GOAL: Ronaldo, Messi & the most expensive release clauses in world football (table)


Unsurprisingly, Real Madrid and Barcelona dominate the list of stars with the biggest buy-out fees included in their contracts

How much would it cost to sign Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?

It is a question often debated by football fans but the only definite answer – the price that would force Real Madrid and Barcelona to give up their star men – comes in the form of their release clauses.

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Release clauses are most prominently a feature in La Liga, where Spanish law requires that every player is able to buy out their own contract. As a result, there is a clause in every player’s contract specifying the amount of money they have to pay their club in order to do that and become a free agent.

In practise, players will rarely stump up the cash themselves. Instead, the club that is interested in signing them will pay them the money stated in the release clause and the player will then activate his release clause with that money, effectively making it a transfer fee.


Release clauses are sometimes inserted into contracts by clubs outside of Spain, but much less frequently and are usually avoided when it comes to the biggest stars.

It is no surprise, then, that our list of the most expensive buy-out fees in world football is dominated by players from Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Rank Player Club Release clause
=1 Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid €1bn
=1 Karim Benzema Real Madrid €1bn
=3 Gareth Bale Real Madrid €500m
=3 James Rodriguez Real Madrid €500m
=3 Luka Modric Real Madrid €500m
=6 Lionel Messi Barcelona €300m
=6 Toni Kroos Real Madrid €300m
=8 Neymar Barcelona €222m
=9 Luis Suarez Barcelona €200m
=9 Andres Iniesta Barcelona €200m
=9 Gerard Pique Barcelona €200m
=9 Sergio Busquets Barcelona €200m
=9 Casemiro Real Madrid €200m
=9 Sergio Ramos Real Madrid €200m