Most expensive British players ever: Rice transfer set to break record

English midfielder Declan Rice is set to become one of the most expensive British players ever with Arsenal and West Ham reportedly agreeing to a £105m fee for the 24-year-old.

With his national team partner Jude Bellingham also moving for an estimated £88.5 million (with variables that could take it even higher), it marks a record-breaking summer.

The “English tax” has long been used to talk about overpricing of players but with the resurgence of the Premier League in European competition led by a host of homegrown talent, the latest fees seem to be justified.

Here we take a look back at five major transfers that shook the British market.

Jack Grealish (Aston Villa to Manchester City, £100 million)

Jack Grealish most expensive bRITISH PLAYER
Gary Oakley/Sportimage – Photo by Icon Sport

In August 2021, Manchester City secured the signing of attacking midfielder Jack Grealish from Aston Villa for a British record fee of £100 million. Grealish was a talismanic figure at his local club Aston Villa, with his creative flair and dribbling skills delighting crowds and catching the attention of many top clubs.

Manchester City eventually won the race for his signature but needed to break the £100 million barrier for the British-born player. Grealish's ability to unlock defences and create scoring opportunities added a new dimension to Manchester City's already formidable attack.

While some criticised his first season, his performances last season on the way to the treble – including playing the most Champions League games of any player – are testament to his talent.

Harry Maguire (Leicester City to Manchester United, £80 million)


Harry Maguire most expensive British player
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In 2019, Manchester United broke the then-British transfer record by signing English centre-back Harry Maguire from Leicester City for £80 million. Maguire's commanding performances at Leicester and his breakthrough into the English national team made him an exciting prospect.

Manchester United went all out, making Maguire the most expensive defender, and within months he was made club captain. He played every game in his first season, a rarity for a Manchester United outfielder player, showcasing his defensive prowess and leadership qualities.

More recently, his performances have been called into question, and he finished the 2022/23 season with just 16 league games under his belt. With just an EFL Cup picked up in his four seasons so far, it is a scant return on investment.

Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid, £85 million)

Gareth Bale most expensive British players ever
Photo by Johnny Fidelin/Icon Sport

Welsh winger Gareth Bale had a slow start to his Spurs career, often being deployed at left back in his first two seasons with the London club. But under the stewardship of Harry Redknapp, who moved him further up the pitch, he became more effective before exploding under Andre Villas-Boas and scoring 26 goals in all competitions.

Real Madrid were ready to break the bank for him, and he became the world’s most expensive player as Los Blancos took him to the Bernabeu. Bale’s pace, stamina and decision-making in the final third propelled Real Madrid to the Champions League title in his first season, and he would pick up another four European Cups along with three La Liga titles. Money well spent.

Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United, £73 million)

Jadon SanchoJadon Sancho most expensive British players ever
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In 2021 Manchester United were again in the market for a marquee signing as they looked to end their trophy drought. They paid big to bring Sancho back to the city he had played in from the age of 14, being a star at Manchester City’s academy.

His scintillating performances on the wing in the Bundesliga, which included him being the top scorer in the 2019-20 season with 20 goals, had him in the sights of London clubs Arsenal and Chelsea as well.

Since returning to these shores, he has been a regular in the United set-up but, as yet, unable to find the final product we saw in Germany. Just 12 goals in 79 games mean supporters still wait for Sancho to repay his hefty fee.

Raheem Sterling (Liverpool to Manchester City, £44 million)

Raheem Sterling most expensive British players
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In 2015, Manchester City signed English winger Raheem Sterling from Liverpool for an initial fee of £44 million, making him the most expensive English player at the time. It was seen as a controversial move at, City had just two Premier League titles and Pep was yet to join.

Once Guardiola arrived, Sterling became integral to their success, contributing with goals and assists while picking up four consecutive Premier League titles before heading to Chelsea.

Sterling netted 10 or more goals in each of his final five seasons with the Citizens, more than justifying his heft price tag.

Most expensive British players could change soon

Declan Rice - most expensive British players ever
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We’ve come a long way from the £1 million paid for Trevor Francis in 1979, and as this list shows there are those that hit the ground running, others that took time to grow into their new role as superstar singing and some that began to fade away.

As football continues to evolve and more money is pumped into the game, we will likely see these transfer records for British-born players surpassed in the near future, starting most likely with Declan Rice.