The CIES Football Observatory's top 10 positions are occupied by six nationalities – two each from England, Belgium, France and Argentina, and one from Brazil and Egypt.
Their algorithm has been formulated using the financial details of over 5,000 transfers between July 2011 and June 2018, and takes into consideration no fewer than 31 player variables alone, combined with 19 more used to predict clubs potentially interested in their signature. Yes, FFT's head hurts already.
Only two goalkeepers appear in the top 30 positions (head-scratchingly so, we have to say), but with some of Europe’s biggest – and richest – clubs in the market for a new No.1 this summer, these predicted figures may well be blown out of the water...
30. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal, €95.6m)
The Gabon international striker joined Arsenal in January for a reported £60m, but his value has already risen to more than £83m thanks to 10 goals and four assists in 13 Premier League matches with the Gunners.
The former Borussia Dortmund man became the fastest Arsenal player to reach 10 goals in the top flight in the process, and should be one of the north London club's most important players under new boss Unai Emery next season. Aubameyang will be the focal point of a rebuilt Arsenal, and his new manager will be relieved to have a natural goalscorer like him in his squad from the off.
29. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United, €97.5m)
Rashford is still just 20 but played a part in 35 of Manchester United’s 38 Premier League matches in 2017/18, and has been included in England’s World Cup squad this summer. His Premier League goalscoring record has been hurt by 44% of his appearances coming from the bench, though, plus a regular wide role: Rashford managed a career-high seven league goals last term.
Still, the talented youngster still has time on his side, and bags of ability. A strong showing at the World Cup may persuade Jose Mourinho that he's worth more opportunities in 2018/19 – or at very least encourage a few more league rivals to try their luck for his signature this summer.
28. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City, €98.7m)
Portugal international Silva joined Manchester City from Monaco last summer for a reported £43m – and despite a secondary role for the title winners in 2017/18, his value has doubled in 12 months according to the CIES Football Observatory. Bernardo's six goals and four assists in 35 appearances demonstrated his quality for City, especially considering that the vast majority of his appearances – 20 of 35 in the top flight – came from the bench.
Bernardo, still only 23, was brought in by Pep Guardiola as part of an initiative to bring the average age of the Manchester City squad down. He has been a success since his arrival, having helped the club to a Premier League record points haul in his first season.
27. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City, €99.8m)
Argentine striker Aguero joined Manchester City in 2011 for a then-club record fee of £38m, subsequently earning his place in the annals of Premier League history by scoring the dramatic title-winning goal with the last kick of the season. He has a better minutes-per-goal ratio in Premier League history than any other player, and enjoyed another excellent season in 2017/18 as he lifted the title for the third time in seven years.
Having just turned 30, Aguero is in his prime and should City wish to cash in on their star striker, CIES Football Observatory value him at just short of €100m. The Argentina international has spoken repeatedly of his happiness in Manchester but also dreams of a return one day to his first club, Independiente.
26. Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid, €100.5m)
Atletico added the 2017/18 Europa League title to their ever-growing list of silverware won under Diego Simeone, and young midfielder Niguez was at the heart of it. The 23-year-old only scored twice in 36 league games but saved his goals for the Europa League, netting three times in eight games as Los Colchoneros lifted the continental trophy under El Cholo.
Atletico have competed with Barcelona and Real Madrid in recent seasons despite having a much smaller budget to work with, partly down to the success of an academy system which has harvested the likes of Thomas Partey, Lucas Hernandez and the World Cup-bound Niguez.
25. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona, €100.5m)
The first of just two goalkeepers in this top 30, Germany international Ter Stegen will be off to the World Cup this summer but may have to be happy with a place on the bench despite a fantastic season at Barcelona.
Manuel Neuer is national team coach Joachim Low’s keeper of choice, but Ter Stegen will be a close second. At just 26, the former Borussia Monchengladbach No.1 has the best part of a decade left to establish himself as Germany's first choice.
24. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, €103.4m)
For a short time towards the beginning of last season, Ronaldo looked human. At 32 years of age, and a poor run of only four goals from his first 14 La Liga appearances of the season, it appeared that time may well have begun to catch up with the Real Madrid and Portugal star.
It was merely a dip, of course – Ronaldo came back with a vengeance, laying down a run of form in the New Year that eclipsed anything he'd previously managed in his career. He showed his importance to Real Madrid with another 15 goals in the Champions League – the third time in his career that he has managed that total or more in a European campaign.
Having turned 33 in February, Ronaldo’s career is coming into its final stages – but he’s still every bit as decisive as he has ever been.
23. Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli, €104.2m)
Napoli came so close to dethroning Juventus last season, taking the race for the Scudetto right down to the wire. They ultimately failed, however, as the Old Lady took the league title and Coppa Italia to make it a sensational four doubles in a row. Left-winger Insigne scored 11 goals and provided 11 assists across Serie A and the Champions League, but Napoli ultimately fell short in both competitions.
With boss Maurizio Sarri having been replaced by Carlo Ancelotti, and Napoli's failure to usurp Juve in mind, Insigne may feel his future lies away from the Stadio San Paolo. According to CIES, it will take a bid north of €100m to prise him away from Naples.
22. Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus, €104.5m)
Higuain has come under criticism in recent seasons despite a healthy goalscoring record – mainly from fans of former club Napoli, who tease him about his weight. It hasn’t adversely affected his ability to find the back of the net, though: the former River Plate and Napoli goal-getter has scored 55 goals in 105 matches since joining Juventus in summer 2016, winning two doubles with the Old Lady.
He will form part of a formidable Argentine frontline in Russia this summer alongside Aguero, Lionel Messi and Paulo Dybala. Higuain’s form is underlined by the fact that Mauro Icardi failed to make Jorge Sampaoli’s squad despite scoring 29 league goals in 34 matches for Inter.
21. Ederson (Manchester City, €104.6m)
Ederson enjoyed a sensational debut season for Guardiola’s Manchester City side, slotting in seamlessly after his move from Benfica last summers. Much was noted about City’s attacking prowess, but they finished the season with the best defensive record in the Premier League too – and Ederson played in all but two matches.
He will be in Russia this summer as part of Brazil’s World Cup squad but faces a battle for the No.1 shirt with Roma’s Alisson, who has been in sensational form and looks the huge favourite to be Tite’s goalkeeper.
20. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham, €106.2m)
Danish playmaker Eriksen hasn’t got the credit his high-level, consistent performances have deserved in recent campaigns. His form – culminating in 41 goals and 48 assists in 171 Premier League matches – has led to consistent links with Europe’s biggest clubs, including reported interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona most recently.
A successful World Cup campaign with Denmark will do little to dampen interest – but his suitors may have to spend close to the €106.2m CIES Football Observatory rate him at with Daniel Levy around.
19. Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona, €111.5m)
France stopper Umtiti has just signed a new long-term deal with Barcelona after forming a formidable partnership with Gerard Pique in 2017/18. His signing of a five-year contract has ended extensive speculation about his future; gone is the bargain release clause of €60m, replaced with an eye-watering €500m.
Should long-term interest in his signature remain, it’ll take a bid higher than CIES Football Observatory’s estimated valuation of €111.5m to tempt Barça into selling.
18. Luis Suarez (Barcelona, €120.4m)
Suarez will, injury permitting, reach 100 caps for his national team at the World Cup this summer. He still has plenty left in the tank despite his advancing years too, having played more than 50 matches in each of his last three seasons at Barcelona, and scored 152 goals in 198 matches after joining from Liverpool in summer 2014.
At 31, the Uruguayan is entering the final stage of his career but remains one of Europe’s elite strikers.
17. Eden Hazard (Chelsea, €124.7m)
Belgium forward Hazard was a relatively bright point in what was otherwise a bleak season at Chelsea. The Blues did at least end the season with FA Cup triumph after beating Manchester United at Wembley, and Hazard was their man-of-the-match game-winner. His performances have generated links with the team that took Chelsea’s title, Manchester City, but the figures suggested have proved a stumbling block – as CIES Football Observatory’s €124.7m valuation might suggest.
Hazard, though, is in his prime at 27, and it might be a smart time for ambitious clubs to test the water amid uncertain times at Stamford Bridge.
16. Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City, €140.3m)
The £27m Manchester City paid Palmeiras in January 2017 looked like a bargain within a month of his arrival. Eighteen months, a Premier League title and League Cup later, it looks like one of the steals of the century.
Jesus has played 39 Premier League matches now, and lost just one of them – April's Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium. He has scored 20 goals, including the beautiful lob that took Manchester City to 100 points against Southampton on the final day of the season.
The 21-year-old's form for club and country means he'll be first choice for Brazil at the World Cup this summer, and Tite’s side are rightly favourites to win the competition. How far do Jesus's powers extend?
15. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool, €142.6m)
2017/18 was a wonderful season for Firmino on a personal level: the Brazil international reached double figures for Champions League goals as part of the most dangerous front three in European football alongside Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah.
Liverpool ultimately ended the season trophyless despite playing some of the most exciting football on the continent, but Firmino and his international team-mates are favourites for the World Cup this summer in Russia. Such has been the standard of his game this season that it’s arguable whether a price tag of €142.6m would seriously deter potential suitors.
14. Paul Pogba (Manchester United, €144.9m)
Pogba’s quality is undeniable; his form since re-joining Manchester United from Juventus, however, has been patchy at best. The Frenchman has helped United to League Cup and Europa League titles in the two seasons since his return to English football, but that doesn’t constitute success for a club or player of such stature.
Still, the CIES Football Observatory value Pogba at almost €150m. Imagine how much he'd cost when he's playing well...
13. Leroy Sané (Manchester City, €152.2m)
Sané enjoyed a sensational season with Manchester City, finishing the campaign as one of only five players to score 10 goals and provide 10 assists in the 2017/18 Premier League. His omission from Germany's World Cup squad, then, was a huge surprise after such a productive campaign in which he won the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
Germany coach Joachim Low said that Sané’s exclusion was a "photo finish", and at 22 he will have plenty of international tournaments ahead of him. He is another player whose transfer fee was baulked at when he joined Manchester City as one of Pep Guardiola’s first signings, but that £37m outlay is already dwarfed by his current valuation by the CIES Football Observatory.
12. Phillipe Coutinho (Barcelona, €154.6m)
Coutinho joined Barcelona from Liverpool in January 2018 and slotted seamlessly into the Catalans' starting line-up, scoring eight goals and recording five assists in his 18 La Liga appearances. The Brazilian racked up similar numbers in the first half of his season at Premier League and Champions League level too, persuading Barcelona to make another move for him after seeing their summer overtures ignored by Liverpool.
The 25-year-old is in Brazil's World Cup squad, and will aim to take his deadly form to Russia ahead of a first full season at the Camp Nou.
11. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City, €155.1m)
Sterling's stellar season at Manchester City has propelled him into the game's elite, with the CIES Football Observatory’s valuation of €155.1m putting him just outside the top 10 of the world's most valuable players.
Unfortunately for the England star, his footballing ability isn’t the reason he’s been hitting the headlines of late, which is a shame – his contribution to City’s record-breaking season was immense. Along with the other two Englishmen in the top 10 of this list, Sterling represents the best opportunity England have of success at the World Cup this summer.
Eighteen Premier League goals and four in the Champions League – coupled with 12 assists across both competitions – equated to the best return of his career. He's still only 23 – and the CIES Football Observatory's valuation demonstrates just how far he's developed under Guardiola.
10. Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United, €163.4m)
Lukaku has had a mixed time since he swapped Everton for Manchester United in summer 2017. Despite netting 27 times for United last season and being his team’s clearest attacking threat, the burly Belgian suffered quiet spells in the middle of the campaign and will have been disappointed that his efforts weren’t rewarded with any silverware.
His importance to United is clear, though: following a particularly toothless defeat to Brighton in the final stages of the season where the World Cup-bound striker was unavailable, Jose Mourinho quipped: "You see why I always play Lukaku?"
He is vital to United, and with more time – and a pre-season – to forge a better understanding with Old Trafford new boy Alexis Sanchez, there’s no reason why he can’t have an even better season next time around.
9. Paulo Dybala (Juventus, €164.2m)
Twenty-six goals playing most of the season just off the striker represented an excellent return for the Argentine, who will form part of his national side’s incredible attacking threat at the World Cup. In his three seasons at Juventus, Dybala has helped them to three doubles, having scored 68 goals in 140 matches following his switch from Palermo in 2015. He has assumed a deeper position in the last two seasons, playing a more creative role behind compatriot Gonzalo Higuain.
Dybala has already been the subject of intense transfer speculation, and at 24, is one of European football’s most coveted players. Juventus would be incredibly reluctant to sell, though, so any potential suitor would surely need to pay all of the CIES Football Observatory’s mooted €164.2m fee to prise him away from Turin.
8. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid, €164.5m)
Griezmann has been so heavily linked with a move to Barcelona that it would be a shock if he wasn’t playing his football in Catalonia next year. With reports that Barça are ready to meet his release clause, the Spanish champions are set to sign a bargain according to the CIES Football Observatory, who value the French international at €164.5m – a whopping €64.5m less than his clause.
The World Cup will surely delay any such move, but it will be interesting to see whether any of Europe’s other big-hitters are tempted to put an offer in – especially if Griezmann shines in Russia.
7. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City, €167.2m)
Many players at Manchester City have evolved under Pep Guardiola’s guidance, but arguably none more so than De Bruyne. The former Chelsea man, a wide attacker in his early days, has become the heartbeat of City's team under the former Barcelona coach; a genuinely world-class footballer who has reached a remarkable level.
With nine goals and 20 assists in all competitions last season, De Bruyne was the most important player in the best team in England, helping his team break record after record – including becoming the first to win the Premier League title with 100 points.
He has spoken of his happiness at City and has five years left on his contract – so it would take a bid well above his valuation of €167.2m for City to even entertain the idea of letting him leave. Simply, he won't.
6. Dele Alli (Tottenham, €171m)
England and Spurs midfielder Alli managed another excellent season in the Premier League, confirming his status as a big-game player with commanding performances against Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. Still only 22, there’s plenty of scope for Alli to improve and fulfil his immense potential long-term, but he is already a key player for his club.
A good World Cup with England will surely pique the interest of Europe’s wealthier sides. Real Madrid’s reported interest has seemingly cooled, having been at its hottest following Alli’s magnificent performances against the eventual Champions League winners in last season's group stage. He's valued at €171m, though – so even Real Madrid’s pockets may not be deep enough to take him to the Bernabeu.
5. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, €171.3m)
Salah took his game to a different level last season, winning every individual award in English football. If 32 goals and 10 assists in 36 Premier League appearances wasn’t enough, the Egyptian plundered 10 more in Europe as he, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino became the first trio to score 10 goals each in a single Champions League season.
Their strikes dragged Liverpool to the final, where Salah’s ability to influence the game was ended prematurely following a clash with Sergio Ramos. His World Cup involvement is still not assured despite Hector Cuper selecting him in Egypt’s 23-man squad.
Speculation abounds about where Salah will play his football next season, but suitors will be queuing up soon enough. How long can Liverpool hang on to him?
4. Lionel Messi (Barcelona, €184.2m)
Messi will turn 31 during the upcoming World Cup but has shown no sign of slowing down just yet. The Argentine icon's 34 goals and 12 assists in 32 La Liga starts last season delivered another Pichichi trophy for the league’s top scorer and, more importantly, fired Barcelona to another league title. They remained unbeaten until well after the title had been secured, and endured their first defeat in the middle of May.
Messi has become synonymous with Barcelona, and the notion that he may one day play his club football elsewhere seems inconceivable. At this stage, it's hard to even put a value on him.
3. Kylian Mbappe (PSG, €186.5m)
Mbappe set the Champions League alight in 2016/17, inspiring Monaco to the semi-finals and helping the Monegasques wrestle the Ligue 1 title away from PSG. The Parisians were so impressed that they immediately signed him, initially on loan but with an obligation to buy at €180m – right in line with the CIES Football Observatory’s valuation of the player.
The problem for PSG is that with their ground-shaking purchase of Neymar last summer, they may be forced to renege on the deal due to worries around Financial Fair Play – leaving Mbappe the option of just about every other club in Europe that can afford the astronomical fee that Monaco would require. Reports suggest that Manchester City and Real Madrid are yet to be put off, and he may move on again this summer whether he wants to or not. Unlikely, though.
2. Neymar (PSG, €195.7)
PSG shook European football with their purchase of Neymar from Barcelona last summer, with the Catalan giants powerless to stop their Brazilian star moving on after the Qatari-owned French club met his release clause. Such was the consternation that the head of the Spanish league, Javier Tebas, considered legal action against PSG.
In the end, Neymar got his move and was predictably devastating before injury curtailed his debut season in the French capital. PSG won everything possible domestically, with their front three of Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar wreaking havoc wherever they went.
Despite the world-record fee PSG paid for Neymar a year ago, speculation has persisted throughout the season that a move to Real Madrid is in Neymar’s future. Whether that’s this summer or not, the European champions will have to fork out upwards of €200m for his signature – and PSG won’t allow their star man leave without a fight.
1. Harry Kane (Tottenham, €201.2m)
And so to top spot, and yet another of European football's most exciting young talents consistently linked with a move to Real Madrid. One-hundred-and-eight goals in 153 Premier League appearances, two Golden Boots and six player-of-the-month awards - all before the age of 25 - have earmarked Kane as a genuinely world-class striker.
With Tottenham's strict budget and a new stadium costing almost £1bn currently in development, the club may eventually entertain offers for their star striker - but it would take an astronomical figure to convince chairman Daniel Levy that he's worth selling.
Kane is Spurs through and through, and has spoken of his desire to stay at the club for his entire career – so long as they can match his lofty ambitions. That may be easier said than done.
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