With a new year upon us and the January transfer window open, the CIES Football Observatory has released its latest biannual transfer value list.
The CIES list charts how much a club would have to pay to sign a player across Europe's big five leagues, based on advanced algorithms dictated by key factors such as a player's age, the length of their contract, their club's financial situation, any previous transfer fees, and so on.
The list aims to provide a stable approximation of a market which is unstable at the best of times, let alone with elite football currently mired in uncertainty along with the rest of the world.
As with any formula used to create a ranking, there are some results that may raise eyebrows and questions, but when taking the key factors into account the list generally makes sense.
Having scoured the Top 100, here are the key takeaways.
Rashford is the most valuable player in the world
According to the CIES Football Observatory algorithm, Marcus Rashford is estimated to be the most valuable player in world football with a transfer value of €165 million ($204m). With 14 goals in 25 club appearances this season (including a hat trick in the Champions League against RB Leipzig) and with three full years left on his contract with Manchester United, the 23-year-old forward tops the list ahead of Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland (who is in second with a value of €152m). However, it's worth noting that Rashford's purported value is significantly lower than the player who topped the previous list, published in June 2020...
Mbappe knocked off his perch
Kylian Mbappe was top of the list when CIES last published their data, with an estimated transfer value of €259.2m. Indeed, the 22-year-old Paris Saint-Germain star's value was said to be over and above the world-record transfer fee set by teammate Neymar (€222m). However, with only 18 months left on his contract with the Parisian giants, Mbappe's estimated value has fallen to €149.4m, which sees him drop down to fifth place.
Haaland the highest riser
Haaland is the biggest rising star inside the Top 20, with the prolific Borussia Dortmund striker having leapt from 15th place (€107.3m) all the way up to second (€152m) since last June. That's a phenomenal rise up the rankings of 13 places for the 20-year-old, who has scored at a rate of exactly a goal a game since joining Dortmund a year ago (33 goals in 33 games).
Alexander-Arnold still the dominant defender
Joining Rashford and Haaland on the podium, Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold is still ranked as the most expensive defender in the world (€151.6m) ahead of Bayern Munich full-back Alphonso Davies (€139m) and Manchester City centre-back Ruben Dias (€127m). Dias wasn't even in the Top 100 the last time the CIES results were published, just six months ago, but he has been impressive since making his €68m move from Benfica in September.
Fernandes breaks into Top 5
Rashford isn't the only United player to fare well in the latest CIES results, with Bruno Fernandes also cracking the top five with an estimated value of €151.1m. The Portugal international has leapt up an impressive 12 places since CIES last published their rankings in June, when he was 17th on the list with a value of €104.9m. Fernandes is the most valuable attacking midfielder in the world by some distance, with Kai Havertz (€136m) down in 10th place representing his closest competition. However, the fact that CIES have Havertz and his similarly underperforming Chelsea teammate Timo Werner (11th place, €135.1m) valued more highly than Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (12th place, €134m) shows that the formula can throw up some odd-looking results.
Saka top teen idol
One bright spot in a fairly dismal season for Arsenal has been the sparkling form of young Bukayo Saka. As a result, the 19-year-old England international is the most expensive teenage player in the world with an estimated value of €116.2m, which puts him 15th on the overall CIES list. Davies and Haaland were top of the teen idols the last time the data was published, but both players have since turned 20.
Pogba plummets below McTominay
Back in June, Fernandes (€104.9m) was estimated to have a transfer value double that of Paul Pogba (€50.6m). In 2021 the gulf between the two United midfielders has become more of a gaping chasm, with Pogba falling out of the Top 100 altogether. Rather amazingly when it comes to the United midfield, Scott McTominay is now rated as more valuable than Pogba, with the Scotland international in 84th place with a value of €59m.
Ronaldo rolls out of Top 100
Pogba isn't the only superstar to fall out of the Top 100 either as, as unbelievable as it may sound, Cristiano Ronaldo has suffered a similar fate. Despite some excellent performances at club level with Juventus (including 18 goals in 15 games this season), Ronaldo only makes it into 131st place on the CIES value list with a transfer value of just €47m. This is largely due to his advanced age of 35 and the relatively short duration of his contract with Juve, which is due to expire in summer 2022.
Messi just makes it in
Lionel Messi has also tumbled down the ranking as he enters the final six months of his contract with Barcelona. As rumours of his impending Barca departure refuse to go away, the 33-year-old Argentina international just manages to scrape inside the Top 100, with his current value of €54m seeing him end up in 97th place. Another potential bargain to be snapped up, should the right offer materialise. On a similar note, Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski -- recent winner of FIFA's The Best Men's Player award -- is down in 55th with a value of €72.1m.
Ederson still No. 1 among No. 1s
Just as he was in June, Manchester City's Ederson Moraes is still rated as the most expensive goalkeeper in world football (€79.6m, 44th overall), with Marc-Andre ter Stegen (€70m) of Barcelona and Liverpool's Alisson Becker (€65.7m) his closest rivals.
Reyna takes Pulisic's place as U.S. contingent grows
Six months ago, Christian Pulisic was blazing a trial for the United States as the only American on the list. Now, he is joined among the Top 100 most valuable players by Giovanni Reyna and Weston McKennie. Reyna, valued at €78.9m ($97.4m), is ranked 46th on the list, the same place Pulisic occupied last time -- not bad for an 18-year-old who only made his first Bundesliga start in June. Chelsea forward Pulisic's injury disrupted season has seen him slip down the list (61st, €69.8m/$86.2m), midfielder McKennie has risen into the Top 100 (95th, €54.2m/$66.9m) following his impressive loan spell at Juventus from Schalke.