It is a risky game trying to put a value on a young player, especially trying to estimate whether one is more valuable than another, but it is something we can’t resist.
Portuguese website Futebol Finance (FF) have done exactly that and made a list of the 30 most valuable youngsters in world football.
What is it about emerging talent and our need to constantly assess their relative worth – both financially and football-wise?
It seems as though we cannot admire young players for what they are, talented young footballers, and insist on predicting how ‘great’ they will one day be.
The list, seen here, claims that current Brazilian sensation Neymar is the most valuable young player in the world at the moment, but this is surely too difficult to carry out in real terms?
The key factors FF took into consideration were age (21 and under), their position, the club they play for and the league they play in with regards to wages and selling potential.
There is no suggestion that FF’s predictions are invalid in any way, they obviously have taken a lot into consideration when coming to their conclusions.
Why there is any need to do this at all? It takes away so much of the romanticism that is the base of our obsession with ‘the next big thing’.
We so desperately want to see the beginnings and evolution of a young talent into the next best player in the world ever.
Such fervour for youth was displayed recently with the celebration of Lionel Messi; seeing him break records and generally pulling off feats of wondrous individual brilliance did not seem to be sufficient.
Most were guilty of drawing up battle lines and deciding whether or not he was the best player to have played the game, better even than Pele, Maradona etc.
Maybe it is to do with the nature of our media and how the instant availability of news or gossip makes it redundant and obsolete almost as quickly.
In such a disposable climate, where so many stories and reports are swiftly proved or disproved, verified or unverified, we may resort to trying to find solace in absolutes – like who is the greatest ever.
There must be some reason for our obsession because there appears to be a lack of contentedness with the mere presence of talent in the majority of those who interact amongst the ‘football community’.
Messi is 24 and, hopefully, has many more years to wow us further, or even completely sour his legacy in some way (you never know!) – there isn’t really any need to classify him in such grand terms.
While not being such an extreme, this need for the valuation of such young talents could be connected to this obsession in some way.
When we hear of a young man who has started to show some talent for the game we instantly want to know how valuable he is, or how much more he is worth than another player showing signs of youthful brilliance.
Any one of those on the list laid out could quite easily not live up to his price tag or, what is worse, not fulfil the talent that so many believe to be present.
When we place price tags on people of this age, we are already putting expectations on them that we have no right to, even if it is unintentional.
One example would be Andy Carroll at Liverpool, who has been pilloried at times this season because he has underperformed.
Admittedly, he has not played as well as we have seen him do in the past but the chant many have often thrown at him for this is ‘what a waste of money’.
Carroll has no influence on how much the officials of both clubs decide he is worth and it feels wrong to suggest that he must live up to the transfer fee paid for him.
Another product of pricing the players is that these values could be used to compare two players, rather than their respective attributes, which would, frankly, be ridiculous.
It will be argued that many do not actually do this, but the price of a player is becoming more and more important when assessing their general worth.
The transfer value of a player does not always equate to their value on the pitch, but the former will undoubtedly cloud objective judgement of the latter.
Bring back some romanticism and forget about the finances, because it is making us impatient with precocious talents that need time to be developed and nurtured – just let the kids play.
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