In U.S. sports leagues, when high-profile players switch teams, they are usually traded or sign as a free agent. But in the five biggest European soccer leagues, players are transferred — and the acquiring team pays a transfer fee.
The CIES Football Observatory, a group that specializes in the statistical analysis of football — as part of the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) — released its updated list of player transfer values. Neymar Junior, a 25-year-old on FC Barcelona, has the highest estimated transfer value, at €210.7 million ($236 million).
That means if a team acquires him, it has to pay that — in addition to the wage it will pay Neymar. The bulk of the €210.7 million would go to the team’s owner, but the player, as well as others, can get a portion of it as well.
The report includes 110 players on teams in the five largest European leagues: England’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1.
According to the CIES Football Observatory, its algorithm is based on an “analysis of almost 2,000 paying fee transfers. The variables through which transfer values are modeled notably include the performance of players and the employer clubs, international status, contract, age and position.” It also points out that the English Premier League “is over-represented among footballers listed.”
As an example, it shows that the estimated transfer value of the 10th most expensive Premier League player is €85 million ($95 million), while it’s €73 million ($82 million) for the Spanish Liga, €51 million ($57 million) for the Italian Serie A, €47 million ($53 million) for the German Bundesliga and €40 million ($45 million) for the French Ligue 1.
Since the 2013 summer transfer window, CIES Football Observatory says its estimates have been 80% accurate.
Lionel Messi, a 29-year-old who is on FC Barcelona, fell from No. 1 on the list last year to No. 4 this year. His estimated transfer value is €151.7 million ($170 million).
And Cristiano Ronaldo, a 32-year-old soccer player from Portugal, fell out of the top 10 for the first time in years — likely because of his age; he is the oldest player in the rankings. His estimated transfer value is €112 million ($125 million). Ronaldo has been named the best player in the world by FIFA, the international governing body for football, for the past four years, and was recently named the highest-earning athlete in the world: Last year he made $93 million — $58 in salary and winnings and $35 million from endorsements.
The youngest player in the rankings is an 18-year-old Frenchman, Kylian Mbappé, whose estimated transfer value is €93 million ($104 million).