Can we predict the winners of four biggest European football leagues?

The two biggest sporting events of the year are behind us. The UEFA Euro France 2016 and Summer Olympic Games Rio 2016 are finished, and now we can focus on our favourite clubs and athletes who play their competitions on a weekly or monthly basis. In this article, I will write about my favourite sport – football (or soccer for our American readers).


“Life is like a game of soccer. You need goals. If there are no goals in your life then you can’t win.” – Unknown Author

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“The more you pay your players in wages, the higher you will finish” – Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski (Soccernomics, 2009:48)


billion € is the total value of the four biggest football leagues

European national football championships started several weeks ago. Currently, there is a short break because of the start of European qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. So, I have used this break to analyse which of the best four European leagues (and which teams in them) has the highest value based on the value of players playing in those leagues.

There are a lot of factors which indicate the value of a particular player – his squad status, age, talent, league, position, image, adaptability, iconic status and more. But the most reliable public source of value of football players is the German-based website Transfermarkt.

Of course, the bigger the value of the player, the higher his wage. There is a significant scientific study by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski who studied the spending of forty English teams for almost 30 years (1978-2007) and found that in 90 percent of cases, the clubs’ spending on salaries will determine their final positions in the league standings. So, if you spend more money on salaries than your competitors, you have the most chance to win the title. On the other hand, if you spend less money on salaries then your competitors, you will most likely be relegated. If you are somewhere in the between, you will probably finish in the middle of the pack.

Ok, there are exceptions like last year’s Premier League when Leicester City, which was in the 17th place on the wage list, clinched the title, and the top club on that same list, Chelsea FC, finished in a disgraceful 10th place. But, in most cases, including the three other big leagues last season, the teams with the highest market value clinched their domestic titles.


I will analyse the value of clubs, according to, in four biggest football leagues in the world – Spanish La Liga, English Premier League, Germans Bundesliga and Italian Serie A – and we will see if their value will coincide with the results at the end of the season.

Let’s take a look.

La Liga (Spain)

Spanish top division La Liga (or Primera) is the most dominant football league in the world (and in the history of football). In the last eight seasons, Spanish clubs have won 18 out of 24 European trophies (UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Super Cup), and in last three years, they won 9 out of 9 European cups.

Most of the people who are not so into football (soccer) will say – yes, but Spain is only Real Madrid and Barcelona. Well, that is not true. In the last eight years, Sevilla has won three consecutive Europea League titles, and Atletico Madrid has won two of them and also played in the Champions League finals twice. There are also some other very strong teams who usually come far in the European competitions such as Athletic Bilbao, Valencia and Villarreal.

According to the Transfermarkt, the average value of  La Liga players is €7,36M. And, according to the average market value of the squad, Barcelona will defend the title! Even though Real Madrid has the higher total market value (€769M to Barcelona’s €756M), Barcelona has three players less in the squad, and the average market value of Barcelona’s players is €4M higher than Real Madrid’s.


Atletico Madrid and Valencia should clinch Champions League berth, and Sevilla, Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao will play in Europa League. Three clubs who entered La Liga this year – Deportivo Alaves, Leganes and Osasuna – will be relegated at the end of the season if we take the analogy of Kuper and Szymanski.

billion € is the total market value of La Liga

La Liga – average market value (in million €)

1. Barcelona 34,39
2. Real Madrid 30,77
3. Atletico Madrid 21,43
4. Valencia 9,29
5. Sevilla 8,54
6. Villarreal 6,65
7. Athletic Bilbao 5,84
8. Celta de Vigo 4,49
9. Real Sociedad 4,45
10. Malaga 3,26
11. Espanyol 3,25
12. Deportivo La Coruna 2,77
13. Real Betis 2,72
14. Eibar 2,29
15, Granada 2,21
16. Sporting Gijon 1,95
17. Las Palmas 1,82
18. Deportivo Alaves 1,52
19. Leganes 1,31
20. Osasuna 1,10

billion € is the total market value of Premier League

Premier League – average market value (in million €)

1. Manchester City 23,55
2. Chelsea 20,59
3. Manchester United 19,79
4. Arsenal 16,16
5. Tottenham Hotspur 15,89
6. Liverpool 14,34
7. West Ham United 8,94
8. Everton 8,86
9. Leicester City 8,10
10. Southampton 7,37
11. Crystal Palace 6,57
12. Stoke City 6,38
13. West Bromwich A. 4,89
14. Bournemouth 4,51
15, Watford 4,47
16. Swansea City 4,42
17.Middlesbrough 3,88
18. Sunderland 3,78
19. Hull City 3,19
20. Burnley 3,02

Premier League (England)

Lots of people think that the English Premier League is the best in the world (some will go even further and say it’s the football’s „NBA“). But, as it can be seen from the previous paragraph, the success of Premiership clubs in European cups cannot be compared with the success of La Liga’s, even though Premiership players have a higher average value (9,41 million €).

In the last eight seasons, England clubs have won only 2 out of 24 European trophies, and both of those were clinched by Chelsea FC (Champions League in 2012 and Europa League in 2013). They also reached the finals on four occasions – Manchester United twice in Champions League (2009 and 2011) and Fulham (2010) and Liverpool (2016) in Europa League.

But, this season we can say that Premiership threw down the gauntlet to Primera. We cannot say that’s because of the arrival of terrific players (the only two superstars who came this year to Premiership are Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimović and Paul Pogba), but because of the greatest concentration of best managers of today such as Jose Mourinho, Joseph Guardiola, Antonio Conte, Jurgen Klopp, Claudio Ranieri, Arsen Wenger, Slaven Bilić and others.

In one of the next articles, I will analyse the rebranding of the Premier League which is largely based on popular managers who became the biggest stars of the League.


So, when looking at the Transfermarkt’s table, we can see that the biggest battle for the championship will be fought between Guardiola (Manchester City), Conte (Chelsea), Mourinho (Manchested United) and maybe Wenger (Arsenal) and Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham). Klopp (Liverpool) and Bilić (West Ham) should enter the Europa League, and the reigning champion Ranieri (Leicester) will be left without European competition next season. Two of the last year’s second division clubs – Hull and Burnley – are on the bottom of the table, but the third – Middlesbrough – should secure their status.

Bundesliga (Germany)

German Bundesliga is nowadays the third best league in the world. Germans are in a great football expansion, and they have, for me personally, the best model of club ownership. Even though the fans of Real Madrid and Barcelona also elect their leadership through democratic elections, fan-ownership is the official rule only in Bundesliga. Members of Bundesliga’s clubs (except company’s clubs Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg) hold at least a 51% stake in the club as a non-profit, democratic entity, while investors can own not more than 49%.

The reason why Bundesliga has the highest attendance and most lucrative clubs (11 years in the row the income of the German clubs is in constant growth) of all the football leagues is the fact that supporters of the club can easily identify themselves with the club, and their club is run in public’s (member’s) best interest (the average market value of players in Bundesliga is €4,84M, two times less than Premier League). 

But, unlike La Liga and Premier League (where you have several clubs which can win the title), in Bundesliga one club dominates the entire time. Bayer Munchen is by far the most successful German club in history and, of course, in the past several years. In last seven years only Borussia Dortmund broke the dominance of the Bavarians on two occasions (2011 and 2012).


Borussia Dortmund is the only German club which can compete against Bayern in the domestic championship, and their average player value is more than two times smaller than Bayern’s. So, according to Transfermarkt, Bayern will win the title for the fifth year in a row, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04 will compete in Champions League and two newcomers, RasenBallsport Leipzig and Freiburg, will manage to secure their Bundesliga status.

billion € is the total market value of Bundesliga

Bundesliga – average market value (in million €)

1. Bayern Munchen 23,29
2. Borussia Dortmund 11,71
3. Bayer 04 Leverkusen 8,76
4. Schalke 04 6,63
5. Wolfsburg 6,12
6. Borussia Monchengladbach 5,71
7. Koln 3,08
8. Hertha 3,02
9. Hoffenheim 2,97
10. Hamburger SV 2,67
11. Mainz 05 2,67
12. RB Leipzig 2,73
13. Werder Bremen 2,05
14. Eintracht Frankfurt 2,05
15. Augsburg 2,11
16. Freiburg 1,46
17. Ingolstadt 04 1,42
18. Darmstadt 98 0,89

billion € is the total market value of Serie A

Serie A – average market value (in million €)

1. Juventus 15,85
2. Inter Milan 11,43
3. Roma 11,05
4. Napoli 10,96
5. Milan 7,34
6. Fiorentina 5,90
7. Lazio 5,20
8. Torino 3,69
9. Genoa 3,45
10. Sassuolo 3,44
11. Udinese 3,18
12. Sampdoria 2,80
13. Bologna 2,50
14. Atalanta 2,36
15. Cagliari 2,04
16. Empoli 1,95
17. Chievo Verona 1,93
18.Palermo 1,20
19. Delfino Pescara 1,15
20. Crotone 0,75

Serie A (Italy)

Just as I said that Germany has the best model of club ownership for me, my favourite European football league is the Italian Serie A. I grew up during late 90’s watching mega-players such as „original“ Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Gabriel Batistuta, Alexandro Del Piro, Christian Vieri, Pipo Inzaghi, Paulo Maldini, Pavel Nedved, Hernan Crespo, Andriy Shevchenko and many others.

Unfortunately, today’s Serie A doesn’t have such amazing players. The biggest stars in the league are Gonzalo Higuain and the indestructibles – Gianluigi Buffon and Francesco Totti who also played in the 90’s.

The series of corruption scandals and criminal have devastated Italian football over the years. The only club which can compete on the top level of European football is Juventus, the most successful Italian club in history.

But, as you can see on the left, Juventus has by far the lowest average player market value out of all No1 position clubs on Transfermarkt’s tables. On the other hand, they certainly have the most powerful squad in Italy and the „Old Lady“ will probably win their 33rd domestic title.


Inter Milan, my favourite club after Dinamo Zagreb, is in second place. Nerazzurri are struggling over the past few years and reaching Champions League would be a great success for them. The third club which should enter the Champions League is Roma. Napoli, Milan (another fallen giant) and Fiorentina should secure Europa League. Newcomer Cagliari is in the safety zone, while the other two, Delfino Pescara and Crotone, are below the relegation line.


According to Transfermarkt, the English Premier League is the most powerful league in the world. They have the biggest total market value of the players in the league (€4,82B) and highest average market value of a player in the league (€9,41M).

But, as we know, the most dominant league over the last years is Spanish La Liga, mostly because of Barcelona and Real Madrid who have by far the highest average player market value in the world.

Germans Bundesliga and Italian Seria A has the same average market value of a player (€4,84M), and Bundesliga has the lowest overall value of the league (€2.51B), mostly because it only consists of 18 clubs (other leagues have 20).


If Bundesliga had 20 clubs, then Italian Serie A would have the lowest overall league value. They already have the lowest average player market value of all No1 position clubs (Juventus €15,85M) and the lowest average player market value of all last position clubs on the lists (Crotone €0,75M).

Whether the theory of Kuper and Stefan Szymanski – the higher the value of the players in the club, the better position – will prove to be correct, we will see in May 2017. Talk to you then 🙂

Niko Rukavina

Niko Rukavina

Overtime Sports Marketing

If you have any questions about sports marketing, be free to contact me at

Article sources:

Kuper Simon, Szymanski Stefan: Soccernomics, 2009


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