The Most Valuable Players at the World Cup

Source: Shaun Botterill / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

The FIFA World Cup kicked off in Qatar on Sunday, bringing together many of the highest-paid stars in professional sports. The quadrennial event is not just a gathering of the world’s greatest teams, it is also big business. The four-year cycle of this World Cup will bring in an estimated $7.5 billion in revenue.  

However, this pales in comparison to the revenues of club teams. The 20 biggest soccer clubs totaled $9 billion in revenue for the 2020-2021 season alone, according to Deloitte’s Football Money League report. Soccer clubs are businesses and like any business they will only hire employees if they believe they are worth more money than they are paid. (These are the best men’s national soccer teams of 2022.)

The most expensive soccer club employees are the players, and numerous factors are considered to determine their potential value. The most obvious is their ability on the field, but there are several aspects outside of talent that affect their transfer value.

To compile a list of the soccer players with the highest transfer value – the estimated amount for which a team can sell a player’s contract to another team – 24/7 Tempo reviewed data published by Transfermarkt, a German-based site covering soccer transfers and other statistics. Information on the age, position, club, and league of each player also came from Transfermarkt.

High-scoring players are usually valued higher because they are exciting to watch in action and help bring in fans. That may be why there is only one player on the back defensive line on this list, and no goalies.

The actions of players off the pitch can also affect their value. Players that are controversial for immature behavior, offensive comments, or lack of commitment will be valued lower than those that stay out of the news. Clubs want to focus on winning games, not public relations crises. 

Younger players are valued higher because they likely have long careers ahead of them and time to grow, and could become club mainstays for years to come. None of the 10 highest-valued players is over 30 years old and not one of the top five is over 25.

Neither Lionel Messi (age 35) or Cristiano Ronaldo (age 37), the two highest paid players in professional soccer, are on the list. Neymar (age 30) is the third-highest paid player in soccer, yet he is 23rd in transfer value. Older players may still be able to perform for the moment but that could quickly change with injuries or waning ability with age. Being older does help when it comes to records, however; Ronaldo is one of the all-time top goal scorers at the World Cup.

To compile a list of the soccer players with the highest transfer value, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a report by consumer data site Statista. Information on players’ market value and soccer player positions came from Transfermarkt.com, a German-based site for soccer transfers and other statistics.

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