Market Insight: Five global football trends revealed by the Soccerex 20 Under 21 Report

Market Insight: Five global football trends revealed by the Soccerex 20 Under 21 Report
From the rise of new footballing nations to the dominance of the French academy system through to new flows in the transfer market, the 2018 edition of the Soccerex 20 Under 21 Report is a reflection of the trends in global football – here we’ve picked our top five….

1. France, World Champions in youth talent

France is the country with the most presence in the Soccerex 20 Under 21 Report with a total of five players, followed by Brazil (four), England and Italy (three). Out of those five players, three continue to play in the Ligue 1, which is the league with the biggest representation of players in the report along with Serie A, each with four players. 

Furthermore, two French players are ranked in the top five and the most valuable player is none other than Mbappé, the rising “10” of the national team, who scored four times for Les Bleus in the World Cup this summer, including a goal in the final, and who received the FIFA Young Player Award as a result of, arguably, the best World Cup performance by an U21 player since Pelé’s in 1958. 

French Players featured in the Soccerex Under 21 Report




Year of Birth




Allan Saint-Maximin

Left Wing





Houssem Aouar

Centre Midfield


Olympique Lyonnais



Dayot Upamecano

Right Back


Red Bull Leipzig



Ousmane Dembelé

Left Wing


FC Barcelona



Kylian Mbappé

Right Wing


Paris Saint-Germain



2. South America continues to export world-class footballers

The CONMEBOL region and, particularly, Brazil, continues to produce some of the best young players in the planet. In this year’s report, four Brazilian players feature as part of the best 20 U21s, the biggest presence to date. In past editions of the report, South America had two players in 2017 and 2016 and three players in 2015, including footballing nations such as Argentina and Uruguay, which do not have any players this year.

It is worth noting that, out of the four Brazilian players, two were already playing in Europe last season and the other two will be playing in Spain before the 2019-2020 season kicks off.

The secrets of South American youth development will be one of the topics discussed at Soccerex USA, in a session called ‘Grassroots in the Americas’ which will see international youth development and coaching specialists join contemporaries from the US and the Americas to evalauate best practice in areas such as scouting and coaching methodology and analyse the key elements required to deliver successful grassroots programmes.

Brazilian Players featured in the Soccerex Under 21 Report




Year of Birth





Left Wing


Santos (Real Madrid)



Vinicius Jr

Left Wing


Flamengo (Real Madrid)



Malcom Filipe

Right Wing


Girondins Bordeaux



Gabriel Jesus



Manchester City



3. Superclubs are taking a “preventive investment approach”

Superclubs are taking a new approach when it comes to young talent with global brands such as Paris Saint Germain, Manchester City, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid investing heavily to sign promising stars in order to avoid paying higher transfer fees for the same players when they are more experienced and established players.

While in some cases such as Mbappé with PSG and Gabriel Jesus with Man City, players have played regularly, performed well and increased their value, we have seen the value of other promising players decrease in the cases of Dembelé with Barcelona – partly, due to a season of injuries – and Theo Hernandez (who was ranked #13 in last year’s report but did not make the top 20 this year) with Real Madrid, due to the lack of playing time.

This “preventive investment approach” saw Real Madrid sign two Brazilian wonderkids: Vinicius, aged 18 and Rodrygo, aged 17 for a combined fee of £79M,. Vinicius was signed in May 2017 from Flamengo and joined the Real Madrid squad earlier this week whilst Rodrygo was signed in June 2018 from Santos and will be joining the club for the 2018-2019 season.

4. The Concacaf region are producing talent and Bundesliga are buying it

For the first time, players from North America feature in the Soccerex 20 Under 21 Report. In this year’s edition, two players from the Concacaf region – Pulisic and Bailey - are amongst the 20 most valuable in the planet. It remains to be seen if this is the start of the market flow of young players from North America keep going to Europe, and, in particular, to the Bundesliga, which has 3 players in the ranking, all from abroad.

US star Christian Pulisic, aged 19, grew up playing for local U.S. Soccer Development Academy club PA Classics before he moved to Borussia Dortmund to play for the U17 squad in February 2015. His great performance with the U17 and U19 squads triggered his move to the first team for which he has scored 9 goals in 70 apps. With the USMNT, he has played 21 times, scoring 9 goals. Pulisic can play a key role in the national team’s performance in the 2026 FIFA World Cup which will see US Soccer as hosts alongside the Canadian and Mexican FAs.

Jamaican star Leon Bailey, aged 20, grew up in Kingston playing for the Phoenix All-Star Academy before he moved to Austria in 2011 to play for FC Liefering (2011-2013) and Slovakia (2013-2015). He then moved to Belgium in 2015 to join Genk in 2015, winning the Belgian Young Footballer of the Year award in the 2015-2016 season and scoring the top goal of the Europa League in the 2016-2017 competition. He played 56 times and scored 8 goals for the Belgian side before Bayer Leverkusen signed him for 20M€. With the Bundesliga club, he has scored 9 goals in 38 matches.

At Soccerex USA, we will analyse the evolution of the transfer market in the US and across the Americas, looking at the characteristics and trends in the region’s main leagues; how player transfers are managed and their impact on the domestic soccer industries. The aforementioned new market flow will be discussed as part of a session called ‘The evolution of the transfer market in the Americas’

North American Players featured in the Soccerex Under 21 Report





Year of Birth




Leon Bailey


Left Wing


Bayern Leverkusen



Christian Pulisic


Right Wing


Borussia Dortmund



5. Transfer fees are on the rise and young stars are the most prized assets

The transfer of Neymar from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain last summer had a dramatic effect on the market, driving up player values and leading to multiple transfers over £100m, including Mbappé’s move to PSG.

The “Neymar Effect” is clearly evidenced in this year’s Soccerex 20 Under 21 Report, with total combined player values topping €1bn for the first time. Our year on year analysis shows that:

  • the value of the 20 U21s increased by 66%
  • the value of the top 3 players increased by 80%
  • the value of the top player increased by 133%
  • the individual values of Mbappé, Rashford and Gabriel Jesus all increased by more than 100%
  • Mbappé’s value this year increased by 211%


This shows that the market value of the most talented young players is in high demand and the clubs with the biggest financial potential are willing to sign them for fees that are well above market price with an expected return through their performance over the years and the market inflation.

To download the full Soccerex Under 21 Report, go to

About Soccerex

Established in 1995, Soccerex is the leading provider of business events for the global football community. Bringing together key industry decision makers from the world of football, Soccerex provides a unique commercial environment where delegates can benefit from exclusive business opportunities, networking and bespoke educational content.

Soccerex has hosted 40 events across five continents. The Soccerex portfolio currently includes Soccerex China, which was hosted in Zhuhai in April, and Soccerex USA which will take place in Miami on 15-16 November in partnership with Concacaf, US Soccer, MLS and LaLiga. Soccerex China and Soccerex USA are sponsored by The London Football Exchange, the world’s first fully integrated soccer club stock exchange and marketplace.

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