From academy products to the world’s joint 5th most valuable players – the rise of Foden & Saka

Both now worth €130m 


The Premier League stands out as by far the most valuable football league in the world, and this Thursday the division received 128 new market values, increasing its total value by around €240 million to a staggering €11.09 billion. Nine Liverpool players went up in value, while numerous Chelsea players were downgraded. However, two of the biggest winners were two attacking players, both playing for title challengers; Manchester City’s Phil Foden (+€20m) and Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka (+€10m) both saw their market value reach €130m. 

That means that the English pair are now the joint fifth most valuable players in world football, with only fellow Englishmen Jude Bellingham (€180m), Erling Haaland (€180m), Kylian Mbappé (€180m) and Vinicius Junior (€150m) worth more. What perhaps makes the pair of English wingers’ achievement all the more impressive is that they both remain at the club at which they came through as a youth player. Foden has been at Man City since the age of four, whilst Saka has been at Arsenal since he was eight years old. 

How Foden became the joint fifth most valuable player in the world

Coming through the youth academy for arguably the best team in the world, who have endless riches and multi-million Euro players in practically every position, is no mean feat. That’s exactly what Foden has achieved. Back in 2019, with Foden just 19 at the time, manager Pep Guardiola paid the young Englishmen the ultimate compliment: “Phil is the most, most, most talented player I have ever seen in my career as a manager. His only problem is sometimes his manager doesn’t put him in the starting eleven. Hopefully in the future that can improve.” When you consider that Guardiola managed the great Lionel Messi, that’s pretty much the optimum endorsement. At that time Foden’s market value was just €25m.

In the 2020/21 season Foden began to establish himself as a key component in this Man City team. He played 28 Premier League games and 1,612 minutes, scoring nine goals and providing five assists on the way to the Sky Blues lifting the Premier League trophy. At just 21 years of age, he also played 13 games in the Champions League, with six direct goal involvements as Man City were eventually beaten 1-0 in the final by Chelsea. Foden played the entire final. At the conclusion of that season his market value had risen to €80m, and it was clear he was destined for the very top.

Over the next two seasons, despite now being a well established first team star, Foden started just 46 of City’s 76 Premier League games. One of the issues of playing for Guardiola’s Man City is that, with the strength in depth the team posseses, top players are going to have spells of games spent on the bench. It’s even happened to Kevin De Bruyne, who has arguably been the best player in the Premier League over the last five years. Foden has also been a victim. However, after a strong start to last season, Foden did see his market value rise yet again, this time to €110m. 

However this season has, without doubt, been Foden’s strongest yet for Man City. The Englishmen has 18 goals and 10 assists in all competitions – already his best output in a season to date. And there’s still two months to go. The injury to De Bruyne, which saw the Belgian miss over half the campaign, presented an opportunity for Foden to occupy more central areas and potentially become the main man in terms of being a creative force. He has thrived. Even since the return of De Bruyne, Foden has been excellent, highlighted by his brace in the Manchester Derby this month, That’s why his market value has now hit an all-time high of €130m and made him one of the most valuable assets in the world. 

How Saka became the joint fifth most valuable player in the world 

When Saka first broke into the Arsenal first-team, the final position he would end up playing was fairly unclear. At that time the Gunners weren’t the force they are now, and had a highly imbalanced and uncompetitive squad. It was in the 2019/20 season, initially under Unai Emery, and then Mikel Arteta, that Saka became a regular first-team player. However in 12 of the 26 Premier League games he featured in that season, Saka played left-back. He also played centre-midfield, left-wing and right-wing that term. At just 18 years old, was becoming a bit of a utility man for Arsenal. At the end of that campaign, Saka’s market value stood at €30m.

Nevertheless, Saka’s attacking quality was becoming more and more evident and by the 2021/22 season, the young Englishmen had nailed down the spot of Arsenal’s right winger. That campaign, the Gunners missed out on Champions League football by narrow margins to rivals Tottenham, but there were signs of improvement in the squad and Saka himself registered an impressive 18 direct goal contributions in the league alone. It was clear then that Arsenal had a potential super star. Saka’s market value had hit €65m by this point.  

However, it’s in the last two seasons that Arsenal and Saka himself have really announced themselves as big-game players. The Gunners led the Premier League for 248 days last season, before a late injury-savaged implosion led to Man City becoming champions yet again. Saka was one of the stars of that glorious failure, scoring 14 and registering 11 assists in the Premier League alone. By the end of last season, Saka’s market value had sky-rocketed to €110m. 

This campaign’s performances and output have yet again improved. Saka already has 16 goals and 14 assists from just 34 matches in the Premier League and Champions League combined. After Saka hit 100 goal involvements for Arsenal against West Ham last month, Arteta said, “When you talk about consistency at his age… what he [Saka] has done in the last two or three seasons is remarkable. His attitude, his quality, what he delivers every week… it’s really difficult to find. That’s why he is so important to us.” As Arsenal hunt down the title again, Saka is one of their main men, hence his latest upgrade to a market value of €130m.



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