10. Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund)
The thing with this list is that some players with a seemingly much higher value will not feature. Antoine Griezmann and Andrea Belotti are wonderful, but have release clauses of £85million and £87.4m respectively. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are undoubtedly the world’s finest players, but a combination of age and no desire to leave two of the biggest clubs in world football rule them out. Paul Pogba would be a leading candidate, but is unlikely to exit Manchester United in the near future.
Ousmane Dembele is by no means as talented as those players, but the Borussia Dortmund winger has time on his side and is at one of the best clubs in the world for development. The 20-year-old scored ten goals and assisted a further 21 in 49 games in all competitions as his first season at the Westfalenstadion was a success. His versatility would appeal to suitors – he can play on either wing or behind a central striker – and he scored goals in the Champions League quarter-final and DFB-Pokal final.
9. Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan)
Nine of the players on this list have one thing in common; Gianluigi Donnarumma is the outlier. The most expensive player in world football has not been a defender since before World War I, which serves as a reminder that the sport values those who score goals far more than those who prevent them.
Even with that in mind, it is not outside the realms of possibility that a club could view Gianluigi Donnarumma as their potential first-choice goalkeeper for two decades. The shot-stopper has been Milan’s No 1 for the last two seasons, and yet he only turned 18 in February. He is an Italy international, has been linked to Manchester United, Juventus and a host of other clubs, and his agent is one Mino Raiola.
Since the start of the 2015/16 Serie A season, Donnarumma has kept 23 clean sheets in 68 league games. Only three keepers have kept more, and considering he is seen as the successor to the leader in that regard – Gianluigi Buffon – he will surely at least claim his crown as the most expensive keeper ever.
8. Marco Verratti (PSG)
PSG teammate Blaise Matuidi claimed that Andres Iniesta himself sees Marco Verratti as his natural heir. Carlo Ancelotti once stated that the Italian “has all the qualities” to claim Andrea Pirlo’s mantle as his country’s leading playmaker. Former Nantes and Real Sociedad coach Raynald Denoueix believes the midfielder can succeed Xavi at Barcelona.
Three more illustrious individuals a player could not wish to be compared to. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Chelsea have all been credited with a long-held interest in the midfielder, who has established himself as PSG’s leading midfielder in his five seasons in France. He has been named in the Ligue Un team of the season in each of those campaigns.
7. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund)
The oldest member of this list at 27, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seems destined to become the latest elite player to leave Borussia Dortmund. It could be this summer, with PSG reportedly bidding £61m for his services last week, or it could be in the future, with the forward constantly fluttering his eyelashes in the direction of Real Madrid.
The Gabon international has scored 120 goals in 189 games in Germany, and is also constantly linked with a move to the Chinese Super League, which makes a future nine-figure sum perfectly likely. It remains rather humorous that he spent four years at AC Milan from 2007 without playing a single first-team game. He left to join Saint-Etienne on a free transfer in 2011.
6. Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
It was reported back in April, amid rumours Manchester United and Chelsea were circling Goodison Park, that Romelu Lukaku would cost any potential buyer £100m. Some treated the revelation with consternation and confusion, but this is a 24-year-old striker, a proven goalscorer in one of Europe’s top five leagues, who has two years left on his contract.
The Belgian perhaps suffers for his perceived lack of loyalty, while the brilliance (and nationality) of Harry Kane, two months his junior, often overshadows his own efforts. But, with the demand for a proven forward in the current market, any one club from a list of those in the Champions League could take a calculated gamble.
5. Neymar (Barcelona)
Messi is 29 and unlikely to ever depart the Nou Camp, no matter how often Manchester City are ridiculously linked with him. Luis Suarez is still a wonderful player, but Barcelona would struggle to recoup their initial £65m outlay on the 30-year-old striker. Which leaves Neymar as the final member of the Spanish side’s forward tandem, the most likely to break up the band.
The Brazilian is by no means edging towards the Barcelona exit door. He has won every available trophy in just four years in Spain, and will surely be an integral part of the future under Ernesto Valverde. If and when Messi and Suarez leave, he is destined to ascend to the throne. He even signed a new contract in October. But negotiations were so protracted that any potential suitor can take at least a semblance of hope for the future. Unlike many of his teammates, it does not feel as though Neymar is tied to the Nou Camp.
4. Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
‘Real Madrid are ready to break the world transfer record to sign Chelsea’s Eden Hazard,’ reported The Sun in a back-page exclusive last Thursday, and they are not about to start publishing blatant falsehoods, are they?
No matter your thoughts on that transfer rumour, which claimed that the Belgian would become a £100m Galactico this summer, it would be no surprise to see Hazard one day command such a fee. He is just 26, is a seasoned Premier League star, and has an impressive, if rather brief, record in the Champions League. He has played just seven games in Europe’s elite competition, and much like compatriot Lukaku, his talents belong on the biggest stage.
3. Paulo Dybala (Juventus)
A thoroughly disappointing showing in the Champions League final aside, the future is bright for Paulo Dybala. After all, his two-goal salvo earlier in the competition helped beat Barcelona, a club who are constantly linked with the Argentinean.
The 23-year-old signed a new five-year contract worth £110,000 a week just last month, temporarily ignoring overtures from across Europe. He has much developing yet to do at Juventus, but with 42 goals and 18 assists in 94 games since moving to Turin, he is clearly on the right track.
2. Dele Alli (Tottenham)
“I think he’s worth £100m now – if Pogba’s worth £90m, Alli is worth more” – Harry Redknapp, February 2017.
Harry Kane is more proven and not considerably older, but there is a reason Tottenham fans have claimed him as ‘one of their own’. The 24-year-old is constantly linked with moves to any of Europe’s top clubs, yet it is difficult to see him ever flying the Spurs coop.
For Dele Alli, it is different. He was not brought through Tottenham’s youth ranks, but was purchased from elsewhere. He feels less attached to the club than Kane, and if tangible success is not delivered at Spurs soon, his loyalty levels could soon expire.
Alli’s situation is far more comparable to that of Gareth Bale. Both were purchased as youngsters from lower-league clubs. At Tottenham, they each developed into wonderful talents – albeit Alli did so far sooner. Everyone knows where Bale’s career path took him, and Alli could conceivably follow at some point.
1. Kylian Mbappe (Monaco)
When examining the next individual most likely to become the world’s most expensive player, or the first footballer to break the £100m barrier, a number of criteria have to be met. They have to be relatively young, and yet still proven to some degree on the world stage. Their contract would preferably be far from expiration. They would have to be at a club who cannot offer the same prestige, lure and wages as their more illustrious competitors. They would have to be the ‘next’ someone.
Kylian Mbappe is 18. He scored 26 goals and assisted a further 14 in his first season as a first-team player, including efforts in the Champions League semi-final, quarter-final and last-16, as well as in Monaco’s Ligue Un title success. He has two years remaining on his current contract. His club are not the most attractive in the country, have already lost one of its leading talents, and are expected to sell more this summer. He is, as we all know, the ‘next Thierry Henry’.
Mbappe is destined to leave Monaco one day, and it is likely that he will have a pick of clubs when that time comes. If he goes for anything less than the current world record transfer fee of £89.3m, it would be a considerable surprise.