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The most expensive signings ever made by MLS clubs

todayMarch 21, 2021 15 1

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As the interest and participation in football begins to grow in the USA, MLS is going from strength to strength.

No longer viewed as a league where ageing European players go to retire, the top tier of the American footballing pyramid is beginning to attract some stellar names, and with stellar names come eye-water price tags.

With the Designated Player Rule meaning MLS club rosters can boast up to three players that would be considered outside their salary cap or that they can pay a fee to sign, we’re beginning to see more and more big-money deals as the league continues to grow.

So, with that in mind, 90min has provided you with a list of the most expensive MLS signings ever…

Giovani dos Santos was a big-money signing for LA Galaxy
Giovani dos Santos was a big-money signing for LA Galaxy | Shaun Clark/Getty Images

Giovani dos Santo has done his fair share of travelling throughout his 15-year career, and in 2015 he signed for LA Galaxy for £5.75m.

The former Tottenham and Barcelona man flourished in MLS, with his 2016 campaign a particular highlight as he scored 14 goals in 28 league games.

In 2019 he called time on his four-year stint in the USA and moved to Mexican outfit Club America.

Raul Ruidiaz moved to Seattle Sounders for £5.75m
Raul Ruidiaz moved to Seattle Sounders for £5.75m | Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Raul Ruidiaz spent his entire career in South America before moving to MLS with Seattle Sounders in 2018.

The Peru international is one of the hottest forwards in the league right now having bagged 42 goals in 66 games since the move.

Gustavo Bou celebrates scoring for New England Revolution
Gustavo Bou celebrates scoring for New England Revolution | Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Gustavo Bou is another player who’d never played outside of South America before he was lured to MLS in 2019.

New England Revolution shelled out £5.75m for the Argentinian forward – a deal that to this day remains their club-record signing.

Marcelino Moreno was a hefty purchase for Atlanta United
Marcelino Moreno was a hefty purchase for Atlanta United | Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

The first of many entries on this list from big spenders Atlanta United.

Marcelino Moreno joined the club midway through the season in September 2020 for £5.75m.

Having only made six appearances before the campaign’s conclusion, next season will give us a better indication as to whether it was money well spent.

Lucas Zelarayan is Columbus Crew's record purchase
Lucas Zelarayan is Columbus Crew’s record purchase | Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Prior to the arrival of Lucas Zelarayan, Columbus Crew’s loftiest ever purchase was the modest £1.8m signing of Pedro Santos.

They smashed their club record in December 2019 as Argentinian attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan signed for a fee of £6.55m

Atlanta United made a huge profit on Miguel Almiron despite his lofty price tag
Atlanta United made a huge profit on Miguel Almiron despite his lofty price tag | Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

A name you’ll no doubt be familiar with.

Miguel Almiron’s time in MLS was littered with highlights despite the fact he only spent two years with Atlanta United.

The club would go on to make a lofty profit on their £6.75m investment as Premier League side Newcastle snapped him up in a deal believed to be worth £21m.

The sale remains the largest fee received by any MLS club for a player.

Alexandru Mitrita, Dax McCarty
Alexandru Mitrita is New York City FC’s record signing | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Alexandru Mitrita moved to New York City FC in February 2019.

His 18 goals in 49 games is a solid if not spectacular record in MLS, and like many players he’s chosen to use the off-season to maintain fitness by securing a sort-term loan move.

The Romanian is currently on loan at Saudi based side Al-Ahli.

Matias Pellegrini was a £7.35m signing for Inter Miami
Matias Pellegrini was a £7.35m signing for Inter Miami | Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Matias Pellegrini’s £7.35m represents a huge investment in a player still just 21 years of age.

The youngster only had one season of professional football under his belt when Inter Miami made their move in July 2019.

Former Premier League star Clint Dempsey moved back to MLS at the end of his career
Former Premier League star Clint Dempsey moved back to MLS at the end of his career | Zachary Scheffer/Overflow Productions, Inc./Getty Images

Clint Dempsey started his professional career in MLS with New England Revolution, and the USA international moved back to America in 2013 after a relatively successful spell in the Premier League.

The former Spurs man cost Seattle Sounders a hefty £7.35m, though his 56 goals in 136 appearances for the club represents a solid return before retiring in 2018.

Javier Hernandez moved to MLS after a spell in Spain
Javier Hernandez moved to MLS after a spell in Spain | Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Former Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez enjoyed two Premier League spells in his career as well as stints in Mexico, Spain and Germany.

In 2020 he moved to MLS with LA Galaxy for £7.7m, though his debut campaign failed to really take off a he netted just twice in 12 outings.

Alan Pulido
Alan Pulido moved to Sporting Kansas City in December 2019 | Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Alan Pulido’s prolific goalscoring in the Mexican top tier was enough to convince Sporting Kansas City to shell out nearly £8m for the frontman.

In 12 league appearances he scored six goals in his maiden season in America and he looks to be settling in at the club.

Jermain Defoe is unveiled as a Toronto player, though he spent just one year in MLS
Jermain Defoe is unveiled as a Toronto player, though he spent just one year in MLS | Jag Gundu/Getty Images

Jermain Defoe’s move to Toronto in 2014 represented a huge coup for the club.

An England international at the time of the move, Defoe proved he still knew where the back of the net was and bagged 12 goals in 21 appearances.

He then headed back to the Premier League where he played for another five seasons before moving to Rangers.

Michael Bradley has been with Toronto since 2014
Michael Bradley has been with Toronto since 2014 | Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Michael Bradley’s move to Toronto was part of a mega-money period of spending for the club, with the USA international unveiled alongside fellow new recruit Defoe.

He’s proved to be good value for money and still plays for Toronto seven years on from the move.

Portland Timbers signed Necaxa forward Brian Fernandez in 2019
Portland Timbers signed Necaxa forward Brian Fernandez in 2019 | Jam Media/Getty Images

Brian Fernandez only spent one season with Portland Timbers after his £8.2m move, though he certainly left his mark in MLS after notching six goals in five league games.

He moved back home in 2020 with a move to Argentinian side Colon.

Another big-money Toronto signing saw Alejandro Pozuelo arrive at the club
Another big-money Toronto signing saw Alejandro Pozuelo arrive at the club | Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Alejandro Pozuelo may have failed to make much of an impact on the Premier League having spent a year with Swansea back in the 2013/14 season, though his time in MLS has proved to be much more fruitful.

The Toronto man has 21 goals in his 53 league appearances for the club and will soon be embarking on his third season in the league.

Brian Rodriguez is Los Angeles FC's record signing
Brian Rodriguez is Los Angeles FC’s record signing | Shaun Clark/Getty Images

Snapping up quality talents from South America seems to be the new craze in MLS of late and Brian Rodriguez is exactly that.

Los Angeles FC spent a whopping £9.4m on Rodriguez despite him being just 18 at the time, though the move has turned sour and he’s currently on loan at Almeria with the Spanish side holding the option to make the switch permanent should they wish.

Inter Miami nearly broke the £10m barrier to sign Rodolfo Pizarro
Inter Miami nearly broke the £10m barrier to sign Rodolfo Pizarro | Ira L. Black – Corbis/Getty Images

If there’s one club that are doing their best to put MLS on the map right now it’s Inter Miami.

The club partly-owned by David Beckham are attracting a whole host of big names to America and Mexico international Rodolfo Pizarro was a huge purchase at £9.8m.

Brazilian forward Brenner arrived in MLS this year
Brazilian forward Brenner arrived in MLS this year | Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Next up on our list of South American wonderkids to move to MLS is Brenner.

Cincinnati broke the £10m mark to land the former Sao Paulo frontman after his breakthrough campaign last season caught the attention of a number of big clubs.

Ezequiel Barco cost Atlanta United over £11m
Ezequiel Barco cost Atlanta United over £11m | Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Just missing out on number one spot is Ezequiel Barco.

Atlanta United forked out £11.05m on the then 18-year-old, though it’s difficult to truly assess his time in MLS so far with the youngster’s development hampered by a number of injuries.

Atlanta United's capture of Gonzalo Martinez is the most expensive MLS signing ever
Atlanta United’s capture of Gonzalo Martinez is the most expensive MLS signing ever | Perry McIntyre/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The most expensive signing ever made by a MLS club.

No surprise it’s those big spenders Atlanta United once again, and in 2019 they shelled out over £13m on Argentina international Gonzalo Martinez.

He spent just two seasons in MLS before moving to Saudi based side Al-Nassr in 2020 for a reported £15.5m.

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