Placing a valuation on a football player is never an exact science at the best of times, in a market which fluctuates with form, age, and the overall financial environment. Looking set to spiral out of control at one stage – with PSG’s £190million signing of Neymar in 2017 representing a high-water mark – fees have calmed down a little in recent years, but only a little.
So, with the 2021/22 season now behind us and fans beginning to scan the list of new bookmakers for the best bets ahead of the Qatar World Cup, who are the most valuable players on the planet. Until transfers are made, and fees are paid, this will always be something of a subjective list, but using data compiled by the respected CIES Football Observatory, we present the five most valuable players in the global game. All players you would most likely be pleased to see lining up for your club, and all likely to be writing the headlines on your favourite football site.
View this post on Instagram
5. Jude Bellingham – £114.5m
- Age – 18
- Club – Borussia Dortmund
- Nationality – English
A simply remarkable midfield talent. Stourbridge native Bellingham quickly emerged as something just a little out of the ordinary at his first professional club of Birmingham City. Making his debut at the tender age of 16 years and 38 days, Jude’s relentless drive was perhaps a little unrefined in those early days, but nevertheless caught the eye of Borussia Dortmund who coughed up £25million for his services in 2020.
And it is in Germany where the prodigal talent has been moulded into a genuine star. Seeming to carry the entire team forward with him at times with those athletic runs from midfield, Jude is adept in a two-man pivot, or when deployed to the left of an attacking three; adding guile and finesse in and around the area to become one of the Bundesliga’s standout midfield talents. Still only 18 years of age, Bellingham has already moved past the 100 career appearances mark in addition to winning 13 caps for his country.
4. Pedri – £115.7m
- Age – 19
- Club – Barcelona
- Nationality – Spanish
Spain have certainly benefited from a long list of exceptional midfield maestro, with the likes of Pep Guardiola, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi being amongst the finest exponents of the position in the modern era. In years to come, it seems highly likely that the name of Barcelona’s Pedri may be added to that list.
Born in Tegueste in 2002, Pedro González López caught the eye of the Spanish giants in 2019, signing on with Barça for a reported fee of € 5 million – which already looks like one of the steals of the century. Technically excellent and brilliant in tight spaces, Pedri always seems to have time on the ball – so often a hallmark of the true greats. Throw in exquisite vision and an ability to find the killer pass with either foot and you have one of the classiest midfield talents on the planet.
The @FIFAWorldCup has been the stage for some of the greatest players🏆
However, it has also been missed by some legends😯
— FootTheBall FC (@FootTheBallFC) June 6, 2022
3. Erling Haaland – £130.7m
- Age – 21
- Club – Manchester City
- Nationality – Norwegian
Simply the most devastating goal scorer to burst onto the global scene in recent times. Son of former Norwegian international midfielder Alf-Inge Haaland, Erling may be only 21 years of age, but already looks the complete centre forward. At 6ft4 the new Manchester City man possesses all of the physical attributes of the traditional target man, but there is so much more to his game than that.
Fast, strong, direct and with an uncanny ability to pick the right run at the right time, Haaland is a nightmare for opposing defenders to try and stop. And then of course there are the goals. Top scorer in the Champion’s League in 20-21, the prolific Norwegian departed Dortmund with an incredible record of 85 goals in 88 appearances. Picked up by Manchester City for “only” £51.2million in 2022, due to a pre-existing release clause in his contract, quite what he will do in Manchester City’s brilliantly efficient attacking system is a frightening prospect for the rest of the Premier League.
2. Vinicius Junior – £158.6m
- Age – 21
- Club – Real Madrid
- Nationality – Brazilian
And at number two on the list we have the best young left-sided attacking threat in the game – Real Madrid’s Vinicius Júnior. Simply Vini Jr. to many, or Vinícius José Paixão de Oliveira Júnior to give him his full title this scintillating Brazilian broke the transfer record for a player under the age of 19 when purchased by Real Madrid from Flamengo for €46million in 2018.
Hampered by a tendon injury Vini Jr was used mainly as a support player over the course of his first three seasons at the club, but began to deliver on his undoubted talents in 20/21, before really catching fire in 21/22 – compiling figures of 21 goals and 16 assists across 43 La Liga and Champions League appearances, playing a pivotal role in Carlo Ancelotti’s double winning side. Strong, direct and with the ability to turn on a sixpence, this stellar talent looks set to dummy, nutmeg and stepover his way right to the very top.
View this post on Instagram
1. Kylian Mbappé – £176m
- Age – 23
- Club – PSG
- Nationality – French
And topping the pile is another of the most coveted forwards in the global game, French flying machine Kylian Mbappé. Born in Paris, it was in the principality of Monaco that Kylian made his name, lighting up the Stade Luis II with a number of dazzling displays during a title-winning campaign.
And it wasn’t long before PSG came calling, adding Mbappé to their bulging array of superstars, initially on loan, before stumping up £162 million to acquire his services on a permanent basis in 2018.
One of the most impressive natural athletes in the sport, Mbappé combines strength and physicality with the speed of a 100m sprinter and an impressive array of skills in tight spaces – regularly bursting free from seemingly impossible positions. Improving his finishing with every passing season the French international is a serious goal threat from anywhere in and around the area.
Long touted with a move to Real Madrid, that will he? Won’t he? The saga ended in 2022, with Mbappé signing on for another three seasons with his hometown club. Already a five-time Ligue 1 and World Cup winner, the Ballon d’Or may one day follow for this sizzling talent.