Basically, we’ve plucked seven random legends of the game and estimated the kinds of fees they might demand in the market today.
To even things out, we’re working on the basis that all players are aged 25 at the time of our evaluation, which is the same age Neymar was when he made his recent world record breaking move to PSG. Please bare that in mind if some seem higher or lower than you expected, and we’ll try to explain our evaluations as we go along.
Here are 7 football legends: What would they be worth today?
7. Stanley Matthews - £150 million
We start with the oldest player in this seven, the late great Stanley Matthews. When Matthews was aged 25, the Second World War had just broken out, so there’d be little chance of him making a transfer to any club. Matthews was already a star by that point, though, having scored 15 goals in a season from the right wing aged 18, and having already become a star of the English national team.
The problem for Matthews would be that the role of the winger is so vastly different today to what is was when he was just 25. His skills, however, which included complete wizardry over the ball and pinpoint accuracy when delivering a ball into the box, are entirely transferrable. Given that he might have to adapt to fit into certain systems, we’ve given Matthews a valuation of £150 million at age 25, which would be good value since he went on to play until he was 50!
6. Pele - £320 million
Former Brazilian footballer Pele (C) meets the players before the start of the final Subroto Cup 2015 match in New Delhi on October 16, 2015. Pele is on a two day visit to the city at the...
The most expensive player by our valuations in this seven, were Pele playing today and aged 25, we think he would command a fee in excess of £300 million. Pele was already a two-time World Cup winner by the time of his 25th birthday, having won the tournament for the first time as Brazil’s top scorer aged 17. When the Ballon d’Or elected their new winners accounting for non-European players, they had Pele down as a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, with six of those titles coming before he turned 25. Pele scored 66 goals in 46 games at the age of 17, and scored 64 in 48 the year he was 25. If Neymar is worth £198 million, Pele would have been worth £300 million at the very least.
5. Franco Baresi - £90 million
We wanted to make sure this seven included a variety of positions, and in fifth place we’ve gone with centre-back Franco Baresi. Arguably the greatest pure defender of all time, Baresi was a wonderfully intelligent, calm and brave central defender. Virgil van Dijk is the most expensive centre-back in the world today, having cost Liverpool £75 million at the age of 26. A 25-year-old Baresi was an AC Milan regular, but he had only won 8 caps for Italy. He had been a part of their 1982 World Cup winning squad, but hadn’t played a game at the tournament. Baresi was still a far better centre-back at 25 than van Dijk is at 26, but he hadn’t yet hit the heights he would as a Ballon d’Or runner-up and three-time European Cup winner. As such, we think £90 million would probably be a fair valuation.
4. Gabriel Batistuta - £75 million
Fitness Coach Italy Paolo Bertelli (L) and Gabriel Omar Batistuta attend the Italy training session at the club's training ground at Coverciano on May 26, 2016 in Florence, Italy.
Football fans who grew up in the 1990’s will have fond memories of watching Gabriel Batistuta. Just an incredibly clinical centre-forward with brilliant anticipation, Batistuta was the second highest scorer at the 1998 World Cup, and Fiorentina’s all time leading scorer in Serie A. In his prime, he’d have commanded a fee well in excess of £100 million today. At the age of 25, though, he had only had one 20+ goal season, and hadn’t yet struck 20 in a league campaign. The same could be said of Alvaro Morata prior to his £58 million move to Chelsea though, and Batistuta was playing in a very tough Serie A, and had already shown excellent form for Argentina. We think he’d go for around £75 million at 25, which is the same fee that Manchester United paid for Romelu Lukaku in the summer.
3. Henrik Larsson - £15 million
Okay, okay, I can already feel angry Celtic fans breathing down my neck. Henrik Larsson was one of the great players of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, renowned for his incredible goal scoring at Celtic Park. However, aged 25, Larsson had only really scored prolifically in Sweden. His best season for Feyenoord saw him bag 10 goals in 32 league games, hardly setting the world alight. When Celtic signed him aged 26, he cost the Glasgow club just £650,000. He’d certainly cost them more than that today, but he wouldn’t be a fortune. Vincent Janssen cost Spurs £17 million, and whilst the Eredivisie was stronger in the 1990’s, Janssen scored 27 goals and was younger than Larsson who hit only 10. So we think £15 million would be a fair fee for a 25-year-old Henrik Larsson today.
2. Roberto Carlos - £77 million
Roberto Carlos of Brazil arrives for The Best FIFA Football Awards 2016 on January 9, 2017 in Zurich, Switzerland.
Whilst Roberto Carlos was certainly given plenty of license to attack with both Real Madrid and Brazil, a flying full-back like himself would have relished playing the game today. Carlos cost Real Madrid around £5 million when he was 23, and by the time he was 25 he had been named runner-up for FIFA’s World Player of the Year, made a World Cup Team of the Tournament and had won La Liga and Champions League trophies. Obviously Carlos had his defensive limitations, but in a world where Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker are worth more than £50 million, we’d value Roberto Carlos at close to 80 million.
1. Frank Rijkaard - £122 million
An interesting inclusion in this seven, Frank Rijkaard was predominantly a defensive midfielder, and for all the crazy transfers we’ve seen, there hasn’t been a defensive midfielder who has gone for obscene money just yet. Nemanja Matic at £40 million, Arturo Vidal at £33 million and N’Golo Kante for £32 million are some of the biggest, but nothing like the fees we’ve seen for centre-forwards or even centre-backs. We still have to give Frank Rijkaard an enormous valuation though, and if anything he’d be a bargain at £122 million. If Paul Pogba can go for £89 million, then Rijkaard really ought to be worth more, but it’s difficult to measure how high someone would go for a defensive midfield player.
Rijkaard was a wonderfully complete footballer, who combined incredible athleticism with excellent technique. He could control a midfield, and by 25, he had already won a Champions League and a Dutch Golden Shoe.