Benfica’s Darwin Nunez has attracted plenty of attention for his performances in the Champions League this season. Carlos Rodrigues – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images
While the summer transfer window is set to be dominated by talk of whether Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe will be leaving Ligue 1 to join LaLiga champions Real Madrid and if Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland will be swapping the Bundesliga for Premier League giants Manchester City, there are plenty of players outside of Europe’s top five leagues that the big clubs will be looking at as potential signings.
To that end, the CIES Football Observatory has produced a rundown of the most valuable players in the world right now who are playing outside of Europe’s so-called “big five” leagues this season. The study shows that there is plenty of talent to be found beyond the Premier League (England), LaLiga (Spain), Serie A (Italy), the Bundesliga (Germany) and Ligue 1 (France).
The transfer values for each player have been calculated by the CIES using a formula which takes into account each player’s age, contract duration, level of performance and the stature of their respective clubs.
The players below have been selected from 10 of the most high-profile top-flight leagues in countries outside of the European big five: Portugal, the Netherlands, Brazil, Belgium, Canada and the U.S. (MLS), Austria, Turkey, Denmark, Switzerland and Scotland.
The top 10 is dominated by young talent from Portugal’s Primeira Liga and the Dutch Eredivisie, with only one player hailing from a team outside those two leagues. Indeed, more than half of the players included in the CIES list are currently plying their trade at one of Portugal’s big three clubs.
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🔴⚪️ 10 goals in 6 games 🤯
Haller’s debut #UCL campaign has been ______ pic.twitter.com/nDeqrYj9Jg
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 23, 2022
Haller, who turns 28 in June, is comfortably the oldest player included in the top 10. The Ajax striker’s inclusion is a result of his formidable form this season, scoring 33 goals in just 40 games for the Amsterdam giants in all competitions including 11 in the Champions League. The Ivory Coast international signed a contract until the 2025 when he joined from West Ham in a £20m transfer in January 2021.
Charles De Ketelaere o oo ooo… 😍💪 #POTM #Unibet pic.twitter.com/RG2NLtZXpm
— Club Brugge KV (@ClubBrugge) December 30, 2021
Belgium international De Ketelaere is the only player currently playing outside of the Netherlands or Portugal in the top 10. After finding the net just three times last season, the versatile 21-year-old forward has upped his game and scored 14 league goals for Brugge in 2021-22 already. He’s also pitched in with seven assists while being deployed in a range of attacking positions and roles.
Continuamos bem guardados 🔐
Diogo Costa ➡ 2026#FCPorto #DiogoCosta2026 #ComoNósUmdeNós pic.twitter.com/zKgErx3sGx
— FC Porto (@FCPorto) October 16, 2021
Costa is the only goalkeeper in a top 10 that is dominated by attacking players. The 22-year-old has quickly become first choice at Porto after breaking through into the first team in 2021, the year in which he also won his first senior cap for the Portugal national team. As if to cement his value for years to come, the gifted shot-stopper also agreed a new contract with Porto last October that runs until the summer of 2026.
Gonçalo Ramos (20 years, 297 days) = second youngest player to score in the Champions League knockout phase for Benfica ⚽️@slbenfica_en | #UCL pic.twitter.com/WXtGcl7NbD
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) April 18, 2022
The second-youngest player in the top 10, Ramos turns 21 at the end of June. The physical forward has enjoyed a breakout season with Benfica, scoring eight goals across 35 appearances in the Primeira Liga and the Champions League. Ramos’ goal in the 3-3 draw against Liverpool in the Champions League quarterfinals last month saw him become the second-youngest player to score for Benfica in the knockout phase of the competition.
🟢 Pedro Gonçalves was a joy to watch in the group stage 🤩@SportingCP_en | #UCL pic.twitter.com/AhkZFMpheZ
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 15, 2022
Goncalves appears to be a star in the making for Sporting, where he has a contract until 2026. Alongside a slew of assists, the 23-year-old has proven to be a prolific goal scorer despite nominally being a right winger, netting 15 goals in 39 games this season including four goals in just four outings in the Champions League group stage.
5. Matheus Nunes (Sporting CP, €49.5m)
Matheus Nunes, com este golo, deu a vitória aos Leões no dérbi da época passada 🙌 #SportingCP #OndeVaiUmVãoTodos
📺 @SPORTTVPortugal pic.twitter.com/ayQeNJVv9Z
— Sporting Clube de Portugal 🏆 (@Sporting_CP) April 17, 2022
Nunes is also 23 years old and committed to Sporting for another four years. However, unlike Goncalves, he is a defensive midfielder who specialises in breaking up play and utilising his technical ability to pull strings from deep-lying positions. He doesn’t score that often, but he netted a 90th-minute diving header to seal a priceless 1-0 win over bitter rivals Benfica in the Lisbon derby en route to Sporting ending their long wait for a league title last season, and then scored against them again at the Estadio da Luz in December.
🔴⚪️ Cody Gakpo making the difference ⚽️⚽️@psveindhoven | #UECL pic.twitter.com/BpKnvY2GON
— UEFA Europa Conference League (@europacnfleague) March 17, 2022
Gakpo is a left winger with a powerful stride, quick feet and an eye for goal that has seen him score 19 times in 44 games across five different competitions for PSV so far this season. The promising 23-year-old Netherlands international has been heavily linked a move to the Premier League, with the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool mooted as potential destinations.
Gonçalo Inácio 49′
Allianz Cup (Final) | Benfica 1-1 Sporting#AllianzCup #SLBSCP pic.twitter.com/FDxkGpYPt8
— VSPORTS (@vsports_pt) January 29, 2022
The youngest player in the top 10, 20-year-old Inacio is also the only defender included. The centre-back has seen his profile rise over the course of 2021-22 thanks to a number of commanding performances for Sporting as well as a vital headed goal in the Taca da Liga final win over Benfica in January. Since then, he has also signed a new deal at the club that runs until 2026.
🇧🇷 Joga Bonito. Ajax star Antony is a born entertainer. #UCL pic.twitter.com/3EI2q4SPmM
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 23, 2022
Known simply as Antony, the Brazilian winger has scored 12 goals in 33 games for Ajax this season while delighting onlookers with his vast repertoire of fleet-footed flicks and tricks. The 22-year-old signed for the Dutch club on a deal that runs until the summer of 2025 but has been attracting interest from the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona since his arrival from Sao Paulo in 2020.
🇺🇾 This is what Darwin Núñez is all about…
Outstanding at Anfield 🔥#UCL pic.twitter.com/ewUdrU2SiM
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) April 22, 2022
Far and away the most valuable player outside of Europe’s big five is Darwin Nunez, who looks set for big things after scoring 34 goals in 40 games in all competitions for Benfica this season. The 22-year-old Uruguay international striker fulfils all the criteria that goes toward producing a very high CIES valuation thanks to his comparatively young age, his contract that still has more than three years remaining and the fact that he has been performing at an exceptionally high standard for a very competitive club which reached the latter stages of the Champions League.
Benfica’s club record for an outgoing player is the €126m they received for Joao Felix from Atletico Madrid in 2019, but there is a chance that Nunez could move for even more than that with many of Europe’s top clubs keeping a close eye on him.
While not included in the overall top 10, here are the players with the highest estimated values according to the CIES in the other countries in its study:
Austria: Karim Adeyemi (FC Salzburg, €31m)
Brazil: Gabriel Barbosa (Flamengo, €39m)
Denmark: Anders Dreyer (Midtjylland, €15m)
North America (MLS): Alan Velasco (FC Dallas, €20m)
Scotland: Liel Abada (Celtic, €19m)
Switzerland: Dan Ndoye (Basel, €15m)
Turkey: Muhammed Akturkoglu (Galatasaray, €20m)