Release clauses can often be seen as an futile exercise when negotiating contracts but in some footballing nations, they are crucial to a club’s survival.
Minimum fee releases clauses are optional in most European countries except for Spain, where it is mandatory for all LaLiga to contain the clause.
Some clubs use them effectively to extract inflated transfer fees for their star players — just ask Chelsea why they ended up paying £71million to sign Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao in 2018.
Aston Villa also had a secret clause in Jack Grealish’s contract which forced them to accept any bids of £100m or more from clubs in the Champions League.
In a way, it gives the selling club some strength in the battle of negotiations. But because there is no reasonable limit on which amount is inserted into the contract. there are other clubs who use it as a tool to ward off interested parties.
Lionel Messi’s contract contained a €700m release clause before his contract expired in June and he joined PSG on a free transfer.
But now they have both departed, who can stake their claim for having the most expensive and ridiculous release fee? Mirror Football takes a glance at the top 10 in world football…
10. Gerard Pique (Barcelona) — £423m
More now than ever, Pique’s value to Barcelona has been highlighted by his gesture to reduce his salary due to the club’s growing financial issues.
The former Spain international is one of five Barca “captains” to take a reduction to help ease the club’s money woes.
But what would certainly make a huge dent in their estimated £1.1bn debt is if a club came along and paid his release clause in full.
Of course, now that Pique is 33 and arguably declining, surely no club — not even PSG — would go that far to pay a cool half a billion euros (£423m) clause.
10= Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) — £423m
Like Pique, Bale’s release clause was designed for nothing other than to deter any potential bidders.
But also like the Catalan, Bale is the wrong side of 30 and Real would do well to convince any club to pay even a tenth of his release clause nowadays.
The Welshman remains a star figure in name and at times on the pitch and as he enters the final year of his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu, his release clause is proof how highly he was once valued.
The 32-year-old will be hoping to show his club exactly what he can do this season, sitting alongside fellow stars Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema.
8. Isco (Real Madrid) —£592.5m
Quite what Real were thinking when they inserted an astronomically high release clause into Isco’s contract, only Florentino Perez knows.
Seemingly, if he wanted to keep Isco in the Spanish capital for the rest of his career, it has done the trick.
But sadly, while Isco has spent eight years with Los Blancos, the playmaker has been hamstrung by his £592.5m price tag.
The 29-year-old has been on the outskirts of the Real Madrid side since Zinedine Zidane returned to take charge of the club in 2018 and has been priced out of a move elsewhere.
Now under Carlo Ancelotti, the Spaniard may get a second chance to revive his career at the club.
8= Vinicius Junior — £592.5m
The Brazilian famously signed for Real Madrid as a raw talent in 2017, with Real paying £40m for the 17-year-old at the time due to his release clause at Flamengo.
So it made sense that in order to avoid a Neymar-esque transfer in the future, the club could protect themselves by locking him into the six-year deal — which included an eye-watering amount to release him from it.
Vinicius remains an important part of the setup with Real without truly setting LaLiga alight, but there is surely more to come from the exciting 22-year-old.
8= Marco Asensio — £592.5m
Another young talent, another absurd contract.
Asensio’s time at the club has been blighted by a serious knee injury so it is superb to see the 23-year-old back on the pitch.
Despite costing only £6m to sign from Real Mallorca in 2015, Asensio’s rise at the club saw him handed a lucrative new deal in
5. Brahim Diaz £643.9m
Barring some incredible performances during his two-year loan spell at AC Milan, it appears Real won’t be making a huge profit on the 22-year-old any time soon.
Diaz was signed for £18m from Manchester City in 2019 but has barely featured for the LaLiga giants.
After impressing on loan with Milan last season, he now has a chance to prove he is worthy the money paid for him two years ago.
5= Luka Modric — £643.9m
The Croatian is likely to surpass 400 appearances for the club this season and that would surely put the 35-year-old amongst some of the finest foreign imports the club have had.
But there has been no chance of luring the veteran midfielder away from the Bernabeu, even if Juventus were linked with an approach last summer.
Modric remains a pivotal member of the Real squad and the fact he retained that release clause with a new one-year contract this season proves it.
5= Federico Valverde — £643.9m
The Uruguayan has emerged as a key player in recent seasons at the Bernabeu after breaking into the first-team fold under Zinedine Zidane.
The former Castilla player has been patient in waiting for his chance and now the 23-year-old is a regular feature in the side.
When he landed a lucrative five-year deal in 2019, Real insisted upon adding a huge €750m provision in his contract.
Recent reports suggest the club are looking to tie him down to a bigger contract this summer and it could well be that he joins his team-mate at the top of the pile.
2. Antoine Griezmann — £686.4m
He was seen as the long-term successor to Lionel Messi and even got to play alongside the Argentinian magician for two seasons.
But it hasn’t quite worked out for Griezmann at Camp Nou so far. Not only has he failed to hit the same heights reached while he was at Atletico Madrid, his former club won LaLiga without him.
The £107m attacker was tipped as one of those to leave the Blaugrana due to his enormous wages.
But now that Messi has departed, it will be down to the Frenchman to lead the Catalan club into a new era — because with a €800m release clause, he is going nowhere unless Barca want him to.
1. Karim Benzema — £846.7m
The Frenchman is the king of the castle and has been for some time after Ronaldo left for Juventus in a deal worth £88m three years ago.
In fairness, Real president Florentino Perez has admitted when he sold the Portuguese star that clauses are only there to stop clubs from stealing their talent for small fees.
“The release clauses are not there to be paid,” Perez said. “If there has to be sale, it’s negotiated.”
And after renewing his deal until 2023 this week, Benzema has kept the €1bn clause. Not only does that mean he is not going anywhere, but it also means he has equal importance to Ronaldo now.
With 281 goals for the club and 18 trophies under his belt, who could argue with the 33-year-old getting such a deal?