FIFA World Cup: Where Fair Market Value is Redefined

As we near the start of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil and start to see all of the “pump up” videos and ads on YouTube and on television, it really is hard to contain your excitement as a fan. You’ve been waiting four years for this moment – literally counting the days down from 1,432 days with eager anticipation. Clubs around the world also await the World Cup with eager anticipation – but for a different reason. Though club scouts, as fans of the game, also appreciate the World Cup for the same reasons as the common fan, they anxiously await the tournament to see who the next undiscovered superstar might be in the crop of players included in the 32 countries’ twenty-three man squads. As the tournament unfolds and undiscovered brilliance reveals itself, the soccer community will be buzzing with transfer rumors that will start even before the World Cup has concluded.

The World Cup is the one place and one event that truly brings together players from every corner of the soccer-playing world and puts them on display for everyone to see. Entering the World Cup, a player could not be on anyone’s radar, and then he has a breakout tournament, and all of a sudden ten teams in the Big 5 are calling his agent looking to sign him. One of the bigger questions and debates around the industry when this happens is, “how much should that player cost”? Even if you could calculate a player’s “fair market value” prior to enter the World Cup (and you can), their performance during the tournament could alter that value, sometimes with drastic impact. A couple players that have gone into a World Cup at one value and made transfers for higher values afterwards include Luis Saurez of Uruguay and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez of Mexico as an example.

Going into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil the stakes are no different. We’ve already seen some transfer deals go down at the start of this summer transfer Window, with David Villa signing on to NYCFC of MLS from La Liga side Atletico Madrid, David Luiz of Chelsea signing on to Paris Saint-Germain, and Cesc Fabregas of Barcelona looking like he’ll make the move to Chelsea in the BPL, just to name a few. All three of these players are about to compete in the World Cup in Brazil and they also make the CIES Football Observatory’s top 60 most valuable players list in the Big 5 European leagues.

Business of Soccer took a look at how the countries competing in the World Cup compared in terms of total player value from this list, with regard to their World Cup rosters.

Total World Cup team roster market value from top 60 most valuable players list ($MM):

WC Roster Value 2014

Player market values from CIES Annual Report. Analysis by Business of Soccer.

Spain is overwhelmingly the country that boasts the most player value entering into the World Cup, so many would think that they would be a team to which the scouts would want to pay especially close attention. They boast more in overall player value on their World Cup roster than Italy, Colombia, Chile, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ivory Coast, and Croatia combined. With players like Diego Costa, Juan Mata, and Andres Iniesta in the side it is easy to see how with 8 other top 60 list players on the roster Spain can wind up with a player roster value of approximately $537 million.

However, it is important to look at the data another way to better understand which country might offer some of the most valuable players. Taking into account how many players each country has on this top 60 most valuable list allows us to understand where their players might fall on that list based on the average player value.

Average player value by World Cup country:

World Cup Roster Values by player 2014

Player market values from CIES Annual Report. Analysis by Business of Soccer.

Looking at the data from this lens, Spain drops from the number 1 spot down to number 9. Portugal only has one player on its roster that makes the top 60 most valuable player list – one guess who that might be. If you guessed anyone other than Christiano Ronaldo, you need some education. Argentina is also inflated by having Lionel Messi in the side, with a market value of approximately $294 million, almost double the value of Christiano Ronaldo who resides in the number 2 slot on the list. The next highest Argentinian World Cup player value on the top 60 list is Sergio Aguero of Manchester City at roughly $67 million. Other countries, however, that fall in the top tier of this list, like Belgium or Uruguay for example, have anywhere between 2 and 8 players from the top 60 list on their World Cup rosters and they still rank fairly high on the list of most value per player.

Players like Romelu Lukaku and Edinson Cavani, whose values are already quite high given the fact that they are on the top 60 most valuable players list, will be watched with extreme scrutiny and interest this summer in the World Cup. Lukaku, who has already proven he has immense potential this past season on loan at Everton from Chelsea in the BPL, is currently valued at about $52 million. With Belgium looking to be many experts’ Dark Horse pick to go deep into the tournament, Lukaku may have a good opportunity to have a breakout World Cup and we can almost certainly expect to see that value increase should clubs hope to lure him away from Chelsea and entice the Blues to sell him.

This is also a very important point that often is overlooked in this equation. Clubs not only need to understand player values to evaluate what kind of budget they will need, or can/cannot afford, during the transfer window and which players they want to target, but also how much their own rosters are worth so they maximize their sell price potential. Chelsea would be more than remiss to overlook this point and wind up selling Lukaku for less than he is worth, or less than what some other club might be willing to pay beyond his market value.

The World Cup is just days away, and it is sure to be one of the most memorable in history. But the excitement and the action won’t stop when the tournament comes to an end and a champion hoists the Cup in mid July. It will continue through the summer right until the final hour of the transfer deadline at the end of August. Who among the top 60 most valuable players list will we see change clubs? And for how much? Could we see another record-breaking signing this summer above and beyond Bale’s from a year ago? Only time will tell.


What do you think about players’ market value before and after the World Cup? Let us know in the comments section below, or via Facebook or Twitter.


Reporting on the business side of the world's game.