Ranked! The most valuable players under 23 in the world
The most valuable players in the world mostly under 23 years old – just think how much money they'll command when they come into their prime…
Maybe it's the influence of Football Manager but wonderkids are more expensive than ever before. If you want to pay for a star of the future, you're not just paying for their current ability but what they might become – but that's not to say there aren't world stars on this list.
Every single one of Transfermarkt's (opens in new tab) top 25 under-23s is a full international, while plenty of them have title-winning experience and Champions League winners' medals in some cases. There's a bit of a gap between the 30+ era of superstars – the Messis, Ronaldos, Lewandowskis and Modrics of the world – and the next generation, with Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland both a good five years away from their respective potential peaks.
Of course, these values are only calculated based on worth: the actual cost of signing any of these stars could be near double. If you want any of these players, you're going to have to part with serious dollar.
The most valuable players under 23 in the world
25. Victor Osimhen
While the rest of us were making banana bread and competing in naff Zoom quizzes, Victor Osimhen spent the first lockdown upping sticks to Southern Italy, swapping Lille for Napoli for around £67 million in September 2020. Despite the global pandemic and two years fewer on his contract, he's barely decreased in value.
The Nigerian hitman's current deal winds up in 2025 but if the rumour mill is to be believed, Napoli won't be parting with their talisman for any less than what they paid for him. He could become the most expensive African player ever if someone offers more than the £72m that Arsenal paid for Nicolas Pepe.
24. Wesley Fofana
Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana was valued at around £36m by Transfermarkt when Chelsea decided to double that to bring him to the Bridge. At just 21, they could have signed one of the best defenders of the 2020s for that.
Fofana has seen a sharp jump in his market value according to the website, perhaps aided by the fact that he signed a seven-year contract with the Blues. It's safe to say he's been priced out of the transfer market for a good few years.
23. Kai Havertz
Another £72m Chelsea signing, Kai Havertz has blown hot and cold either side of his defining Champions League final strike last year. The German is marmite to fans but at 23, he still has some developing ahead of him.
With three years left on his current contract, he's thought to be worth in the £63m range – though has never been linked with a Premier League exit since his marquee move to west London.
22. Matthijs De Ligt
Club: Bayern Munich
It's strange to believe that a man who started a European final five years ago is still young enough to be considered a wonderkid but sure enough, Matthijs De Ligt is basically that kid in the playground at secondary school who never got ID'd for buying booze.
The Dutch colossus is the youngest captain in Ajax's history, the only defender to have won the Golden Boy award and already made two moves worth over £60m. Now at Bayern after three years at Juventus, his contract expires in 2027.
21. Rafael Leao
Club: AC Milan
Rafael Leao is arguably the hottest property in the entirety of Serie A right now. It's for the good of the league, let alone employers AC Milan, that his starting price alone would smash the Italian record.
Leao has skyrocketed from around £13m to £63m in just three years at the San Siro. With rumours that the Portuguese is valued by Milan at £100m, his worth may yet increase – a contract expiring in 2024 means that surely, he'll either make a Hollywood transfer next summer or commit to the Rossoneri on improved terms.
Club: Real Madrid
Real Madrid's strategy of signing up-and-coming Brazilian superstars in the hope of landing the next Neymar ahead of Barcelona this time is already a quantifiable success – despite Reinier's Dortmund loan being a massive disappointment.
Rodrygo seemingly has the Real gene of coming in clutch with vital Champions League knockout goals and since joining the kings of Europe for £40m three years ago, his worth has steadily increased. He's not the only one of Los Blancos' super starlets, either.
19. Alphonso Davies
Club: Bayern Munich
In the heady days of Alphonso Davies singlehandedly ripping Barcelona's righthand side to shreds – perhaps booking Ruben Semedo's flight to the Midlands in the process – the left-back was valued at £72m. He's not dropped off massively since then, despite worries over myocarditis last season after contracting COVID.
Fonzi is back, playing regularly for Bayern and will be the centrepiece of Canadian interest in the 2022 World Cup. He's effortlessly marketable, sure, but another three years on his deal at the Allianz means it would take a monster bid for the Bavarians to even consider letting him go right now.
18. Bukayo Saka
Bukayo Saka is rumoured to only be on around £30,000 a week at Arsenal. Despite having two years left on his current contract, he's still worth over £60m by Transfermarkt.
At 21 years old, that value is only set to soar. The England Player of the Year is already a key player for club and country – and reportedly set to tie down terms on a new £200,000-a-week deal for another five seasons.
17. Joao Felix
Club: Atletico Madrid
Joao Felix royally cheesed off Cristiano Ronaldo when he became the most expensive Portuguese player ever (we assume), when he made a nine-figure move to Atletico Madrid three years ago. That number has almost halved since.
The 22-year-old has endured some difficult times under Diego Simeone but is still one of the most exciting footballers – of today or tomorrow – with four years left to run in the Spanish capital. It seems unlikely that Atleti will recoup their money – but they would still rake in a hefty fee should they choose to sell Felix on.
16. Darwin Nunez
He's not exactly hit the ground running at Anfield but Darwin Nunez is far from a flop just yet. The Liverpool striker doesn't turn 24 until next summer either, so the chances are, he'll evolve more as a player and hone his game.
According to Transfermarkt, Liverpool paid £18m over the odds on the Uruguayan, laying £67.5m to sign him when he was worth just under £50m. Signing a massive Premier League contract for six years and becoming the focal point of the Reds has still boosted Nunez, though, up to £63m, his highest market value.
15. Florian Wirtz
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
The world was at 18-year-old Florian Wirtz's feet until a cruciate ligament rupture curtailed his 2021/22 season in March last year. Despite this injury, his value hasn't decreased.
The next big thing of German football has maintained his all-time-high value of £63m throughout his lay-off, with Bayer Leverkusen unfazed about his worth dropping. The teenager signed a new deal in the summer to protect that value, so should he return to the form he was displaying before his hiatus, he could well fetch well over £60m if he leaves the BayArena.
The youngest player on this list, La Masia teen Gavi penned an extension to his Barcelona deal in September, turning his back on the vultures of Europe hovering for his signature.
Now a full international and a regular under Xavi, Gavi may have only been six when Spain lifted the World Cup but he'd be one of the most difficult players to prise away in the world. Barcelona letting academy stars leave on megadeals just don't happen.
13. Mason Mount
One of the leaders in Chelsea's side, one of the first names in every England squad and one of the most accomplished midfielders in the biggest league on Earth, yes, Mason Mount is still just 23.
Mount's value hasn't changed in almost a year and a half, though – and he hasn't signed a new contract since 2019. Next summer, he'll find himself with just 12 months left on his deal, so it's likely his value may rise again sharply soon.
12. Jadon Sancho
Club: Manchester United
At his peak, Jadon Sancho was thought to be worth an eye-watering £117m by Transfermarkt – but before you start blaming the malaise of Manchester United on such a steep drop, that was a pre-COVID valuation.
Still just 22, Sancho has seen his value abseil by £40m but United did sign him for a great price. The £76.5m fee that it took to take him to Old Trafford was considerably lower than the £90m that Transfermarkt estimated his value at when he moved.
Club: Manchester United
As recently as June, Antony was valued at around £30m. Now, the Brazilian starlet is worth more than double.
According to Transfermarkt, United cancelled out their Sancho nous by overpaying over £50m more for their samba winger than he was actually worth. Still, if he continues the electric form he's started at Old Trafford, who cares? That £67.5m won't stay that low…
10. Declan Rice
Club: West Ham United
The only Europa Conference League player on the list – until, at least, some teams drop down from the Europa League.
Declan Rice isn't 24 until January and is at a current all-time high of £72m. Rumours that West Ham United wouldn't have let him leave for less than an English record – £100m, broken by Jack Grealish last year – suggests that it might take at least that £72m to sign him. His contract expires in 2024, though the Irons have an optional one-year extension.
9. Aurelian Tchouameni
Club: Real Madrid
According to Transfermarkt, Monaco slightly overpaid for Aurelien Tchouameni, dropping £16m for the Bordeaux midfielder in January 2020 when he was only worth around £12m. Still, it was probably the right decision.
Real Madrid paid £72m when he was valued at around £54m over the summer. The 22-year-old has since been bumped up to his actual fee by Transfermarkt and since he's on a contract that'll see him through to 2028, it's likely that value will remain constant for the next few years.
8. Jamal Musiala
Club: Bayern Munich
Rumoured to be on Liverpool's wishlist, Stuttgart-born, Croydon-raised Jamal Musiala has never been given a Transfermarkt valuation lower than his last.
The Bayern Munich star would be Bayern's record sale by £30m if they were to sell him for his current £72m value. But would any Premier League side coming in him have to pay English tax?
7. Dusan Vlahovic
Juventus might not be the force right now that they once were but Dusan Vlahovic is very clearly their prized asset. The Serbian moved for £73m from Fiorentina in January this year and has very quickly made up his value.
Vlahovic was valued at £63m by Transfermarkt when he moved across Italy – now he's worth a few million more than the fee the Old Lady paid for him. He only signed a four-year deal, though – it's quite possible that his value could rise yet, either when another side purchases him once more or he increases his salary to keep him in Turin.
6. Phil Foden
Club: Manchester City
When Phil Foden last signed a contract at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola had only won one title at the Etihad. There were questions about his usage of youth in his side and whether the jewel of the City academy would have to leave to find opportunities.
It's safe to say that Foden has more than proved doubters wrong – but though no one expects the boyhood City fan to ever wave goodbye to the club, he could just be a year away from leaving on a free transfer while tying up a fifth Premier League title in May 2023. A value of £81m proves just how good he's been over the last few years.
5. Jude Bellingham
Club: Borussia Dortmund
The most valuable English footballer around? He's certainly one of the most exciting and since packing his bags for the Bundesliga, Jude Bellingham has rocketed in value.
Ironically though, Borussia Dortmund might not fetch as much for his sale as a Premier League side would for Saka or Rice. BVB's model relies on Bellingham's sale, meaning that even flogging the teenage midfield wizard for his current £81m valuation would be stellar work considering the £22.5m they bought him for. With three years left in Germany and no obvious desire to go though, we could well see Bellingham's value increase further still.
At one stage, there was a worry that Pedri could well leave Barcelona for nothing. Now, he's their most valuable player since Lionel Messi left.
Still just 19, Pedri wasn't a La Masia graduate – he was signed from Las Palmas – but has been treated as if he blossomed in the Catalan sun, inheriting the sacred No.8 shirt from Andres Iniesta's back and penning terms on a bumper new deal to take him through to 2026 as a Barça player. He's widely considered the future of both club and country: it would probably have to take a record fee to snatch him from Camp Nou, now.
3. Vinicius Jr
Club: Real Madrid
Vinicius Jr has been a Real Madrid player for four years and according to Transfermarkt, his value has fluctuated over that time, without ever dropping below the £31.5m market value that was set when he joined Los Blancos.
The Brazilian is now at a record-high of £108m, thanks surely in part to a Champions League final-winning strike and 10 goal contributions in his first 13 matches this season. It looks like he's found momentum in European football and seems on course to stay around this valuation for a while yet. A new contract seems likely, too.
2. Erling Haaland
Club: Manchester City
Erling Haaland is valued at £135m – and yet Manchester City unlocked his release clause for just £54m. It's a habit as curious as his goalscoring exploits: back in 2020 when moved to Dortmund for £18m, he was valued at around £40m.
Something tells us that whoever tries to buy him next would have to pay significantly more money than his current market value, too. With City legend Alfie Haaland claiming his son could leave the Etihad three years into his five-year deal and talk of a mammoth release clause, maybe we will see Neymar's transfer record broken by the man smashing all other records on the pitch.
1. Kylian Mbappe
Club: Paris Saint-Germain
If the rumours are true, Kylian Mbappe wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain. The French giants paid £162m for the privilege of bringing him to the Parc Des Princes five years ago (well, four, given the year-long loan FFP loophole). It may take a similar fee to get him out of PSG once more.
The youngest-ever World Cup final goalscorer is still just 23 but he peaked in value pre-lockdown when he tipped £180m. Now, he's "only" worth £144m – with another three years left to run on the contract extension he signed over the summer. Goodness knows how much a suitor could pay for King Kylian, should he cut this new deal short after all.
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.
By Ryan Dabbs