At the start of May 2023 it was announced that Lionel Messi would be leaving PSG, whilst at the same time a report in Forbes magazine told us what we all knew anyway – that Cristian Ronaldo was the best-paid athlete in the world. Those two players have been uber-super-megastars of the past two decades and undoubtedly rank among the greatest players of all time.
Their best days are, of course, behind them now, but who are the players who can replace them? There are a number of highly obvious contenders. Whether any of them will manage to be quite as good as Messi or CR7, or enjoy such longevity, remains to be seen. However, we’re going to take something of an objective look at who the best current players are. And there appears no more appropriate way, given the nature of modern football, than examining the most valuable footballers in the world.
5 Most Valuable Footballers in the World
Of course, a footballer is only worth what another team will pay for them. That might not mean that Andy Carroll was worth the £35m Liverpool paid for him, or that Philippe Coutinho provided value for the £130m Barca paid the Reds for him. However, the following players are listed according to their current valuations by transfermarkt. The site tends to be very conservative with their valuations but even so, this gives us a good idea of who the most prized assets are right now. Note that for consistency over time, we have used Euros as they do.
1) Kylian Mbappe, €180m
Astoundingly Mbappe is still only 24. Astounding because he seems to have been around for so long and also because he already has almost 300 career goals, including 38 for France, as well as five league titles, a World Cup winner’s medal, and a World Cup runners-up medal from 2022 – not to mention the Golden Boot he won at that latter tournament! In addition, he is already the top goalscorer in the history of PSG and the second most expensive player of all time, having been bought by the Parisians for €180m back in 2018.
As a player, Mbappe seems to have it all. He is incredibly fast, powerful and strong, but also boasts exceptional footballing intelligence, trickery and creativity. A superb finisher who is good in the air and can play anywhere across the front three, he will surely leave French football for bigger things in the coming years.
2) Erling Haaland, €170m
Haaland has just broken the record for the most goals in a Premier League season and with five games to go who knows how many more he might add. He isn’t the same all-round player as Mbappe but is a rampaging, marauding, imposing hulk of a number nine. Man City went from a series of false nines to the Platonic ideal of one and in Haaland, they have a man who seems to have been born to score goals.
Being Norwegian, though born in Leeds, he is unlikely to ever match Mbappe on the international stage. However, the 22 year old has already notched 21 goals (from just 23 games) for his country. In addition, he has already scored over 200 goals (from a mere 250 games) in his career and at his current rate of accumulation who knows where those numbers may end up.
3) Jude Bellingham, €120m
Bellingham’s carefully plotted career will surely see him move to one of the world’s very biggest sides before long. The dynamic midfielder can do everything and we possibly don’t even know exactly what his best position is. At 19 he makes the two players above seem like real veterans, although having made his debut when only just 16 (for Birmingham) and rarely having been injured, he already has 175 club appearances to his name.
They have yielded 25 goals and 27 assists as he has begun to play in a slightly more advanced role. Now a key player for England, he has 24 caps and will hopefully add a hundred more in the years ahead. Strong, powerful, skilful and mature beyond his years, if he doesn’t captain England to silverware we’ll eat our (chocolate) hat.
4) Vinicius Junior, €120m
In 2018 Real Madrid signed “Vini Jr.” for €45m, a snip really, but a huge sum for a deal that was arranged when the player was just 17 and completed when legally possible as he turned 18. Now aged 22, the Brazilian is just beginning to show the world how good he is and is turning into a true star.
Whilst the three players above are all exceptionally powerful, albeit in subtly different ways, Vini is all about pace and trickery. An exciting player that fans love to watch, he boasts 11 goal involvements in 10 Champions League games in the current 2022/23 season, so offers an end product too. He could become a legend at Real Madrid, though a big-money move to the Premier League could also be on the cards one day.
5) Bukayo Saka*, €110m
We’ve given Saka a little asterisk as there are three players currently valued at the same price. He gets the nod over Phil Foden and Bayern’s Jamal Musiala because … he smiles the most. Doesn’t hurt to smile, Phil! Saka made his debut for Arsenal shortly after turning 17 and his stats have improved year by year.
Eight goals in 26 outings with the Three Lions show how good his finishing is, whilst his pace, trickery and intelligence are also impressive. With double-figure goals and assists for Arsenal in 2022/23 he is probably his club’s top player – hugely impressive at his age for a side chasing the title. Above all that, he is praised for his maturity and loveable personality. Luke Shaw said of him “Honestly, I love him. I would just love it if he was my child or something …”. And most amazingly of all, it didn’t even sound odd because we all knew exactly what he meant!