.4m – Chelsea, 2017)
Inter could end up paying more for Romelu Lukaku over time, but for now the most expensive signing of Antonio Conte’s career as a manager remains Alvaro Morata. The Italian had wanted Lukaku at Chelsea instead of Morata in 2017, but has finally got his man at a different club.
10. Claudio Ranieri – £721m
Avg. per signing: £7.6m
Most expensive: James Rodriguez (£40.5m – Monaco, 2013)
Claudio Ranieri has benefitted from major club spending sprees a few times in his lengthy managerial career. The Italian was the incumbent when Roman Abramovich began injecting money into Chelsea in 2003 and was at Monaco when they attacked the market in 2013.
9. Roberto Mancini – £721m
Avg. per signing: £9.1m
Most expensive: Sergio Aguero (£36m – Manchester City, 2011)
It highlights the spending power of Premier League clubs compared to the rest of Europe that Roberto Mancini has never had a player who cost more than Sergio Aguero in three separate jobs at Galatasaray, Inter and Zenit since leaving Manchester City.
8. Unai Emery – £731m
Avg. per signing: £10.9m
Most expensive: Neymar (£199.8m – Paris Saint-Germain, 2017)
Having famously thrived at Sevilla under a system where revered sporting director Monchi would supply him with incredible bargains, Unai Emery entered a different world when he joined PSG in 2016. A year later, his bosses shattered the world transfer record to sign Neymar.
7. Ernesto Valverde – £761m
Avg. per signing: £15.2m
Most expensive: Philippe Coutinho (£130.5m – Barcelona, 2018)
The summer of 2019 saw the transfer spend during Ernesto Valverde’s career as a manager grow by close to 50% in the space of just a few months. Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong immediately became two of the four most expensive signings he has ever been given.
6. Diego Simeone – £813m
Avg. per signing: £12.7m
Most expensive: Joao Felix (£113.4m – Atletico Madrid, 2019)
Atletico Madrid knew only too well ahead of this season that challenging Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga required huge spending. They did just that, handing Diego Simeone well over £200m worth of new players in one summer alone.
5. Massimiliano Allegri – £923m
Avg. per signing: £10.6m
Most expensive: Cristiano Ronaldo (£105.3m – Juventus, 2018)
Five seasons at Juventus is an easy way to rack up major transfer expenditure, with players moving to Turin accounting for most of the money spent during Massimiliano Allegri’s career. Juventus buys make up his entire top 10, and 17 of his top 20.
4. Manuel Pellegrini – £1.01bn
Avg. per signing: £11.8m
Most expensive: Cristiano Ronaldo (£84.6m – Real Madrid, 2009)
Manuel Pellegrini wasn’t directly in charge of transfer at Real Madrid, but the Chilean was handed over £200m worth of players in one summer alone when he first arrived at the Bernabeu. That included two world record deals for Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo.
3. Pep Guardiola – £1.18bn
Avg. per signing: £20.4m
Most expensive: Rodri (£63m – Manchester City, 2019)
Pep Guardiola has often gone for quality over quantity when it comes to signings. His clubs have supplied him with far fewer buys than most on this list, but the average fee spent per player is considerably higher than the rest. Seven of his signings have cost in excess of £50m each.
2. Carlo Ancelotti – £1.23bn
Avg. per signing: £13m
Most expensive: Gareth Bale (£90.9m – Real Madrid, 2013)
Carlo Ancelotti has never been short of transfer backing in his illustrious managerial career. That much is clear by the fact that five different clubs – Real Madrid, Chelsea, PSG, Bayern Munich and Napoli – are represented on the list of his 10 most expensive buys, all above £30m.
1. Jose Mourinho – £1.40bn
Avg. per signing: £14.4m
Most expensive: Paul Pogba (94.5m – Manchester United, 2016)
When it comes to managers getting financial backing from their clubs, none come close to Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese is close to £200m out in front, but it remains to be seen what kind of transfer budget there will be at latest side Tottenham.
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