Kenny Archer: Top players are worth their weight in goals and many other things
IF a cynic truly is ‘a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing’ then, somewhat shockingly, I’m not a cynic.
Some may be cynical about that but the work of the CIES Football Observatory tells me both the price and the value of the players at the soccer clubs in Europe’s five leading leagues: England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain (listed by me purely in alphabetical order).
This research group within the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES in its French acronym) has calculated the likely transfer value of players at the 98 top division clubs in those countries.
The ‘league table’ based on this information makes for interesting reading, giving insight into which clubs are over- or under-performing.
In theory, the most expensive, most highly paid squads ‘should’ win their respective leagues, or at least challenge very strongly at the top.
That holds largely true, but it also proves the point – rammed home most astonishingly last season by Leicester City – that money isn’t the only factor in winning titles.
Sticking with England, the CIES Football Observatory statisticians rank Spurs as the most valuable squad, at €799 million, followed by Manchester United on €700m, Chelsea on €682m, Arsenal on €660m, Manchester City on €655m, and Liverpool the lowest of the top six on €593m.
The implication of those figures is that, rather than under-performing, Jurgen Klopp is doing reasonably well with a squad that isn’t as good as those of his rivals.
Indeed the same could be said of the perennially under-fire Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Of course, some of the criticism of both Wenger and Klopp is that they don’t spend more, thereby making their squads more valuable in that way.
The positive effect of Antonio Conte at Chelsea almost goes without saying, but I’ll point it out again anyway. Strange as it may sound, the number-crunchers seem to suggest that Spurs should be above Chelsea rather than below them, at least based on the ‘value’ of their respective squads.
Of course, part of the predicted value of a player relates to age and contract length, and Spurs have a relatively young squad, many of whom have been signed up for several seasons to come.
There’s also the significant factor that the Spurs squad only actually cost €274m, by far the lowest of England’s top six. Manchester United lead the way in that regard at €718m, followed by Chelsea (€682m), City (€611m), Arsenal (€381m), and Liverpool (€356m).
This column has made the point before that a manager should not be judged solely against the price paid for the players in his squad, for various reasons.
For starters, he may not have purchased them; secondly, they may have been bought at a premium in order to prise them away from their previous club; and thirdly, the player might have been free.
Even ‘free’ players can be acquired by very different methods. Zlatan Ibrahimovic came to Manchester United on a ‘free’ but on huge wages – yet so far is proving worth the outlay. His value is probably not great, with little re-sale likelihood given his age – but he’s extremely valuable to the Red Devils.
Other stars come through the ranks at clubs, such as Lionel Messi at Barcelona or Harry Kane at Tottenham. They cost their clubs nothing – except for their wages – but CIES calculates that the Argentinian could be sold for €170m and the English striker for almost €140m (£120m).
Dele Alli is another highly-rated Spur who cost the club an initial fee of £5m (that was probably a lot more in euro) just under two years ago – and is now valued at €110.5m (£95m).
However, there’s no denying that Spurs – and manager Mauricio Pochettino in particular – have improved most of their players, added value to them in financial and sporting senses.
CIES ranks the clubs by how much value they have added to their squad, with Barcelona at the top (squad valued at more than €1000m – €1071m to be exact – having added value of €586m), Spurs second, Atletico Madrid third, and Leicester City fourth.
Yet if the value is considered as a percentage of the cost of the squad, then Atletico would be top, having more than tripled the value of their panel, with Spurs again second (almost tripling their value), and Leicester third (squad value rated at 2.72 times their cost).
In fact, by that criteria, Spanish side Sporting Gijon should be top, as they only spent €8m on their squad and it’s now worth an estimated €80m.
Obviously, though, the cheaper a squad is, the easier it is to increase its value; one or two promising players would achieve that.
Of the clubs competing seriously for titles, Atletico Madrid and Spurs are clearly the most adept at maximising the players available to them (with Leicester having vastly over-achieved last season).
Perhaps because transfer market expenditure keeps spiralling upwards, it actually appears quite difficult for a squad to lose value; only seven of the 98 clubs are calculated to have dropped.
It says something for the poor transfer dealings at Old Trafford over recent seasons that Manchester United are one of those not-so-magnificent seven.
Admittedly it’s only a small downturn, only around 2.5 per cent (from €718m down to €700m), whereas Paris Saint-Germain are down eight per cent (€455m down to €418m).
Interestingly, Paul Pogba is not a factor in that perceived decline. Although there has been much debate about the worth of the world’s most expensive player, even after generally good recent form, CIES are in no doubt. They now value the Frenchman at just over €155m, an increase of almost 50 per cent on his purchase price of €105m.
Age is a factor in the wonderful Messi only being second on this list, behind his Barca colleague Neymar Jr, who’s valued at a whopping €246.8m (£213m).
Cristiano Ronaldo? Seventh most expensive, and a snip at €126.5m (£109m). Now that’s value.