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Who are the most valuable football free agents heading into 2023

New Year’s Eve is 10 days away and the footballers with expiring contracts in the coming summer will be free to speak to prospective new clubs. Some will renew with their current clubs in the meantime, but some will decide to wait and look for new options. Lionel Messi – the freshly crowned World Champion and record 7-time Ballon d’Or holder is one of these players. Karim Benzema – the most recent recipient of the most prestigious individual award in football is also among those potential free agents in the summer of 2023. At this time last year, Kylian Mbappe had the highest market value and an expiring contract, which he used in the best possible way, as after months of negotiations, he secured the biggest paycheck in the world of football.

While all eyes were on the World Cup in Qatar, club football remained in the background. However, money never sleeps and nowadays football goes hand in hand with a lot of money. Speculations about multi-million contract offers to Cristiano Ronaldo started even before the news that he is a free agent broke out. Additionally, there are a number of stars whose contracts are running out at the end of the season.

The spotlight in SportingPedia’s current report falls on the 10 players with the highest market value and an expiring contract in 2023. We also show their current salaries and calculate them as a percentage of the players’ value to give a perspective on what is to be expected with the signing of their next contracts.

Key Takeaways:

  • Milan Skriniar is the player with highest transfer value and expiring contract in the summer of 2023
  • Оnly 3 footballers valued at €50 million or over have an expiring contract in less than 12 months time
  • The 10 most valuablе players with expiring contracts are estimated at a total of €401 million
  • Six of the 10 footballers play in the Premier League, while each of the Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and La Liga has 1 representative on the list
  • Messi is the only player with a higher salary than his market value
  • The Value-to-Salary ratio of the highest valued players with an expiring contract in 2023 varies from 3.8% to 127%

Milan Skriniar – Value: €60,000,000; Salary: €5,560,000

The 27-year-old Slovenian is the player with the highest market value and an expiring contract in the summer of 2023 among all footballers. His current club, Inter, paid €34 million to Sampdoria, and according to club legend and now Vice President Javier Zanetti, the Nerazzurri are in talks amid reports linking Skriniar with PSG. The center back would definitely require a pay raise in order to remain with Inter. Skriniar is one of five players on the list who are not playing at the World Cup. The center back’s current Salary/Value percentage is as low as 9.3%.

Marcus Rashford – Value: €55,000,000; Salary: €11,892,704

The 25-year-old Mancunian has already scored three goals for England at the World Cup. The Manchester United youth system graduate has played 19 times for the Red Devils in all competitions this season, contributing 8 goals and 3 assists. The player’s contract contains a “1-year club option,” which will either be exercised or a new, longer contract will be negotiated. Despite the lack of trophies, Rashford holds a strong connection with his home club. His current Salary/Value percentage is 21.6%, but we expect to grow, as Manchester United values him highly.

Lionel Messi – Value: €50,000,000; Salary: €63,640,000

What more can be said of the probably best player to have ever graced the football field. Already at 35 years of age, Messi is approaching the final stage of his career. The mercurial Argentine finally lifted the World Cup trophy, after leading the South American country to their first triumph in 36 years on the biggest football stage. Messi has appeared in 19 games for his club PSG this season, scoring 12 goals and assisting on 16 others. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has stated that he will decide his future after the New Year. His current Salary/Value percentage is the highest on the list, as it was calculated at 127.3%.

Youri Tielemans – Value: €40,000,000; Salary: €2,081,223

The Belgian playmaker joined Leicester from Monaco in the summer of 2019 for €45 million. This season, Tielemans has featured in all 15 Premier League games for the Foxes and was a starter in Belgium’s first match in Qatar on Wednesday. The Red Devils’ participation at the World Cup ended in the group stage and Tielemans is already back with his club team. At the age of 25, the skilled midfielder has tremendous experience and has already represented his country 58 times. Tielemans has the third-lowest salary-to-value percentage of the ten highest-valued players with expiring contracts at 5.2%. His next deal will surely see that number reach double digits.

Karim Benzema – Value: €35,000,000; Salary: €24,000,000

The French striker accomplished one of his childhood dreams when lifting the “Ballon d’Or” earlier this year, but another one was crushed as Benzema had to miss the World Cup due to injury. He moved to Real Madrid from Lyon in 2009 for a fee of €35 million, and he has won everything possible with the Spanish giants since then. The soon-to-be 35-year-old forward has played in 12 of Real’s 21 games in all tournaments this campaign, with a return of six goals and one assist. The Frenchman has the 2nd highest salary/value coefficient in the ranking at 68.6%. Despite being voted the best player of the last season, given the often occurring injuries this term, it is highly unlikely that Benzema will get a pay raise.

Jorginho – Value: €35,000,000; Salary: €6,540,987

The Italian midfielder has been in London since the summer of 2018, when the Blues forked out €57 million to Napoli for his services. Jorginho was one of the best players in 2021, winning the European Championship with Italy and the Champions League with Chelsea. This season, Jorginho has missed only one of Chelsea’s 20 matches in all competitions and has scored three goals. Italy, with Jorginho in their ranks, has miserably failed to qualify for the World Cup. He has the 6th highest value of the players on the list, but the Italian’s salary-to-value percentage ranks 5th, as it was estimated at 18.7%.

Wilfried Zaha – Value: €32,000,000; Salary: €7,730,257

The 30-year-old winger is a product of Crystal Palace’s youth system. Zaha is now in his second period with the Eagles. In 2013, he moved to Manchester United, but after an unsuccessful six-month period with the Red Devils, he was loaned out to Cardiff. The next summer, Zaha returned to Selhurst Park, and since then, he has been one of the team’s most productive players. This season, he has taken part in 13 out of 14 possible Premier League games and has scored six of Palace’s 15 goals while also providing two assists. Cote d’Ivoire failed to qualify for the World Cup. Zaha currently has a salary/value percentage of 24.2%, which puts him fifth in that aspect.

Diogo Dalot – Value: €32,000,000; Salary: €1,486,558

The 23-year-old Portuguese wide defender is the second Manchester United player on the list. He was bought from Porto in 2019 for a €15 million fee and did not enjoy a good start. Dalot spent the 2020-2021 season on loan at Milan, where he rediscovered his confidence, and since his return to the Red Devils, he has been a regular starter. This term, he has played in 20 matches for his club, missing only one game, and has scored one goal and assisted on another two. Currently, Diogo Dalot has the 2nd lowest salary of the footballers on our list and the 2nd lowest salary-to-value percentage at 4.6%, which suggests that there will be a significant increase with his next deal.

Evan Ndicka – Value: €32,000,000; Salary: €1,200,000

Evan Ndicka is another French talent who moved abroad as a teenager. His current club Eintracht Frankfurt purchased him from Auxerre for €5.5 million in the summer of 2018. Ndicka enjoyed his breakout season in 2021–2022, when he won the Europa League trophy with Eintracht. This term, he has been a mainstay in Eintracht’s defense, missing only one of 23 matches across all tournaments, but it was not deemed enough by Hansi Flick to take the player with the German squad for the World Cup. With such a high market value and such a low salary, Evan Ndicka is definitely up for a raise. His current salary/value percentage is the lowest on the list at 3.8%.

Leandro Trossard – Value: €30,000,000; Salary: €2,527,200

The Belgian has seen his value rise after some incredible performances with Brighton this season. The winger has already scored a hat trick against Liverpool at Anfield and once against Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium this season. Leandro Trossard has been part of Brighton’s squad since the summer of 2019, when the Seagulls paid Gent €15.56 million for his signature. He has played in all 14 of the team’s Premier League matches this season and has been directly involved in 10 of the team’s 23 goals, single-handedly scoring 7 and assisting for another 3. Estimated at 8.4%, he has the 4th lowest salary-to-value ratio and will definitely receive bumper offers based on his current paycheck.