CIES Football Observatory has published a list of U23 most valuable football players who have made a debut at one of the top-5 Europe leagues. There are several valuable insights that can be gleaned from the report.

The Central and South American export markets have diminished, if not in quantity, then in quality. Only 4 players from 50 represent those regions, in a place once overflowing with Brazillian and Argentinian players. That could be explained by the COVID19 outbreak, restrictive legislation by the European associations and South American players choosing to grow as players first before hitting the biggest stages in world football.

None of the players are estimated to cost over €100 million – indicating that either the talents aren’t as big as Haaland or M’bappe, or that the market is settling down a bit. The latter theory is supported by the huge number of free transfers in the past three transfer windows.

Africa has 6 representatives in the list, with the majority playing in France. One of them is Kamaldeen Sulemana, who we mentioned just last week as a huge talent. Overall, it seems like African players, despite producing great numbers and showing a lot of talent on the pitch are undervalued in the transfer market – allowing clubs to make smart deals and snatch them for relatively low amount of money.

Another new trend is a much larger amount of talented players from USA, as seen in this list. MLS is emerging as a great new market for European clubs and an improved league by itself. There are investments going from Europe there and vice verca, as evident by ownerships of many historical teams like Manchester United, Roma and more. Financial stability and built infrastructure allow for focus on player development. This is best done by the likes of Andre Zanotta, the famous Brazillian in charge of FC Dallas, who already secured several lucrative transfers to Europe. We are destined to see an even larger increase in American players in Europe, and maybe a lot more of players choosing the MLS.

Finally, we are used to seeing a list full of forwards and wingers. This list is led by a centre back, followed by many midlfielders and full backs, showing their crucial importance in modern football’s tactics.

This list has displayed much of today’s trends and future avenues for football to evolve. It will be truly fascinating to see where those players will end up in five years.


Stari lets your passion for football shine, no matter if you are a player, scout, club or a fan


I am a *