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The most expensive XI in world history

Written by Will Parchman


The ballooning fiscal realities of world soccer contracts become more inflated in muscular bursts. In most transfer windows, players come and go under relatively modest auspices. A played signs for $9 million here, another for $18 million there. But every few years we get a Gareth Bale, which shatters the paradigm and sets agents’ hearts aflutter.

So let’s say we took the all-time most expensive players, by peak market valuation, and mashed them into a single XI. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what that would look like. Staying truthful to positions, these are the most expensively valued players by position as assessed by respected evaluators Transfermarkt (these totals are in Euros, since all but one of these fees were paid as such).


So, combine all 11 of these players together, and you’re looking at parting with a cool €711 million. Ouch.

The metric used here is pure position. You could technically make a more expensive team, but the positions wouldn’t work. So if you want the two most expensive center backs ever valued, Sergio Ramos’ price tag soared to an estimated €45 million this summer, while Thiago Silva’s €40 million from 2012 is the second-highest after his move to PSG. David Alaba benefitted from ripping form with Bayern Munich to earn the tag of the priciest left back in the world this summer, while Dani Alves’ commanding salary at right back leads a position that doesn’t usually garner big bucks.

The midfield was a bit trickier, but I think this setup works nicely. No holding midfielder has ever been valued higher than Michael Essien was in 2005. Essien at the time was the best defensive midfielder in the world (and one could argue, on form, he was among the best ever), and Chelsea splashed big bucks to secure his contract from Lyon that year. Meanwhile, the priciest liminal midfielder ever is Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta (midfield mate Xavi’s value has never exceeded €65 million). He bridges the gap between Essien and Ronaldinho, whose value peaked at €80 million in 2007 while in his best form at Barcelona. There’s never been an attacking midfielder valued higher. Not a shabby midsection.

But the big dollars emerge out of the glamor positions up top, and unsurprisingly this is where we’ve got our power players. Cristiano Ronaldo’s value was last assessed by Transfermarkt just this past October, so it’s fair to say that if his transfer fee exceeds that, it won’t be by a ton. Messi, meanwhile, is an interesting case. He’s never been transferred, so the market can’t offer fair value on his deal aside from simply tacking it onto the next biggest contract. Messi may well be worth more than €120 million on the open market, but there’s almost no way to accurately gauge it beyond this method. Finally, we have Gareth Bale, who’s €80 million value for Real Madrid from his transfer in 2013 is most definitely a peak number Tottenham used to gouge the Castillian giants. If you’re counting, that’s €320 million in value spread between three soccer players.

So here it is. On pure position, the most expensive XI ever assembled. Hope you brought your checkbook.

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  • Zizou

    Where is Zidane?

  • isc22

    wasnt david luiz sold to psg for 50 mil???

  • dixiesfootballroundup

    Angel Di Maria for the out of place Michael Essien

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