Behind the scenes: Europa League Quarter-finals


Bayer 04 Leverkusen are on course for a historic treble, while Liverpool FC are adamant in bidding a triumphant farewell to Jürgen Klopp, and AS Roma are engaged in an Italian showdown against AC Milan as they strive to reach the final again after last season - this time with club legend Daniele De Rossi. This narrative brims with the allure of a potential fairy tale; however, there's much more at stake in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League (UEL), where the clashes promise serious thrills for the fans. In the following, we'll examine, among other things, the squad values of the remaining eight teams, their performance in the transfer market this season, and the earnings they've amassed so far from their participation in the UEL.

Squad market values unveiled

As we embark on an exploration of the elite teams competing in the Europa League 2023/24 season, our focus is drawn to their most valuable assets and respective squad valuations. Leading the pack in this are Liverpool FC, boasting a squad value approaching an impressive 1 billion euros, thereby solidifying their substantial advantage over their rivals. Trailing closely behind are Bayer Leverkusen, guided by the strategic expertise of Xabi Alonso, poised to clinch the Bundesliga title and disrupt FC Bayern München's longstanding dominance. AC Milan secure the third position on the podium, narrowly surpassing the 600-million-euro milestone.

However, beneath the surface of mere figures lies a narrative of evolution. Analyzing the trajectory of squad values since the season's inception reveals a compelling story. Unquestionably, Bayer 04 Leverkusen emerge as frontrunners in this narrative, witnessing an impressive 22% surge in their squad's value since September 1, 2023. This uptick is attributed to stellar performances across various competitions and an impressive streak of over 40 undefeated matches this season.

While certain clubs maintain stability in squad valuation this season - such as Liverpool FC, AC Milan, AS Roma, and Olympique de Marseille - others experience notable growth, as evidenced by SL Benfica and Atalanta BC, boasting increases of 7% and 10%, respectively. Conversely, West Ham United FC faces a downturn, experiencing a 7% decrease in squad value.

An analysis from the outset of the 2022/23 season (July 2022) provides even more intriguing insights. SL Benfica emerge as a standout, witnessing a substantial 78% surge in market value, followed by Bayer 04 Leverkusen with a respectable 23% increase and Liverpool FC with a modest 6% uptick. In contrast, West Ham United FC and AS Roma suffer significant declines, experiencing drops of 21% and 19%, respectively.

Despite Liverpool FC's current status as the most valuable squad among the last 8 teams in this year’s Europa League, Bayer 04 Leverkusen claim the distinction of having the most valuable player in the quarter-finals on their books in Florian Wirtz. Nonetheless, Liverpool FC's dominance remains evident, with six of their players securing positions in the top 10, including Trent Alexander-Arnold, Darwin Núñez, Dominik Szoboszlai, Mohamed Salah, and Cody Gakpo.

The list of the most valuable players of each team is also interesting as it includes 5 players aged under 25.

Subsequently, we will examine how the eight teams performed in terms of transfers during the two windows of the 2023/24 season.

Transfers in the 2023/24 Season

The quarter-finalists approached the summer transfer window of 2023/24 from very different positions. For example, Liverpool FC had to orchestrate a complete midfield overhaul: Fabinho, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Milner were replaced by Szoboszlai, Mac Allister, Gravenberch, and Endo; the Merseyside club paid a total of 172 million euros in transfer fees for the incoming quartet. Despite generating revenues of 60.7 million euros, Liverpool ended the summer with a net transfer balance of -111.3 million euros. As the club did not make any significant signings involving transfer fees during the winter window, they are the club with the lowest net transfer balance among the best eight teams in the UEFA Europa League. Alongside Liverpool, three other teams among the quarter-finalists also recorded negative net transfer balance: AC Milan, Olympique de Marseille, and Bayer 04 Leverkusen.

The other half of the eight teams reached the quarter-finals with a positive net balance. Atalanta BC stands out in this regard, having generated the highest revenue in the market during the 2023/24 season with a balance of 83.5 million euros, which is largely attributed to Rasmus Højlund’s transfer to Manchester United FC.

It is worth mentioning that several teams strengthened their squads for the season through loan deals and free transfers. AS Roma are a prime example, having acquired players such as Romelu Lukaku, Angeliño, Renato Sanches, and Rasmus Kristensen on loan, while signing Houssem Aouar and Evan Ndicka on free transfers.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the best eight teams in the UEL conducted significant business with each other in terms of transfers this year. For instance, Atalanta BC acquired Gianluca Scamacca from West Ham United FC, borrowed Charles De Ketelaere from AC Milan, and signed Sead Kolasinac on a free transfer from Olympique de Marseille. Meanwhile, Marseille purchased Ruslan Malinovskyi from Atalanta. At Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Alejandro Grimaldo, who is having  a fantastic season, joined from SL Benfica, while the Germans sold Mitchel Bakker to Atalanta.

UEFA Revenue estimations explained

When examining the estimated revenues generated by the eight quarter-finalist teams from the 2023/24 UEFA competitions, we need to divide the clubs into two groups. One group consists of six teams that only participated in the Europa League this season, while there are two teams that advanced to the Europa League's last eight after elimination from the Champions League group stages.

Belonging to the latter category are AC Milan and SL Benfica, who have received a total of 6 and 4 million euros, respectively, for their Europa League campaigns so far. However, they have already earned hefty sums from their participation in the Champions League, bringing their total UEFA competition income to 55 million euros and 48 million euros for the 2023/24 season thus far, respectively.

The other group of clubs, exclusively participating in this year's Europa League, has garnered more modest revenues compared to AC Milan and SL Benfica thus far. This underscores the significantly higher profitability associated with the primary UEFA competition. Among these clubs, Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC stand out, mainly because of the higher market pool component they can receive. They are followed by Bayer 04 Leverkusen, AS Roma, and Atalanta BC, with Olympique de Marseille rounding off the list.

Qualifying for the semi-final would result in a payout of 2.8 million euros, while advancing to the final would unlock an additional sum of 4.6 million euros. However, clinching victory in the Europa League final would not only secure the prestigious title but also command a bonus of 4 million euros for the winner.

Social Media – Follower Growth

We examined the popularity of the top eight teams this season by analyzing the changes in their social media followers since the beginning of the 2023/24 campaign. This metric highlights Bayer 04 Leverkusen's remarkable performance and the “likability” of Xabi Alonso's team, as they gained nearly 2.5 million new followers, representing a 28% increase since the start of the season.

Also notable is the social media performance of AS Roma (+15%) and West Ham United FC (+13%) in this regard. In terms of numerical growth, Liverpool experienced the largest increase in followers, gaining nearly 7 million new followers since the start of the season.

Regarding the total number of followers, it comes as no surprise that Liverpool boast the largest following, with nearly 140 million followers across their Facebook, Instagram, X, TikTok, and Weibo accounts combined. In this regard, AC Milan rank second with approximately 70 million followers, while AS Roma take the third spot with nearly 35 million.