The Championship remains one of the most hotly-contested leagues in the world, with an ever-changing cast each year.
The financial effects of the pandemic had a big impact on the transfer activity of the clubs this summer. That was reflected with the majority of teams being largely restricted to free transfers or loan deals. Very few transfer fees were paid out.
But clubs in the division haven’t been afraid to splash the cash in the past.
Here, we run the rule over all 24 clubs in the second tier and look at their respective record signings (according to industry website Transfermarkt ) – and see what they are up to nowadays.
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Gjorgji Hristov joined from Partizan for £2.03m in 1997. He scored eight goals in his debut season, in the Premier League, but struggled with injuries before departing in 2000. He famously said of Barnsley: “The local girls are far uglier than the ones back in Belgrade or Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, where I come from.
“England is a strange country and I found it hard to adapt to living here.”
Hristov managed Metalurg Skopje for a brief period in the early 2010s.
The Blues signed Emile Heskey for a fee of £8.39m in 2004. He joined from Liverpool and would go on to notch 14 goals for the club before leaving for Wigan.
Heskey was this month appointed Head of Women’s Football Development by his former club Leicester City.
Andy Cole remains Blackburn’s record signing after they paid £10.98m to recruit him from Manchester United in late 2001.
Now aged 50, he spent a period of time as a coach at Southend United and is a regular pundit on MUTV.
The Tangerines’ record outlay is the £1.25m they shelled out for striker DJ Campbell back in 2010.
Campbell arrived from Leicester after previously spending two separate loan spells at Blackpool. He would prosper on a personal level, scoring 13 times in the Premier League but it wasn’t enough to prevent their relegation after just one season.
He retired in 2015 and now has his own football management agency.
During their Premier League days Bournemouth spent some hefty transfer fees. Jefferson Lerma’s arrival from Levante in 2018 tops the lot, coming in at £25.2m.
After a slow start the Colombian has made himself a key part of the Cherries’ midfield. He’s made 11 league appearances this season, helping Scott Parker’s side top the table and go 15 games unbeaten.
Tomas Kalas’ arrival from Chelsea cost City £8.1m back in 2019.
The 28-year-old remains a key part of Nigel Pearson’s side and has made 14 appearances in the Championship this term.
The late Emiliano Sala remains City’s record signing. He was purchased for £15.3m from French club Nantes in 2019 but would never make an appearance for Cardiff.
He tragically passed away during a plane crash whilst travelling from France.
Craig Bellamy’s arrival from Norwich in 2000 for £8.33m remains the Sky Blues’ biggest outlay. But he flattered to deceive and after a solitary season he left for Newcastle.
“I never once enjoyed it at Coventry. I felt quite demoralised,” Bellamy said of his time in the Midlands.
Bellamy retired in 2014. He has since been coach of Anderlecht’s under-21 team and was then made assistant to boss Vincent Kompany but left earlier this year citing mental health issues.
Matej Vydra signed for Derby from Watford for £8.46m in 2016.
He scored 21 goals in his second season at Pride Park, leading to a transfer to Burnley in 2018. He remains with the Clarets, used mostly as a back-up striker.
The Cottagers’ most expensive player is still a crucial part of their squad. Jean Michael Seri was recruited in 2018 from Nice for a princely sum of £27m.
Despite being loaned out on two separate occasions, the 30-year-old is an important part of Marco Silva’s side at present as they aim for an immediate return to the Premier League.
The Terries’ most expensive recruit is Terence Kongolo. He was initially signed on loan from Monaco before the deal was made permanent in the summer of 2018.
Town forked out £18m for his signature but he was eventually moved on to Fulham. He moved initially on loan before being sold permanently for a fraction of that £18m.
Despite that move happening a year ago, Kongolo has played just twice for the Cottagers since.
Ryan Mason signed for £13.8m from Tottenham back in 2016.
He would go on to make just a handful of appearances for the Tigers however. A sickening clash of heads with Chelsea’s Gary Cahill resulted in Mason suffering a career-ending skull injury.
He went into coaching at former club Spurs in 2018 and earlier this year he stepped up as interim boss following Jose Mourinho’s exit. Mason took charge of the EFL Cup final, when Spurs were beaten by Man City.
Simon Sluga’s £1.53m arrival from Rijeka is the Hatters’ biggest outlay in their history. He arrived in 2019 and remains the club’s number one.
He is now in his third season at Kenilworth Road and is an ever-present in the Championship this term for Nathan Jones’ side.
Britt Assombalonga was signed for a whopping £15.39m by Boro back in 2017.
He had forged a reputation as a serial goal-getter at Nottingham Forest and Peterborough and he did hit double figures in his first three seasons at Boro.
But last season saw him fall down the pecking order and he left on a free in the summer. He ended up making a surprise move to Turkish outfit Adana Demirspor.
The Lions have three players who arrived for the joint-record fee of £990,000.
Tom Bradshaw (Barnsley, 2019), Ryan Leonard (Sheffield United, 2019) and Connor Mahoney (Bournemouth, 2019) all share the honour and all three are still part of the first-team set up at the Den.
Joao Carvalho cost Forest £13.5m from Benfica back in 2018 but has flattered to deceive during his stay at the City Ground.
He was even loaned out last season to Spanish club Almeria but was brought back into the fold this summer. However, he’s only featured five times and not at all since August. His Forest deal runs until the summer of 2023.
The Posh smashed their club record this summer when they forked out £3.69m for Shrewsbury’s Oliver Norburn.
The 29-year-old is experiencing the Championship for the first time and has made 14 appearances for Darren Ferguson’s side so far.
North End’s record buy is the £2.07m they spent on Liverpool’s Neil Mellor back in 2006.
He would spend six years at Deepdale but retired in 2012 at the age of just 29.
Since hanging up his boots he has become a prominent pundit and reporter and is a regular fixture at games for Sky Sports News .
Chris Samba’s £13.5m arrival from Russian side Anzhi in 2013 was heralded by many as being the perfect signing given Rangers’ desire to stay in the top flight.
But after just ten appearances the former Blackburn man was heading back to Russia after Anzhi re-signed him after six months,
He returned to English football with Aston Villa in 2017 and retired a year later. He has since moved into coaching.
The Royals’ biggest outlay was on two players. Sone Aluko signed for £6.75m in 2017 from Fulham.
They paid out the same fee for George Puscas from Palermo in 2019. Puscas is still at the club but Aluko is now plying his trade at League One side Ipswich.
The Blades spent some big sums during their recent two-year stint in the Premier League.
The biggest of the lot though went on Rhian Brewster, for a total of £23.4m from Liverpool.
At the time it may have looked a canny deal. But the fact that the England under-21 striker has yet to score a league goal more than a year after joining the Blades tells its own story.
The Potters’ signing of Giannelli Imbula for £21.83m is right up there with expensive flops.
He signed from Porto in 2016 but had a disastrous spell in the Potteries. He was loaned out three times before City decided to tear up his contract – and take a huge loss – in early 2020. He’s now at Portuguese side Portimonense.
The Swans’ purchase of Andre Ayew in 2018 represented the second time they had signed the Ghanaian. But the outlay of £20.52m from West Ham eclipsed any deal the club have done in their history.
Despite relegation from the top flight, Ayew proved a key asset in his two seasons in the Championship. He hit double figures in both and played a starring role in leading them to the play-off final last term, before they lost out to Brentford. He’s now at Qatari club Al-Sadd.
Salomon Rondon’s arrival from Zenit in 2015 cost Albion £15.3m.
He was a semi-regular scorer for the Baggies in the Premier League before a loan swap saw him join Newcastle.
He then went on to play in China and Russia before returning to England this summer to be reunited with ex-boss Rafa Benitez at Everton.