Player values stagnate and are still below pre-pandemic level

06.07.2021

While football is gradually returning to normal, and the world’s most valuable players have been involved in the summer's continental competitions, most players have still not regained their pre-pandemic market value. At an individual level, Kylian Mbappé remains the world’s most valuable player (at EUR 175m), despite losing the most in value over the past three months. Borussia Dortmund’s Norway striker Erling Haaland – a rare exception having not been occupied in the summer – also retained his second place and was able to further boost his value.

As the 2020/21 domestic campaigns and UEFA club competitions have been completed, KPMG Football Benchmark have released their updated player market value estimates. In general, player values have been stagnant over the past nine months: since the last valuation in April 2021, when aggregate market values for both the top 100 and top 500 players by market value slightly increased, we now see further, yet limited growth for the top 500 (+1%), and a minimum decrease (-1%) for the top 100 players.

The top 10 ranking by absolute market value has seen some changes since the last valuation in April. Kylian Mbappé remains the world’s most valuable football player with a market value of EUR 175m, despite losing the most in value over the past three months (-EUR 14m) mainly due to his expiring contract with PSG next summer and the remaining uncertainty about his future. In contrast, his team-mate Neymar, who extended his contract with the club until June 2025, has seen his value grow by EUR 7m, which also increased his position by two spots in the ranking. Being 13th three months ago, Barcelona and Netherlands midfielder Frenkie de Jong not only enters the top 10, but jumps five positions to the eighth spot. Notably, Manchester United’s Portugal playmaker Bruno Fernandes improved three positions, while Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling dropped four to land in the 10th place.

Almost all of the most valuable players have been occupied in the summer’s continental tournaments – the European Championship or the Copa America (indicated in purple in the below chart). The only exceptions having taken a longer break are Borussia Dortmund and Norway striker Erling Haaland, whose country has not qualified for the current EURO 2020, and Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold who did not make the English squad due to injury.

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Real Sociedad’s Swedish striker Alexander Isak leads the pack of players whose market values have increased the most since our last evaluation in April 2021. The 21-year-old Swede is also among the star players of EURO 2020 who received UEFA’s ‘star of the match’ title, and despite Sweden having been eliminated in the round of last 16, his performance at the tournament also demonstrates why he gained EUR 16m in value in just a little over three months. He is followed by Manchester City youngsters Phil Foden and Ferrán Torres, both still in play for their countries at the EURO. Argentine defender Cristian Romero spent the last season on loan with Atalanta from Juventus, where he took off and became one of the best Serie A centre-backs – now he is in the country’s squad at the Copa America. Finally, the youngest of the top five is Stade Rennais FC’s Belgium striker Jérémy Doku – although Belgium was eliminated in the quarter-final by Italy, the teenager shone in the game, winning also a penalty, and was the youngest player ever to play a major tournament knockout stage match for Belgium.

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Major competitions enjoying mass audiences, such as the European Championship, always provide a great platform for footballers to impress and show their talents. Although a great tournament performance can be a major step in a footballer’s career, it does not mean an immediate and direct growth of a player’s market value. A spell of exceptional form in the short-term, such as a couple of games at the EURO 2020, may rather have a more indirect and longer-term impact on players’ values. For example, a great performance may attract suitors and a player may get a better contract, even from a higher-ranked club in a top league. Consequently, he can play in better squad, which can also help the player improve himself and perform better – all factors potentially result in an increase in his market value later on.

It is also not uncommon that impressive tournament performances trigger transfers where prices may surge, leading to a discrepancy in the estimated market value and the actual transfer fee paid for the signing of players. Furthermore, there are other factors that can lead to a sizeable gap between market value and transfer fee, such as a contingency, when a club is in urgent need to secure a good player for a position, the financial power of the buyer club, a release clause built into the contract of a player, or the player’s willingness to leave his club, among others,” commented Andrea Sartori, KPMG’s Global Head of Sports.      

The next two months will be inundated by transfer news around Europe – the summer transfer window opened on 1 July in most European leagues (9 July in England) and closes on 31 August. Players who excel at the current continental tournaments are likely to attract interest from clubs and player agents.

The starlets of the current tournaments may be at the centre of interest – the chart below shows the young stars of EURO 2020: players under 25 who received UEFA’s ‘star of the match’ award so far. It will be interesting to see how they can capitalize on their achievements in the competition and on the spotlight they gained.

Finally, with the EURO 2020 facing the final stages this week, we have assembled the best XI by market value – players selected from the four semi-finalist squads still in the game, namely Spain, Italy, Denmark and England. If player values matter, England are top favourites to win the tournament, to grasp their first EURO trophy – the strength and depth of their squad are also demonstrated by the fact that most of their players in this selection were not even in the starting line-up in several of their matches so far in the competition.

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Notes: Market value estimates from KPMG's Football Benchmark include over 5,200 players from 12 leagues based on the latest sporting statistics provided by Wyscout, and several other drivers – each of them incorporated with its own specific weight into our proprietary algorithm. The estimates cover footballers in the first divisions of Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Turkey, as well as the EFL Championship. It is important to note that the market value estimates provided are only comparable to fixed transfer fees and do not take into account performance-based bonuses that could be part of a potential player transfer fee.