Who were the first British players to have been sold for record transfer fees?

Split image. Left image: Alan Shearer. Central image: Declan Rice. Right image: Jack Grealish.
Declan Rice (centre) has broken the record transfer fee paid for a British player. Credit: PA / AP

Declan Rice has joined Arsenal in a record transfer for a British footballer after the Gunners agreed to pay a reported £105 million for his services.

The 24-year-old’s departure from the club he joined a decade ago in a club-record deal – making him the most expensive English player in history – was confirmed by the Hammers ahead of his move to Arsenal.

The fee marks another key moment in the history of football transfers, which have grown exponentially in size over the past 130 years.

There was once a time when £100 was enough to hit new heights, almost a century before the first transfer worth £1 million was completed in the UK.

ITV News takes a look at some of the landmark occasions when the transfer record for a British player has been broken.

  • £100 - Willie Groves - Joined Aston Villa from West Bromwich Albion | 1893

Scottish midfielder Willie Groves became the first British player to be bought for £100 back in 1893.

Football at this point was still mostly played at a semi-professional level and players would typically be paid a weekly salary worth less than £4. Working men, meanwhile, were paid an average of £1 per week.

Groves joined Aston Villa from West Bromwich Albion and he went on to help Villa secure the league title in 1893-94.

However, the £100 fee Groves moved for was not one that the clubs involved agreed on.

Instead the fee came about retrospectively with the Football Association (FA) instructing Villa to make the the payment to West Brom as they suspected Villa of tapping up Groves over the transfer.

  • £1,000 - Alf Common - Joined Middlesbrough from Sunderland | 1905

Almost a decade later, Alf Common became the first British player to command a transfer fee of £1,000.

The money paid for Common sparked uproar at the time, with so-called football 'purists' believing it could create a new brand of mercenary players.

To put the fee into perspective, the average annual wage in the UK at the start of the 20th Century was £42.70, according to The National Archives.

Middlesbrough signed Common from Sunderland, and the English forward would go on to score on his debut against Sheffield United.

He later became club captain and remained with the team until 1910, when he joined Woolwich Arsenal - which today is known as Arsenal.

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  • £10,000 - David Jack - Joined Arsenal from Bolton Wanderers | 1928

Arsenal are thought to have paid £10,890 for forward David Jack's services from his hometown club Bolton Wanderers.

Jack wrote his name into English football folklore in 1923 when he scored the first ever goal at the old Wembley Stadium, during Bolton's FA Cup Final win over West Ham United.

He was signed by then Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman and, in 1930, became the first player to win the FA Cup with two different clubs at Wembley, following the Gunners' 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town.

  • £100,000 - Denis Law - Joined Torino from Manchester City | 1961

He might be best known for his exploits at Manchester United, but it was Denis Law's transfer from city rivals Manchester City to Torino that earned him the title of first British player to be sold for £100,000.

City paid a British record transfer fee of £55,000 for Law in 1960, but sold him just a year later to the Italian side.

The trip to Italy never worked out and United paid a then British record fee of £115,000 to bring the Scottish forward to Old Trafford.

Denis Law (right) was the first British footballer to ever command a transfer fee of £100,000. Credit: AP
  • £1m - Trevor Francis - Joined Nottingham Forest from Birmingham City | 1979

Trevor Francis was the first ever British player to be signed for £1 million, nearly a century on from Willie Groves' then-eyewatering £100 transfer.

His move from Birmingham City to Nottingham Forest prompted the latter's then-manager, Brian Clough, to claim publicly that the actual price tag was £999,999 to reduce pressure on Francis.

That same season Francis scored the winner in the European Cup Final as Forest beat Swedish side Malmo 1-0 in Munich.

  • £10m - Alan Shearer - Joined Newcastle United from Blackburn Rovers | 1996

The Premier League's all time top goalscorer (with 260) joined his hometown club, Newcastle United, for £15 million nearly 30 years ago from Blackburn Rovers.

Up to that point no British player had previously moved between clubs for a fee of £10 million or higher.

Shearer's move, which was a world record at the time, might not have yielded any silverware at St James' Park, but his one-armed celebration was seen over 200 times in 10 years at the club.

Alan Shearer joined Newcastle United from Blackburn Rovers in a deal worth £15 million. Credit: AP
  • £100m - Jack Grealish - Joined Manchester City from Aston Villa | 2021

City agreed to pay Villa a reported £100 million two years ago to prize away Jack Grealish from his boyhood club.

The fee was the highest in the history of English football until last season when Chelsea paid a whopping £107m for Argentinian World Cup winning midfielder Enzo Fernandez.

Grealish was part of the City squad which won a historic domestic treble this season - a feat only matched by Manchester United in 1999.

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