Player Valuation Update: the crippling effects of Covid


With 2021’s winter transfer period behind us, the KPMG Football Benchmark Team have released fresh player market value estimates. FC Barcelona’s Pedri leads the pack of footballers whose market value increased most since December 2020. Considering the most valuable players, PSG forward Kylian Mbappé still sits at the top of the list despite a slight drop in market value. Since the last pre-Covid evaluation from February 2020, players’ market values still have not fully recovered. In fact, the combined market values of the top 500 players included in our valuation are still 10.6% lower compared to pre-Covid times.

When KPMG’s Football Benchmark team released a player valuation update exactly one year ago in February 2020, barely anyone would have expected a virus pandemic to damage civic life and various industries, including the business of football, to the extent COVID-19 did. Although governing bodies and leagues have learned to cope with the operational impacts, clubs are still facing financial repercussions which endanger their whole business. In fact, stadium closures and the disruption to the season schedule have forced clubs to redraw their budgets as a consequence of missed earnings from all revenue streams. As many are struggling to repay debts or to finance wages and other costs, it is no surprise that the majority of clubs is reluctant to assign significant funds to player trading activities, as our recent article shows. Lower purchasing power and the general uncertainty in the business inevitably led to the devaluation of clubs’ most important assets – football players.

Now, being one year into the pandemic, it is apparent players’ market values still have not recovered: as our chart shows, the aggregate values of the top 500 and top 100 players are 10.6% and 10.1% below the value from pre-Covid times.

At league level, the Spanish LaLiga have suffered the most as aggregate player values have seen a decline of EUR 1.4bn since February 2020, equating to a 21.1% drop. Other “big five” leagues also recorded a significant year-on-year decrease in total market value – the English Premier League went down by EUR 1.1bn, the Italian Serie A values decreased by EUR 500m and the German Bundesliga lost EUR 400m in player market values. In contrast, the Turkish Süper Lig and Portugal’s Primeira Liga saw an increase of players’ market values by EUR 54m and EUR 34m, respectively. It has to be taken into account, however, that the Turkish top flight now includes three more teams compared to the last season, which has undoubtedly affected the total value and explains the relatively large growth.

With an increase of EUR 130.4m, Leeds United lead the list of clubs who have increased their squad value the most compared to the pre-Covid evaluation in February 2020. In their first season in English elite football after a 16-year absence, the Whites have shown outstanding performances, especially at the start of the current season. Fulham’s and West Bromwich Albion’s squad value also clearly benefitted from their promotion to the EPL, allowing them to reach places 2nd and 6th in the ranking.

A 7th-place finish replicated in their second season back in the Premier League, and a march into the quarter-finals of the Europa League last season (their first European campaign since 1980/81), helped Wolverhampton Wanderers increase their squad value by EUR 81.1m over one year. Moreover, Fábio Silva and Willian José, who joined the Wolves before the season start and in the recent winter transfer window, respectively, as well as Pedro Neto, one of the exciting prospects in the English first division, contributed to the squad value increase.

RB Leipzig and Granada CF follow on ranks four and five, respectively. In the past season, the latter qualified for the UEFA Europa League, while RB Leipzig made it into the Champions League semi-finals, only being stopped by Paris Saint-Germain. The gap in squad value left by the departure of Timo Werner who signed for Chelsea FC was compensated by the arrivals of Alexander Sørloth and Dominik Szoboszlai and the significant value increases of many key players who remained with the team.

French side Stade Rennais can count on one of Europe’s most coveted talents, central midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, who has almost doubled his individual value year on year (currently at EUR 57.5m). Besides that, Rennais had an outstanding 2018/19 Ligue 1 campaign, rewarding them with the UCL qualification rounds. German side Hertha BSC have made numerous squad investments over the last calendar year.

The list is concluded with Atalanta BC and Sporting Club Portugal, who have pleased their fans with superb performances: while Atalanta moved on to the knockout phase of the Champions League in two consecutive seasons (2019/20 and 2020/21), Sporting are currently in first place in Portugal’s Primeira Liga – 10 points ahead of Porto and are still unbeaten throughout the season.

At individual level, Kylian Mbappé remains the player with the highest estimated market value. Despite his EUR 15m decrease in value since last December, the PSG superstar still boasts a solid edge to 2nd-ranked Harry Kane. Thanks to his outstanding performances for Tottenham Hotspur, having already scored 21 goals and assisted 14 more in 33 games across all competitions in 2020/21, the Englishman climbed three places in the ranking compared to our December valuation. Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold has re-joined the top 10 with a market value increase of EUR 4m, leapfrogging Erling Haaland (11th, EUR 110m in market value) who had a tough start into 2021 with Borussia Dortmund.

As our chart shows, the ranking of the top 10 players by market value is again dominated by players who are contracted by English Premier League clubs – in fact, seven of the 10 footballers compete in the EPL.

FC Barcelona’s attacking midfielder Pedri sits at the top of the list of the football players who have increased their market value the most since our last valuation in December 2020, gaining more than EUR 26m in market value. He is followed by Manchester City’s Phil Foden, whose estimated market value grew by EUR 20m. The 20-year-old Englishman has already amassed 21 Premier League goals and assists in total for the Citizens. One of Germany’s brightest talents, Bayer Leverkusen’s 17-year-old Florian Wirtz occupies the bronze place in the elite ranking of players by market value growth, having been able to improve his market value by EUR 17m.

Considering the football players with the largest decline in market value in the past three months, some of the industry's most prominent names are included: Messi, Mbappé and Dele Alli are the three players with the highest drop in value. Despite his unclear future with his contract expiring at Barcelona this June and his rather high age of 33 years, Lionel Messi has suffered “only” a EUR 27m drop in value, due to his continuing elite performances. Consequently, the 33-year old falls below EUR 100m in MV, now standing at an estimated market value of EUR 75m.  Although still boasting the highest market value of all players, Kylian Mbappé has recorded the 2nd-highest decrease of all players since December. On one hand, his EUR 15m decline in market value is due to the fact that his contract at PSG expires in a little over a year. On the other hand, the finances of top-level clubs were heavily impacted by Covid, which somewhat reduces the valuation of even the most talented players as willingness and ability to pay for “blockbuster” deals are slightly diminished. In fact, there have not been any deals with a transfer fee of above EUR 100m in recent transfer windows. Tottenham’s Dele Alli not only had to overcome tendon inflammation in recent weeks, but also lacks game time under José Mourinho, which has resulted in a EUR 15m decline in market value and places him in the 3rd rank of players with the highest market value decrease since December 2020.

You can find more information on these players’ market values on the KPMG Football Benchmark website – our Player Valuation Tool includes data on more than 5,700 players from 12 different leagues. Launched in September 2018, and based on KPMG proprietary algorithms, this analytics platform enables industry stakeholders to take data-driven decisions regarding player valuation.