We're not quite there yet, but it does seem like the European transfer market is close to entering a slightly new phase of inefficiency: still lots of bad signings, but not so many bargains. As the pendulum has shifted toward younger players, the traditional career-development ladder has had much of the middle cut out. While someone like, say, Darwin Nunez might've moved to a mid-tier Spanish club from Benfica before eventually moving to Liverpool or some other mega-club right around his mid-20s. Now, Liverpool just swoops in at age 22 and pays €75 million ($82.5m).
Thanks to a growing, if still shoddy and piecemeal, collection and implementation of data, and the increasing globalization of the game, it's become a lot harder for potential stars to fly under the radar. Winger Vinicius Junior had only scored seven professional goals when Real Madrid signed him as an 18-year-old from Brazilian side Flamengo in 2018 -- and he still cost €45m ($49.5m).
That doesn't mean great deals can't happen, though. We're going to take a look at five different successful transfers from the past five years across Europe's Big Five leagues (England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France), seeing what lessons we can learn and what current players might be worth signing.
All transfer values come from Transfermarkt.