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UEFA Champions League: Rise of the financial underdogs and the setbacks faced by the wealthiest

The Champions League, as we know it, is becoming part of history. The current Champions League edition is the last time the tournament consists of eight groups with 4 teams each, as from the next season UEFA will change the format. 16 out of the 32 participating teams went on to qualify for the knockout phase after finishing 1st or 2nd in their respective groups. This week, SportingPedia decided to explore which of these teams punched above their weight and reached the direct eliminations despite having a lower market value than their opponents. We also highlighted the clubs with a high market value that failed to deliver and left the Champions League prematurely.

One of the report’s key findings is that Group A produced the two biggest shocks at the same time. FC Copenhagen finished 2nd there and qualified as the squad with the lowest market value, while Manchester United ended in 4th position to become the team with the highest market value to crash out of Europe.

Key Takeaways

  • With a market value of €882 million Manchester United was the highest valued team to leave the tournament at the Group stage
  • FC Copenhagen is the only team valued below €100 million to have reached the Champions League knock-out phase
  • Only 2 of the 16 teams in the direct eliminations are worth less than €200 million
  • Group F, branded as the “group of Death” was the only one in the Champions League won by the team with the lowest market value in it

  • *All of the team values used in the graphic have been collected on 13 September, 2023, just prior to the beginning of the tournament.

    FC Copenhagen – the biggest financial underdog

    FC Copenhagen was the 2nd lowest-valued side in the tournament. However, the team spirit the Danes demonstrated deserves nothing but respect. With a value of a mere €62.65 million, they managed to come out of Group A, which boosted teams like Bayern Munich and Manchester United with estimates of €897.13 and €882.3 million, respectively.

    PSV was another team that managed to progress past the group stage, finishing 2nd in Group B, although being the club with the lowest market value there.

    Porto and Lazio round up the quartet of the teams with the lowest market value who reached the knock-out stage. They had almost the same estimates, separated by just 1 million in favour of the Italians.

    Anything was expected to happen in Group F, branded as the “Group of death” immediately after the draw. In the end it turned out to be the only group in the Champions League where the team with the lowest market value finished 1st, as Borussia Dortmund topped heavyweight such as PSG, Milan, and Newcastle.

    The wealthiest losers

    Sevilla (€210.15 million) had the 2nd highest valuation in Group B but ended in the last 4th place. This scenario left them out of the Europa League, a tournament that Sevilla truly enjoys playing.

    Manchester United (€882.3 million) was the highest-valued team to leave the tournament. Three of their players alone cost more than the entire FC Copenhagen team. The Red Devils won just one out of their six games, and conceded 15 goals in the process. This is the highest number of goals allowed by an English team in the group stage of the Champions League.

    Just like Manchester United, their Premier League fellows Newcastle finished last in their group. The Magpies had the 2nd highest valuation in Group F at €598 million but recorded just one victory in six matches. The only moment they will want to remember from their return to the Champions League after a 20-year wait is the 4-1 trashing of PSG.