Overvalued Players in Football

Overvalued Football Players

The transfer market is a crucial part of the football world, and the perceived values and prices paid for players can generate as much debate as matters on the field.

With eye-watering sums spent on players, transfer fees understandably come under intense scrutiny from fans, especially if they feel their club has overspent.

So, who have been the most over and undervalued players of the last few years? While it’s ultimately a subjective question, the team at online slots site Spin Genie UK has attempted to find out!

To do so, the team analysed how some of the most significant transfer fees of all time compare to the players’ market values at the time of the transfers (as estimated by Transfermarkt).

The Most Overvalued Players of All-time

Top 3 Most Overvalued Players

1. Neymar, Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain (2017/18)

Transfer fee: €222 million

Market value at the time: €100 million

Difference: €122 million

2017 saw Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (better known as Neymar) move from Barcelona in La Liga to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in Ligue 1 for a staggering €222 million, which remains the most expensive transfer in history. However, Neymar's estimated market value was €100 million, meaning PSG paid a premium of €122 million above his market value. 

At the time, Neymar was seen as one of the best players in the world and was tipped as a future Ballon d'Or winner. Additionally, PSG's ambition to assert themselves as a European powerhouse was instrumental in their willingness to pay such an astronomical sum. While the figures suggest they overpaid, Neymar ultimately helped PSG to dominate domestically for many years and reach the UEFA Champions League final in 2020.

2. Ousmane ​​Dembélé, Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona (2017/18)

Transfer fee: €140 million

Market value at the time: €33 million

Difference: €107 million

Neymar’s big-money move started a domino effect, with Ousmane ​​Dembélé moving from Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona in the same window. Following the sale of Neymar, Barcelona had a substantial transfer budget and needed to fill the void left by his move. They identified Dembélé, then at Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, as a prime candidate. Despite Dembélé's market value standing at €33 million, Barcelona agreed to a transfer fee of €140 million, a difference of €107 million. 

Dembélé was one of the most promising young talents in the world at that time, with a blend of pace, dribbling skills, and goals. However, his time at Barcelona has been marred by injuries and inconsistent performances.

3. Enzo Fernández, Benfica to Chelsea (2022/23)

Transfer fee: €121 million

Market value at the time: €55 million

Difference: €66 million

More recently, Enzo Fernández moved from Benfica to Chelsea in January of 2023 for a British-record transfer fee of €121 million. However, his market value at the time stood at just €55 million, a difference of €66 million. 

Known for his technique, creativity, and tactical intelligence, he is considered one of the best young midfielders in the world. He was also one of the stars of the 2022 World Cup, as Argentina won their third title, which will have undoubtedly inflated his transfer fee. However, at the time, he had only spent six months playing for Benfica and was relatively inexperienced at the top level, which is why his transfer fee was deemed so far above market value.

Most Overvalued Players Table

The Most Undervalued Players of All-time

Top 3 Most Undervalued Players

1. Erling Haaland, Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City (2022/23)

Transfer fee: €60 million

Market value at the time: €150 million

Difference: €90 million

Erling Haaland's transfer from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City stands out as the most undervalued, signing for €60 million despite a market value of more than double that. By the time he signed, the Norwegian striker had solidified his position as one of the most lethal forwards in Europe during his time at Dortmund, making the transfer fee a coup. 

Haaland’s transfer fee was so low because his Dortmund contract contained a €60 million release clause, meaning City simply had to match that figure to trigger the move. However, the fee is slightly misleading, as City also paid a considerable agent fee of €40 million, split between Haaland's agency and his father, ex-City player Alfie Haaland.

2. Christian Eriksen, Tottenham to Inter (2019/20)

Transfer fee: €27 million

Market value at the time: €90 million

Difference: €63 million

Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen's move from Tottenham Hotspur to Inter Milan also marked a significant difference between the paid transfer fee and his market value. Eriksen had been a critical player for Spurs, often dictating the play from the midfield with his vision and passing ability. 

The substantial difference of €63 million could be because Eriksen had just six months remaining on his Spurs contract and had expressed a desire to leave. Given his high wages at the club, Spurs likely decided that cutting their losses was their best option. Otherwise, they would have risked losing him for free upon the expiration of his contract.

3. Nabil Fekir, Olympique Lyonnais to Real Betis (2019/20)

Transfer fee: €19.75 million

Market value at the time: €60 million

Difference: €40.25 million

Nabil Fekir's transfer from Olympique Lyonnais in Ligue 1 to Real Betis in La Liga was another transfer that caught many off guard. The French international was previously linked with bigger European clubs and had a higher market value at the time. 

Like Eriksen, Fekir only had a short amount of time left on his contract, a year, so Lyon didn’t want to risk letting this expire. One of the other potential reasons his fee was lower was lingering fears over past knee injuries, which saw Liverpool pull out of a big-money move a year earlier.

Most Undervalued Players Table

The Most Overvalued Players of 2023/24

Most Overvalued Players 2023-24

The summer transfer window is currently in full swing and has seen some expensive and unexpected transfers due to the emergence of the Saudi Pro League. These are the most overvalued signings of the window as of August 7th.

1. Moisés Caicedo, Brighton to Chelsea

Transfer fee: €133 million

Market value at the time: €75 million

Difference: €58 million

The biggest transfer of the summer window so far also comes in as the most overvalued. Chelsea have paid Brighton an incredible €133 million for Moisés Caicedo after a dramatic bidding war with Liverpool, making Britain’s most expensive footballer of all time. While he’s a very highly rated player, with an estimated market value of €75 million, that still falls some way short of the fee that was agreed, €58 million short, in fact.

2. Rasmus Højlund, Atalanta to Manchester United

Transfer fee: €75 million

Market value at the time: €45 million

Difference: €30 million

One of the most notable new arrivals to the Premier League this summer has been Rasmus Højlund, signing for Manchester United for €75 million from Atalanta in Serie A. Højlund is just 20, and his inexperience is likely the reason that his market value of €45 million is pretty low compared to his transfer fee. Despite only spending one season playing in one of Europe’s top leagues, his form for Atalanta has convinced United that he’s a young talent worth investing in.

2. Malcom, Zenit Saint Petersburg to Al-Hilal

Transfer fee: €60 million

Market value at the time: €30 million

Difference: €30 million

Another player tied for second place is the Brazillian Malcom, one of many players to have been drawn by the vast wages of the Saudi Pro League this summer. His transfer fee was €60 million, despite his estimated market value being half that, at €30 million. However, Saudi clubs paying over the odds for players has been a feature of this transfer window, as they make the most of their extensive financial capabilities.

2. Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain to Al-Hilal

Transfer fee: €90 million

Market value at the time: €60 million

Difference: €30 million

Malcom isn’t the only Brazilian winger heading to Al-Hilal for €30 million above his market value this summer, with Neymar also moving to the Saudi club. A fee of €90 million has been agreed for the PSG man, whose current market value is €60 million. Considering that his contract was due to expire in 2025, €90 million is a massive outlay for a player now in his 30s. However, Al-Hilal is one of the four Saudi clubs that received a 75% ownership stake from the PIF, the country’s national sovereign wealth fund, giving it considerable funds to invest.

Most Overvalued Players 2023-24 Table

The Most Undervalued Players of 2023/24

Most Undervalued Players 2023-24

1. Xavi Simons, PSV Eindhoven to Paris Saint-Germain

Transfer fee: €4 million

Market value at the time: €40 million

Difference: €36 million

One of the biggest potential bargains of the summer transfer window so far is Xavi Simons, who moved from PSV Eindhoven to Paris Saint-Germain for just €4 million. This is despite having a market value of €40 million, a difference of €36 million. Simons started his professional career at PSG, which is why this transfer was so cheap. PSG sold Simons to PSV in 2022 but included a buy-back clause of just €4 million, allowing them to get him back for just a tenth of his market value.

2. Alexis Mac Allister, Brighton to Liverpool

Transfer fee: €42 million

Market value at the time: €65 million

Difference: €23 million

Another undervalued move is Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton to their Premier League rivals Liverpool. The Reds secured the Argentinian midfielder for €42 million, which was €23 million less than his market value of €65 million. Initial reports suggested the deal would be worth closer to €70 million, but it has since emerged that the player’s contract included a release clause, allowing Liverpool to potentially secure one of the bargains of the summer.

3. Christopher Nkunku, RB Leipzig to Chelsea & Dejan Kulusevski, Juventus to Tottenham

Transfer fee: €60 million & €30 million

Market value at the time: €80 million & €50 million

Difference: €30 million

Two players are tied in third place, with both moving to London clubs in the Premier League. Nkunku was another player with a release clause in his contract, although Chelsea paid slightly above this fee to ensure they secured his services. 

Kulusevski initially joined Tottenham on loan in 2022, with a contract clause allowing them to buy him for €30 million this summer. In the intervening months, he has proved to be an essential player for Spurs, meaning they showed some business savvy by agreeing to the fee 18 months ago.

Most Undervalued Players 2023-24 Table

Methodology

All transfer fees and market values were sourced from Transfermarkt as of August 14th, 2023. Any transfers that took place after this date are not included.

Note that all figures are provided in euros because the European market dominates a significant part of global transfer activity. Converting historical values to GBP at current rates could distort the figures. Only transfers that took place before August 14th, 2023, were included.

Transfermarkt’s estimated market values are calculated based on various pricing models and factors such as the player’s future potential, age and performance for their club and national team. However, these are just estimates.

Only players who moved on permanent transfers for a fee were included, so loan deals and free transfers were excluded.


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