The relentless commercialisation of football has transformed the landscape of the sport and normalised astronomical transfer valuations.
There seems to be no end in sight to the rapid rise in transfer fees.
Walk into any suburban pub and you’re guaranteed to hear at least one bar dweller reach for football’s favourite platitude, “game’s gone”, within your first five minutes at the establishment.
But just how far “gone” has this historic, universally loved sport managed to spiral?
Well, a study from Bettingodds.com, which combines Transfermarkt data with the Bank of England’s inflation calculator, gives us some indication into how the transfer market has escalated in recent years.
The study has worked out the most valuable Premier League XI since 2004/05 – when comprehensive Transfermarkt valuations began – accounting for inflation.
The result is a simply extraordinary £1.15 billion-rated starting line-up, which aptly illuminates how quickly valuations have snowballed in the past five years.
Indeed, there is no inclusion from any season preceding the 2017/18 campaign and nine of the 11 players are worth in excess of £70m.
Take a look at who makes it into the XI below…
Goalkeeper: Alisson (2018/19 – £73.9m)
Alisson’s Transfermarkt valuation seems to have aligned almost perfectly with the £67m fee Liverpool paid to sign him from AS Roma back in 2018.
Given how impressive the Brazilian has been at Anfield, resolving the Reds’ long standing goalkeeping issues and playing a key role in their maiden Premier League title win, it’s no surprise to see he is the most valuable stopper in the history of the division.
Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold (2020/21 – £99m)
It was going to take something special to displace the world’s most valuable right-back, per Transfermarkt.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s inclusion in this XI attests to the rising importance of full-backs in the modern game.
One gets the feeling that an offer of £99m wouldn’t be enough to convince Liverpool to offload their 22-year-old superstar.
Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk (2018/19 – £83.1m)
At this point you’re probably starting to wonder if you’ve been hoodwinked into reading through Liverpool’s entire starting XI, such is the scale of their involvement.
Virgil van Dijk is the third of five players from the red half of Merseyside but given his meteoric reputation his place was never in doubt.
Grab yourself a bargain in today’s money by splurging a cool £83.1m on the Dutchman’s signature.
Centre-back: Aymeric Laporte (2018/19 – £69.3m)
Breaking up the train of Liverpool players is a central defender who instantly transformed Manchester City’s defence after arriving from Athletic Bilbao in 2018.
That his Transfermarkt valuation peaked in the 2018/19 season is unsurprising and in this XI he would form what many consider to be the perfect Premier League partnership alongside van Dijk.
Left-back: Andrew Robertson (2020/21 – £67.5m)
Andrew Robertson has defied all expectation to become the most valuable Premier League left-back since Transfermarkt valuations began.
Few envisaged such a glowing future for the flying Scot when he was signed for a measly £8m fee in 2016, but he’s now firmly one of the world’s best in his position.
He’s still the lowest valued player in this XI, though, so don’t let it go to your head, Robbo.
Central-defensive-midfield: N’Golo Kante (2018/19 – £92.34m)
One of football’s most humble personalities peaked during the 2018/19 season according to Transfermarkt.
Scuttling around Chelsea’s midfield, the Frenchman remains one of the most consistent performers in the division and would offer a diligent screen to the predominantly Liverpool based back-five.
With a £92.34m valuation, the Frenchman gets into the XI over his compatriot Paul Pogba.
Central-midfield: Kevin De Bruyne (2017/18 – £143.1m)
Kevin De Bruyne won the PFA Players’ Player of the year award for the very first time following his outstanding 2019/20 campaign but his Transfermarkt valuation actually peaked in 2017/18.
Pep Guardiola’s side were in rampant form that season and broke the 100-point mark for the first time in the history of the division, and De Bruyne played a key role in helping Man City reach that achievement.
Only a player of the Belgian’s quality could somehow make a valuation as absurd as £143.1m seem like fair game.
Central-midfield: Dele Alli (2017/18 – £95.4m)
Dele Alli’s inclusion in this XI testifies to his mammoth fall from grace.
At the peak of Alli’s powers under Mauricio Pochettino few would have batted an eyelid at his £95.4m valuation, but just a few years later that figure looks horribly out of place.
Will the England international ever return to these dizzy heights? It seems unlikely but that’s not to say he can’t enjoy a revival either at Spurs or another elite European club.
Right-forward: Mo Salah (2017/18 – £143.1m)
Does this end the Mo Salah vs Sadio Mane debate? Absolutely not, but it’s another weapon in the armoury for Team Salah.
Salah scored 32 goals and provided 11 assists in just 36 Premier League games during his maiden campaign, taking his valuation to a staggering £143.1m along with De Bruyne.
It’s difficult to remember a debut season more ground-breaking and the Egyptian’s value provides a fair reflection on the scale of his impact.
Left-forward: Eden Hazard (2018/19 – £138.51m)
Eden Hazard’s final season with Chelsea was that in which his valuation peaked.
The Belgian’s stock has plummeted during his underwhelming stint at Real Madrid, but his return of 16 goals and 15 assists in 36 Premier League games was enough to take his value to £138.51m during the 2018/19 campaign.
Only three players in this XI boast a higher figure next to their name.
Centre-forward: Harry Kane (2017/18 – £143.1m)
The third and final player in this XI commanding a £143.1m valuation is Harry Kane, who also rose to that peak during the 2017/18 season.
In what was seemingly a generous year for Transfermarkt valuations Kane was in typically prolific form, notching 30 league goals in 37 appearances for Spurs while also supplementing his domestic form with seven in seven in the Champions League.
There was never really much doubt about who’d be leading the line here.
Here’s the Premier League’s most valuable XI sine 2004/05 accounting for inflation in full…