ANDY COLE (Newcastle to United in 1995 – £7 million)
Transfers fees had moved on by the mid-1990s and this deal was a bolt out of the blue that nobody saw coming until it was over the line. Keith Gillespie went the other way and was valued around £1million and this was a stunning deal in every sense of the word. Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan was forced to defend the sale to angry supporters at St James’ Park as the Magpies’ top scorer was allowed to join United at a time when most reports were linking the club with Nottingham Forest’s Stan Collymore.
It smashed the previous record by £1.5million (Paul Gascoigne’s switch to Lazio in 1992) and piled the pressure on Cole to perform but he asserted:
“I never set the fee. I’ve been bought for my football and not to worry about the price tag.” Cole had started the season with 14 goals in 17 games but a shin-splints operation had halted his progress and he was on a barren run of nine games prior to the big-money switch.
One of his 121 goals for the club was the title-winning lob against Tottenham at Old Trafford in 1999.
JUAN SEBASTIAN VERON (Lazio to United in 2001 – £28.1 million)
By the time the 21st Century was in full swing, the market had snowballed and this was a deal that showed United meant business on the global stage. Veron’s father had scored against the Reds for Estudiantes in 1968 so the cultured midfielder had an affinity with the Reds. Real Madrid had also been keen on the Argentina international but the transfer would trump the record fee paid by the Spanish giants for Nicolas Anelka a couple of years earlier.
“I never thought the day would arrive when I spent this much money on one player,” confessed Sir Alex Ferguson, as he presented his new arrival.
“It is a measure of the way things have escalated over the years and there is not much you can do about it. Thanks to the determination of Peter Kenyon and David Gill, they have made it possible for us to sign one of the world’s best players. It is the kind of thing Manchester United should do.”
Veron commented: ”I know I am going to make an impact and no-one should worry about how I will adapt to United’s style and whether I will cope with the physical demands of English football.
“ However, he spent only two seasons at Old Trafford, winning the 2002/03 Premier League, before joining Chelsea but nobody ever doubted his quality.