Money Madness: The secrets of a how football player’s transfer value is calculated

If anything can quickly shine a light on how bonkers the world of football has become over the last 20 or so years it's the transfer fees of players. How though is a player's market value calculated? Let's have a look.

What is a player's market value?

Before we get into the ‘how' or the ‘why', we thought we should touch on what a player's market value is. Many people will start with thinking of transfer fees but that’s far from the full picture; after all, a player can be bought well above or below market value depending on a number of factors; many of them interconnect.

How is a player's market value calculated?


The first metric we're going to talk about is the age of a player.  Now, the obvious place to start with this is that the younger a player is, the higher their market value will be. It's not quite that simple though. If you're talking about a 21-year-old versus a 31-year-old then the statement on value is very much true. When you shift those ages five years south that picture changes; the market value of a 26-year-old will, more often than not, be higher than that of a 16-year-old.


Yeah, flowing straight on from our age chat, experience is also critical to a player's market value. Now, how you define experience can differ. Jamie Vardy, for example, didn't play in the football league until he was 25-years-old. Marcus Rashford meanwhile is just 24 but has over 300 senior games under his belt. Rashford's experience both on and off the pitch would be valued supremely higher than that of the then 25-year-old Vardy.

Jamie Vardy Leicester City
Jamie Vardy didn't enter the Football League until he was 25-years-old

Injury Record

Yep, it's a sad fact of life – or at least of football – that injuries play a huge role in the game. That's true of a player's market value too. Players are valuable assets to their clubs whether that be due to high wages or re-sale value and they'll always look to protect themselves hence we have medicals as one of the final steps in a transfer. A player can have the world at their feet but if, for instance, they had a couple of ACL injuries – or worse suffer something more serious like Christian Eriksen – then their value will plummet. The reverse of that is where you have players that barely miss a game; if they can turn out forty times a season, that's worth a few quid.

The league they play in

Yep, football in the real world isn't FIFA on the Xbox; you can't just pull the best player from here there and everywhere, and think it all clicks like normal. The league someone is playing in is something that does define market value and the perception of that league will vary depending on your viewpoint. Generally speaking though, the big fish in a little pond will hold less value than the little fish in a big pond. Not sure what we mean? Alfredo Morelos at Rangers holds a lower value than, say, Adam Armstrong of Southampton. Why is that? Largely, it’s about having proved yourself at a better level but there is also an element of those smaller ponds having less financial clout and therefore it’s harder for them to play hardball – and everyone knows it.


That’s right, football is very much a business nowadays. Not only do clubs want players to be good players but other questions come into the mix now. Is the player a big name? Are they a brand in their own right? Will they pull in new fans? How will shirt sales perform? It’s not all about being the best in the business either. Obviously, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo attracted a huge fanfare when they moved clubs in the summer but it can be less obvious things too.

Son Heung-Min being a Tottenham player will see a lot of his fellow countrymen support the club. On a lesser scale, look at Elkan Baggot. He is in the youth set up for League One club Ipswich. He represented his country – Indonesia – at the Suzuki Cup recently and saw his Instagram followers hit the one million mark with the club gaining circa 10k more. His market value has increased without him kicking a ball for his club.

Son Heung-Min has brought a huge South Korean following to Tottenham

Contract Length

It's quite common to see people sounding off about “what's the point in contracts” when a player throws his toys out of the pram to try and engineer a move. On one hand, it's a legitimate question because, more often than not, a player that kicks up a stink does get a move. It's not that simple though because whilst a player might leave, the contract secures the club greater value. A great example of this is Eduardo Camavinga. In 2020 Real Madrid were tracking the then Rennes teenager; his value at that time was reported as being as high as £90m. A move never materialised at that time but fast forward a year and Real would get their man; the only difference was that they paid just £35m. Why? Simple, Camavinga had just a year left on his deal and could have penned a deal with someone for free in just six months time.

The player's demand

This is a big one in determining market value but it really is kind of obvious; it’s a simple supply and demand problem. If you’re selling a house and have one viewing then you won’t get a bidding war. If you have 10? You’ve got half a chance. Football players are the same thing; they’re just assets. If there are a lot of clubs following them then the market value of the said player increases. Then comes the question of who the clubs are!

Level of ability and potential

Last but not least we’ve got the million-dollar question; how good is the player? If you’ve got a player that is ripping things apart in the toughest competitions in the world then it’s a fair bet to say they will cost a pretty penny. If they’re a player that is woefully out of form and has struggled to show certain qualities then that value is dropping. Equally, if you’ve got a player with bags of potential and a high ceiling then they’ll command big bucks.

The final word

Essentially, the market value of a player can be flexed based on loads of factors. Each player will hold a different value to each team as well because they’ll have different needs and different ambitions. Either way, it’s not as simple as you’d think and there is no magic formula. That said, at least you now know how a player’s market value is calculated.

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Ash Munson

Ash an experienced sports writer who has an extensive background in data analytics. Here, he combines those skills to provide you, the reader, with engaging and well researched content. Oh, and Ash is an Ipswich Town fan!