Going, going... for how much?!
Transfer fees are shaped by many factors beyond a player’s ability. Age, position, nationality and current contract length are all taken into account by prospective buyers before a bid is submitted, and competition – or lack thereof – for an individual’s signature can alter the price thereafter.
The CIES Football Observatory have produced an exclusive algorithm to place a market value on every player currently plying his trade in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 or the Bundesliga. In this slideshow, we bring you the top 20…
20. Bernardo Silva, Man City (€112.2m)
Kevin De Bruyne was the only outfielder to make more Premier League appearances for Manchester City than Bernardo last term, but just 15 of the Portuguese's 35 top-flight outings came as starts. De Bruyne's injury problems have handed the ex-Monaco schemer a more central role in 2018/19, and he's done a fantastic job of filling the creative void in the Belgian's absence.
Deemed to be worth €97.4m this time last year, Bernardo's value has risen in recent months thanks to his performances in both the Premier League and the Champions League. At 24 years of age, it could climb further if he's able to maintain his current form for the rest of the campaign.
19. Sadio Mané, Liverpool (€122.8m)
Mané often seems like the least heralded member of Liverpool's thrilling front three, but his inclusion in this top 20 proves how valuable an asset he is. The Senegal international was directly involved in 28 goals in the Premier League and Champions League in 2017/18, and has so far scored seven times in those two competitions this season.
Now in his fifth English campaign, Mané is still only 26 and doesn't turn 27 until towards the end of 2018/19. His value has almost doubled in the last 11 months or so, and now stands at a healthy €122.8m.
18. Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus (€123.6m)
Ronaldo revealed his intention to leave Real Madrid after their victory over Liverpool in last season's Champions League final, but many interpreted the Portuguese's comments as his latest attempt to wring another contract out of the Spanish giants. As it turned out Ronaldo wasn't bluffing on this occasion, and Juventus agreed a €100m deal to take him to Turin.
It's testament to Ronaldo's extraordinary ability and physical condition that such a price didn't seem excessive for a player who turns 34 in February. His advancing years may have pushed him down this list in recent times, but the five-time Ballon d'Or winner remains in the top 20 at €123.6m.
17. Paul Pogba, Man United (€130.5m)
Now into his third season back at Old Trafford, the engima that is Paul Pogba seems no closer to being solved. Superb for France en route to World Cup glory in the summer, the midfielder's displays for Manchester United in 2018/19 have ranged from tremendous to terrible, although the latest evidence suggests that Jose Mourinho is finally beginning to bring out the best in the former Juventus man.
The uncertainty around Pogba hasn't affected his market value, which remains high at €130.5m - indeed, only two midfielders are worth more than the 25-year-old according to the CIES Football Observatory.
16. Gabriel Jesus, Man City (€130.8m)
Having hit the ground running in English football following his arrival at Manchester City in January 2017, Jesus has endured a difficult few months for both club and country. His failure to score at the World Cup was held up as one of the key reasons behind Brazil's exit at the quarter-final stage, while the striker has been restricted to just two starts in the Premier League so far this season.
There's no reason for panic, though, and Jesus delivered the perfect riposte to his critics with a hat-trick in City's 6-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday. It's easy to forget that the former Palmeiras marksman is still just 21, hence a valuation of €130.8m.
15. Eden Hazard, Chelsea (€142.7m)
Hazard made no secret of his desire to join Real Madrid in the summer, but no bid was forthcoming despite Cristiano Ronaldo's exit from the Santiago Bernabeu. The Belgian continues to hold out hope that a move will materialise at the end of 2018/19, but Chelsea's star man wouldn't come cheap and Roman Abramovich will be desperate to hold onto him.
The former Lille forward has been in imperious form at the start of the season, scoring seven goals and setting up another four to help Maurizio Sarri's side remain unbeaten after 12 games. Hazard is doing his chances of a big-money move next summer no harm, but it's far from certain that Chelsea would accept a bid of €142.7m - his CIES valuation - from Madrid or any other suitor.
14. Roberto Firmino, Liverpool (€146m)
Firmino isn't the type of striker who hogs the headlines, but Jurgen Klopp has repeatedly underlined the importance of a player who many consider to be Liverpool's most vital.
The Brazilian helps knit the team together as well as chip in with goals and assists, which is why the Reds would be loathed to sell him for any fee. The CIES Football Observatory calculate that Firmino is worth around €146m, which is enough for him to squeeze into the top 15.
13. Leroy Sané, Man City (€150m)
Sané was one of Manchester City's standout performers in their record-breaking season of 2017/18, scoring 10 Premier League goals and providing 15 assists to help Pep Guardiola's men to 100 points. Those tallies also earned him the PFA Young Player of the Year award, but they weren't enough for the winger to be included in Joachim Low's Germany squad for the World Cup.
Sané's stock seemed to rise by virtue of his absence when the holders crashed out in the group phase, but the former Schalke forward is no longer an automatic first pick at the Etihad Stadium. Still, his world-class potential and youthful age means the 22-year-old is still worth around €150m.
12. Kevin De Bruyne, Man City (€150.4m)
Only a record-breaking campaign from Mohamed Salah denied De Bruyne a clean sweep of awards in the Premier League last term, but the Belgian was able to console himself with his first Premier League winner's medal. He then shone for his country at the World Cup, helping the Red Devils to a third-place finish in Russia - their best ever result on the biggest stage of all.
Injury has limited the former Chelsea man to just five appearances so far in 2018/19, but it will take a much lengthier absence for De Bruyne's value to fall. At €150.4m, the 27-year-old is deemed to be worth more than all but one midfielder in world football.
11. Paulo Dybala, Juventus (€155.6m)
Dybala's role at Juventus was cast into doubt when Cristiano Ronaldo arrived in Turin, and the Argentine initially found a starting spot hard to come by as Max Allegri reconfigured his attack. The former Palermo attacker has returned to the line-up in recent weeks, though, and has once again underlined his immense talent.
Dybala may have scored just twice in Serie A thus far, but he's netted four goals in three Champions League appearances to help Juventus to top spot in Group H. Yet to turn 25, it's no surprise that his market value exceeds €150m.
10. Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid (€157.7m)
Griezmann brought an end to his will-he-won't-he transfer saga in remarkable fashion last summer, confirming his decision to reject Barcelona and remain at Atletico Madrid at the end of a documentary broadcast on Spanish TV.
The manner of that announcement may not have been to everyone's taste, but Atleti fans were simply delighted to see their star man commit his future to the club. The World Cup winner's value has actually dipped from €167m to €157m since August, but Griezmann remains in the top 10 of this ranking.
9. Dele Alli, Tottenham (€163.4m)
It's been a testing start to the season for Tottenham, who have been left frustrated by stadium delays and Champions League struggles after failing to sign a single player in the summer transfer market. It hasn't been all bad news, however, and the latest silver lining came in the form of Alli's decision to commit his future to the club with a new six-year contract.
His value has climbed to €163.4m since putting pen to paper on fresh terms in north London, meaning the England international is considered to be worth more than any other midfielder in the world right now.
8. Romelu Lukaku, Man United (€164.3m)
There may not be any causation between the two events, but it hasn't escaped Manchester United fans' attention that their side's upturn in form has coincided with Lukaku's absence from the starting XI. It's fair to say that the burly Belgian frontman has had a mixed start to the season, but he remains United's most valuable asset according to the CIES Football Observatory.
This may be his 10th full season as a professional, but Belgium's record goalscorer is still only 25 years of age. That, together with a contract at Old Trafford which runs until 2022, helps to explain Lukaku's €164.3m valuation.
7. Raheem Sterling, Man City (€164.6m)
Having been unfairly maligned at times in the past, Sterling has begun to receive the credit he deserves in the last 12 months. The winger was integral to Manchester City's title triumph last term, and he's arguably taken his form to another level in 2018/19 with six goals and five assists in his first 10 top-flight outings.
The England international's improvement is reflected in his market value, which has soared from €118m in November 2017 to €164.6m today. It could increase further after the news of his mega new contract at the Etihad Stadium.
6. Lionel Messi, Barcelona (€170.6m)
Messi was surprisingly left off the three-man shortlist for FIFA's Best Men's Player award earlier this year, but he's still widely considered to be the greatest on the planet. At first glance, then, it may seem a surprise to see him all the way down in sixth place in these standings, but there are several factors which explain the Argentine's placing.
Chief among them is Messi's age: now 31, he probably doesn't have too many more seasons at the very top left in him. Moreover, the Barcelona forward isn't on as long a contract as many others on this list, with his deal set to expire in less than three years' time.
5. Philippe Coutinho, Barcelona (€171.3m)
After selling Neymar to PSG for a world-record €222m in summer 2017, Barcelona responded by breaking their own transfer record twice in a matter of months. First, Ousmane Dembele was captured for an initial €105m in August, before the Catalans paid Liverpool €130m for Coutinho in the mid-season window.
The Brazilian, now heading into his peak years, is worth even more than that today according to the CIES Football Observatory. He's certainly slotted in well at Barcelona, and with five years left on his contract there's little chance of anyone snaring him away from the Camp Nou any time soon.
4. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool (€173m)
Salah may have enjoyed two and a half positive seasons in Italy with Fiorentina and Roma, but few expected his form to explode as it did in his debut campaign at Anfield last time out. The Egypt international was sensational from August to May, plundering 44 goals in all competitions as Liverpool finished in the top four and reached the Champions League final.
He perhaps hasn't been at his absolute sharpest at the start of 2018/19, but Salah remains among the world's most dangerous wide forwards. Although he extended his contract at Liverpool until 2023 in the summer, the 26-year-old's value has hovered around the €173 mark since the end of last term.
3. Neymar, PSG (€197.3m)
It's fair to say that Neymar's band of critics is more numerous than those belonging to most other high-profile players, but even the people who dislike the Brazilian can't deny that he's one of the most gifted footballers on the planet. The ex-Barcelona forward hasn't had everything his own way since joining PSG for a world-record €222m last year, but there isn't a team in Europe who wouldn't be improved by his presence in the starting XI.
As well as his on-field talent, Neymar is one of the most marketable athletes around, making him an even more attractive proposition to any potential buyer. Links with Real Madrid refuse to go away, but it's hard to see PSG countenancing a sale even if los Blancos met his apparent market value of €197.3m.
2. Harry Kane, Tottenham (€197.3m)
Kane added the World Cup Golden Boot to his ever-growing list of achievements in the summer, netting six times as England finished fourth in Russia. He also enjoyed his best scoring season at club level in 2017/18, with 41 goals in 48 appearances across three competitions.
The Tottenham man is now firmly established among the world's best strikers; he's also considerably younger than many of his rivals for that No.1 crown - Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Aguero - which is part of the reason why the 25-year-old ranks so highly in this list.
1. Kylian Mbappe, PSG (€216.5m)
It's been quite the year for Mbappe, who is undoubtedly the most exciting young talent in world football right now. The former Monaco man won a second successive Ligue 1 title - and a first with PSG - back in the spring, before getting his hands on the World Cup trophy after some scintillating showings for France in Russia.
He's shown no signs of slowing down since then, scoring 13 goals in his first 13 appearances of 2018/19. Still only 19 and tied down to to a contract at the Parc des Princes until 2022, Mbappe is the only player on the planet with a valuation higher than €200m.
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