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Football transfer prices increased by more than 200% over the past 20 years

Our team at SportingPedia decided to compare the most expensive football transfers of 2003/04 with those from 2022/23 in light of the most recent Michael Owen interview for SportsBible, in which he compared himself to Kylian Mbappé. According to Owen, at the peak of his football career, his worth would have been valued at anywhere between €100 and €150 million. Owen himself left Liverpool in the summer of 2004 and joined Real Madrid for as little as €8 million after declining to extend his deal.

We have collected data from Transfermarkt and CIES Football Observatory in order to build a football team with the most valuable XI in 2002/03 and have compared it to the most valuable XI in 2022/23. So, we have formed a complete team of a goalkeeper, 4 defenders, 4 midfielders, and 2 forwards.

We Noticed a Few Intriguing Findings When Comparing the Data:

Age (the average age in 2002/03 vs 22/23)

The average age of the most expensive XI transfers in 2004 was just over 25 years, while the most expensive players by position this season have an average age below 22 years. This shows how football clubs’ transfer strategies have changed over time, with a preference to invest in younger rather than experienced players.

Total Amount in 2002/03 vs 2022/23

The total amount spent to assemble the most expensive team in 2004 was €233 million, while, in 2023, it has skyrocketed to €717.15 million. On average, in 2004, each of the 11 players’ value was €21.18 million, while in 2023, this figure has risen to €65.2 million.

Chelsea Activity

Throughout the past two decades, one thing has remained unchanged. Just like before, this season, Chelsea has been very active when it comes to the most expensive signings. In 2004, the Blues from London bought 4 of the 11 most expensive players, and this season’s results are no different. Chelsea, once again, acquired 4 of the most expensive players in their respective positions.

Two decades ago, Chelsea was the only Premier League team involved in the most expensive transfers. Now, Southampton, Manchester United, Liverpool, and West Ham have joined them in buying one of the most expensive players. This season, the said English teams are responsible for transferring 8 of the 11 most expensive players in their respective positions on the field.

Compare Players vs Players (By Position)

Sebastian Frey vs Gavin Bazunu

Worth €21 million, the most expensive goalkeeper transfer during the 2003/04 season was Sebastian Frey’s. He was 23 years old at the time and was forced to switch teams due to the arrival of Francesco Toldo. As of the current season, the relatively unknown Gavin Bazunu is the goalkeeper with the most expensive transfer. He was sporadically featured for Manchester City in the previous season, but during this campaign, he has been trusted with regular appearances in Southampton.

Ronaldinho vs Antony

We have the best basis for comparison here. Both Ronaldinho and Antony are Brazilians who were around the same age at the time of their transfers. Both of them had still to prove themselves at the biggest stage, but had a lot of potential. Antony’s recent move to Manchester United is very similar to that of his compatriot two decades ago. Ronaldinho not only fulfilled his potential but even conquered new heights, while we are yet to see what Antony will offer on the field. In terms of transfer fees, Ronaldinho cost Barcelona €32.25 million, while Antony commanded €95 million — almost three times more.

David Beckham vs Enzo Fernandez

David Beckham was the most recognisable name in football in the early years of the XXI century. The Englishman was an idol on and off the field, but after a bust-up with Sir Alex Ferguson, he had to leave Old Trafford and join Real Madrid in 2004. If Beckham had not been listed as available for transfer, the €37.5 million fee would have been higher. Less than a month ago, Enzo Fernandez became the all-time biggest Premier League transfer, joining Chelsea from Benfica for €121 million. Beckham had never won the World Cup with England, but by the time of his move to Real Madrid, he was arguably the best passer and the Three Lions’ captain.

On the other hand, Enzo Fernandez helped Argentina triumph at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and was also chosen as the Best Young Player of the tournament. Only time will tell what the Argentinian’s contribution to Chelsea’s aspirations would be, but Fernandez’ transfer price was more than three times higher than that of Beckham.