The Premier League is so named for a reason. It’s not just the best league in English football; it’s arguably the best league in the world. Some of the greatest players in the game have played in the Premier League, many while at the top of their game.
In recent seasons, the amount of money being spent on signing such talent by Premier League clubs has gone through the roof, thanks to the cash they receive from broadcasters desperate to show matches from the world’s most-watched league.
When Manchester United paid a record-breaking £89million for Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba in August 2016, it was the culmination of a summer of spending that saw Manchester City pay £47.5million for Everton defender John Stones, Chelsea pay £32million for Leicester City enforcer N’Golo Kanté and Arsenal pay £30million for Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder Granit Xhaka.
So, in this era of breathtaking broadcasting deals and billionaire club owners, how would the greatest players in Premier League history be valued if they were at the peak of their powers today? Let’s crunch the numbers…
David Beckham: £120m
If Paul Pogba is worth £89million, then surely former Manchester United, Real Madrid and England midfielder David Beckham, at his turn-of-the-millennium peak, would be worth more. Undoubtedly a fine player, Beckham also has celebrity status, and any top club would be willing to shell out extra for the marketing value of a face that would have prospective premium sponsors eating out of their metaphorical hand.
Cristiano Ronaldo: £120m
Back in 2003, Manchester United paid Sporting Lisbon £12million for the 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo; five years, 292 appearances, 118 goals and seven major honours later, the Red Devils sold the Portuguese forward to Real Madrid for a then-world record transfer fee of £80million. If Manchester United were to re-sign a 24-year-old Ronaldo today, it seems reasonable to suggest he would cost the club around £120million; after all, as 888sport points out in its list of Top Ten Premier League Signings Ever, he scored 31 goals in 34 games in his last season with the club.
Alan Shearer: £110m
Named Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year in 1994 and PFA Player of the Year in 1995, Alan Shearer scored 34 goals in 42 league games in the 1994-95 season to shoot Blackburn Rovers to the Premier League title, and 31 in 35 league games the following season, leading to him finishing third in the FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 1996.
Newcastle United paid a £15million world record transfer fee for Shearer the same year, and he would finish his career as the Magpies’ and the Premier League’s record goalscorer. With the escalating amounts being paid for top Premier League performers today, and the lack of elite strikers on the market, £110million doesn’t seem too much for a player as lethal as Shearer was in his heyday.
Ryan Giggs: £100m
Ryan Giggs began his career at Manchester United in 1990 aged 17, and remained at the club until he retired in 2014 aged 40, so was never transferred for a headline-grabbing fee. However, he finished playing as the most decorated player in club football history, having made a record number of appearances for Manchester United and a record number of assists in the Premier League.
As such, it seems fair to say that Giggs, in his years peak between 1994 and 2002 as a pivotal part of a Manchester United side that dominated the Premier League and won a historic treble, would be worth a cool £100million were he on the market today.
There are many more names that could have made this list, from Thierry Henry and Denis Bergkamp to Frank Lampard and Roy Keane, but those above will give you a good idea of how transfer fees have shot up in the Premier League – and of how true talent is timeless.