Ronaldo and Ronaldinho: The 25 most valuable footballers back in 2004

  • Kobe Tong

Football fans, cast your mind back to 2004.

Greece shocked the world by winning the European Championships, Arsenal made history by going the Premier League season unbeaten and Andriy Shevchenko lifted the Ballon d’Or trophy.

It’s crazy to think that 16 years have passed since Jose Mourinho arrived at Chelsea, Lionel Messi finished his first season in the pro game and Adriano single-handedly bossed the Copa America.

But one of the biggest changes in football since 2004 has been the transfer fees with the world record sitting at a paltry £46.6 million for Zinedine Zidane from Juventus to Real Madrid.

Since then, the payment ceiling has more than quadrupled with Neymar moving to Paris Saint-Germain for almost £200 million and now a handful of players are valued at nine-figure sums.

Most valuable players in 2004

That, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that the current crop are better than their predecessors and a recent feature by Transfermarkt has helped to highlight the evolution of transfer values.

That’s because they’ve applied their renowned value calculations to the best players in the world from 2004, revealing who the highest-rated stars were and how much they ‘ought’ to cost.

Seeing price tags that we now consider to be loose change besides players who are simply iconic is both strange and fascinating, so check out the top 25 down below:

25. Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan) – €25 million

24. Ryan Giggs (Manchester United) – €25 million

23. Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid) – €25 million

22. Kaka (AC Milan) – €26 million

21. Samuel Eto’o (Barcelona) – €27 million

20. Emerson (Juventus) – €27 million

19. Pavel Nedved (Juventus) – €28 million

18. Gianluca Zambrotta (Juventus) – €28 million

17. Adriano (Inter Milan) – €30 million

16. Michael Ballack (Bayern Munich) – €30 million

15. Didier Drogba (Marseille) – €30 million

14. Ricardo Carvalho (FC Porto) – €30 million

13. Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid) – €30 million

12. Michael Owen (Real Madrid) – €30 million

11. Alessandro Nesta (AC Milan) – €33 million

10. Patrick Vieira (Arsenal) – €35 million

9. Francesco Totti (AS Roma) – €35 million

8. Andriy Shevchenko (AC Milan) – €35 million

7. José Antonio Reyes (Arsenal) – €35 million

6. Wayne Rooney (Everton) – €37 million

5. Ruud van Nistelrooy (Manchester United) – €40 million

4. David Beckham (Real Madrid) – €40 million

3. Ronaldo Nazario (Real Madrid) – €45 million

2. Thierry Henry (Arsenal) – €45 million

1. Ronaldinho (Barcelona) – €50 million

Ronaldinho with the highest valuation

Imagine being able to get your hands on Zidane for just €25 million. Sheesh.

In the modern era, that’s less than it cost Leicester City to sign Ayoze Perez, Everton to buy Jordan Pickford and not even one-fifth of what Barcelona splurged on Philippe Coutinho.

But one thing that doesn’t change is the inflation surrounding ages and it’s interesting to see that Rooney was one of the most valuable players in the sport before he even moved to Old Trafford.

It seems logical that Ronaldinho comes out on top in a year where he won the first of two consecutive FIFA World Player of the Year awards, tipping the scales over €50 million.

However, an Henry on the back of an invincible year is no mug in second place, while Ronaldo – despite being on the way down – and Beckham make up the rest of the following pack.

Above everything else, though, we just can’t decide whether we’re drooling over this list of players so much because of nostalgia or because it was genuinely a richer era for the sport. 

But what we do know about 2004, is that you most definitely got more bang for your buck.

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