The new year means different things to different people. For some who choose to make resolutions, the beginning of a new year presents opportunities to reach for goals that were not achieved the prior year. Some others may see January 1 as merely being the end of the holiday season and the beginning of the coldest portion of the calendar year. Perhaps the happiest individuals in all the land to see the calendar change from December to January are the parents who have had to deal with their children being home for the Christmas and New Year's holiday break.
As it pertains to world football, the new year brings with it the opening of another transfer window and also a time when player valuations are updated by sources such as the CIES Football Observatory. Even casual fans who first learned about worldwide transfers thanks to recent editions of FIFA could probably produce a solid guess as to who is the most valuable footballer in the world at the start of 2016. It may surprise you to learn, however who is second on the list. That player could very well rise up to the top spot before the end of the year due to several factors, one of which being that he has silenced critics with his performances during the current campaign.
20 Paulo Dybala: €62.5 Million ($68.28 Million)
It is not rare to read that a talented 22-year-old has a “promising future” for a huge club such as Juventus. As was pointed out on the Black & White & Read All Over blog, Dybala is proving his worth as one of the best in Serie A right now. No disrespect meant to the CIES Football Observatory, but you can take the listed valuation for Dybala and toss it right out the window. Juventus are currently not keen on selling, and for good reason, and €62.5 million probably would not be enough to change things. A club such as Barcelona had better be prepared to spend and spend big.
19 Diego Costa: €65.5 Million ($71.56 Million)
Diego Costa may be the most frustrating player in all of the Premier League. The Chelsea man can, when he flicks the figurative switch, change a match in a single sequence of play and create headaches for any opposing side. Costa is also an emotional player who can pick up a pair of yellow cards just as quickly. There could soon come a point where Chelsea decide that the 27-year-old is just not worth the trouble, especially if the Blues are going to miss out on European club football's biggest competition next season. Chelsea would be wise to at least listen to offers for Costa.
18 Romelu Lukaku: €68.2 Million ($74.51 Million)
Chelsea have made plenty of noteworthy miscues over the past few seasons. Giving up on Romelu Lukaku and selling him to Everton may, all things considered, top the list. Lukaku has become a clinical striker, to the point that the Mirror has suggested that he has been better than Sergio Aguero. That is high praise for any forward. While Everton would be wise to retain Lukaku, the 22-year-old could fetch a transfer fee that the club may not be able to refuse. Lukaku, meanwhile, will want to play Champions League football and also earn the raise that comes with playing for such a side.
17 Gareth Bale: €69.1 Million ($75.49 Million)
You're the most expensive transfer in the history of world football one day, and then you're beneath 16 others on the list of the most valuable players the next. It's a cruel business. Gareth Bale being linked with a return to the Premier League has become a yearly tradition, so much so that it is becoming more and more difficult to ignore those rumblings. Bale has had some great moments at Real Madrid. His future with the club could be in doubt, though, now that Zinedine Zidane is serving as Real boss. The Welsh wonder could find himself pursued by Manchester United and Chelsea in July 2016.
16 Robert Lewandowski: €69.6 Million ($76.03 Million)
Odds are that any knowledgeable follower of football has seen his fair share of Robert Lewandowski highlights. Lewandowski's best of all may have come in September of 2015, when he hit the back of the net five times in nine minutes. No wonder a team such as Manchester United, which is in danger of being left behind by others higher up in the Premier League table, would want to acquire Lewandowski. Even Real Madrid could come calling for Lewandowski at some point in 2016. Bayern would likely want more than €69.6 million before the club would think about selling.
15 Thomas Muller: €71.3 Million ($77.89 Million)
Unlike many of the men who are featured on the list of the most valuable players in world football, Bayern Munich should have no worries about the future of Thomas Muller. Muller, who had been rumored to have been linked with several possible destinations, signed an extension with Bayern before the end of 2015. The extension that currently ties him to his current club up through 2021 will only increase his worth were a different team to come calling for his signature. Bayern should not, of course, have any thought of selling who has been a vital player for the club since 2009.
14 T 13. Philippe Coutinho: €73 Million ($79.75 Million)
It pours when it rains, in some circumstances, and that is how Liverpool must feel about the team's state at the start of 2016. Philippe Coutinho, a key man for a Liverpool side that began the year in the race for one of the four available Champions League spots, left a match with what manager Jurgen Klopp referred to as a “bad” injury. That could only be the beginning of Liverpool's worries regarding Coutinho depending on how long he is sidelined. The 23-year-old has shown that he is the real deal, and clubs that will be playing Champions League football next season will be monitoring his situation.
13 T 13. Kevin de Bruyne: €73 Million ($79.75 Million)
Remember when Kevin de Bruyne was known for being a letdown during the majority of his days at Chelsea? That seems like it happened during a different era. De Bruyne dusted himself off following his days with the London club and found his form at Wolfsburg, and he then proved that he was worth the massive amount of money that Manchester City spent in order to get his services. As great as the 24-year old was during 2015, he should continue to improve in the immediate future so long as he retains his form with City. De Bruyne is just one reason why City could overtake Arsenal atop the Premier League table before spring.
12 Paul Pogba: €77.3 Million ($84.45 Million)
It could be seen as a little surprising that Paul Pogba is not in the top ten of the most valuable players in world football when you think about his meteoric rise in recent history. Remember, though, that this is merely a projection and that Pogba's fee could, when all is said and done, be bigger than this estimate. Pogba will, minus an unforeseen setback or some other issue, continue to be linked with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona up through the end of the current campaign. Juventus would likely love to keep the 22-year-old, but Pogba could have his pick of destinations during the summer transfer window.
11 Anthony Martial: €77.8 Million ($84.99 Million)
Plenty has gone wrong for Manchester United during 2015-16 and what may be the end of the Louis van Gaal era at the club. Anthony Martial does not make the list. In fact, Martial has become an absolute gem for his boss and for United, and it is easy to see why the 20-year-old is eleventh on the list of the most valuable players in world football. Martial, who celebrated his latest birthday in December 2015, has become someone Van Gaal must play whenever the youngster is available, and Martial's ability to change a match could be what saves the Dutch boss up through the end of the campaign.
10 Alexis Sanchez: €81.9 Million ($89.47 Million)
2015 did not end the way that Alexis Sanchez would have preferred. Sanchez was made a spectator because of lingering hamstring issues. There should be no worries heading deep into 2016, however, and Sanchez getting a bit of a breather could prove to be a boost for Arsenal all things considered. The Gunners would, as of January 7, have to be viewed as the favorites to win the Premier League, and having a healthy and rested Sanchez back as an option will only bolster the squad for the second half of the campaign. Sanchez is worthy every cent and even more to Arsenal.
9 Sergio Aguero: €82.1 Million ($89.69 Million)
He may not be the most expensive footballer who is currently signed to Manchester City, but you will not find anybody on the squad more vital to the club's pursuit of a Premier League title. What makes Aguero such a menace for opposing sides is that he can score just about any type of goal imaginable even though he is an undersized front man. Aguero is difficult to mark inside of the box on set pieces, and he can deposit precise headers that one would expect to be struck from a taller forward who boxes out would-be defenders. The 27-year-old is one of the best that the Premier League has to offer.
8 Luis Suarez: €86.3 Million ($94.28 Million)
A lot can change in so little time. It was less than two years ago when Luis Suarez disgraced himself and the game in front of a worldwide audience, earned himself a lengthy ban, and was still able to manage to make a dream move to Barcelona. Now Suarez, who has admittedly been well-behaved since joining one of the giants of Spanish football, could be a savior for Chelsea if he was to make a return to the Premier League. One would have to wonder if Liverpool fans would really be all that mad about seeing Suarez in Chelsea blue considering how he left the club. On second thought: Yeah, it would definitely sting.
7 Antoine Griezmann: €88.3 Million ($96.46 Million)
The only player to crack into the top ten of the most valuable players in the world who does not feature for a Premier League side, Barcelona or Real Madrid may soon not be able to make such a claim. As Antoine Griezmann continues to star for Atletico Madrid, numerous clubs who have big dreams are keeping watch of the talented player. Arsenal and Chelsea are just two Premier League outfits that have reportedly been interested in obtaining Griezmann's signature. Arsenal are chasing after a league title. Chelsea, meanwhile, are looking to have a respectable opening half of 2016.
6 Raheem Sterling: €89.8 Million ($98.10 Million)
We have reached the point where we can say that Liverpool do, in fact, miss Raheem Sterling. In fall fairness to Liverpool, though, it is not as if the club was happy to part ways with the young England international. While some may be quick to hit out at Sterling due to the perception that he is more so a mercenary than he is in it for the good of the team, there can be no doubts about his talent on the pitch. Still, it would probably be best for everybody involved if the Manchester City man and his agent just stopped talking about Liverpool to the press. What's done is done. Move on, everybody.
5 Harry Kane: €91.3 Million ($99.74 Million)
Tottenham Hotspur supporters have gotten used to seeing some of their favorite players listen among the most valuable in world football. Luca Modric was one. Gareth Bale was another. Both were sold to Real Madrid for large sums, transfers that were hard to swallow but moves that fans ultimately understood. The Tottenham faithful would not at all embrace even the thought of the club selling Harry Kane at any point in the foreseeable future. Kane is, for Spurs followers, “one of our own,” a front man who could be the key figure in Tottenham making a needed return to Champions League football.
4 Cristiano Ronaldo: €114 Million ($124.54 Million)
Two things should be pointed out to the Cristiano Ronaldo fan base before they think about finding ways to hack the page as some sort of revenge: This is no way means that Ronaldo is seen as the fourth-best player in the world, and Ronaldo will be 31-years-old before the current season ends. Ronaldo is in the twilight of his physical prime, one that has been unlike a prime had by just about any player before him. It seems as if we cannot go a day when Ronaldo is not linked with an exit from Real Madrid, and those rumors suggesting that he could join a Major League Soccer side owned by David Beckham are likely to grow before the summer arrives. Stay tuned.
3 Eden Hazard: €130.5 Million ($142.56 Million)
Would a massive club that is looking to make a push toward Champions League glory really spend more money on Eden Hazard than on Cristiano Ronaldo in 2016? Maybe, but not necessarily because a club believes that Hazard has eclipsed Ronaldo when it comes to overall talent on the pitch. Hazard will have just turned 25-years-old as of the first week of January, and thus it is hardly a stretch to say that his best days while playing with one of the biggest clubs in the world are yet to come. There are already rumors that Hazard and Gareth Bale could be making a swap. Tottenham fans would just love that.
2 Neymar: €152.7 Million ($166.82 Million)
Don't look now, but Neymar is well on his way to being the €200-million man and the most valuable player in world football. Neymar's scintillating form during the fall months of 2015 was a joy to watch even for those who do not regularly follow Barcelona. His skills are not all that make him a bargain at the current price, as Neymar is expanding what is already a noteworthy personal brand. It was learned on January 6 of 2016 that Neymar will be the first footballer in history to ever get his own version of Air Jordan shoes. Neymar is the next big thing in the game today, just as so many predicted a few years ago.
1 Lionel Messi: €250.7 Million ($273.88 Million)
No surprise here, as Lionel Messi is, at the very least, one of the greatest overall players in history who features for what was the best club in the world as of the end of 2015. Messi's days being atop these types of list are not yet over, but one can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Barca maestro will be 29-years-old when the 2015-16 European calendar opens, and Messi could, sooner than later, take a backseat to his teammate who is cementing himself as an international superstar and one of the finest players in the world. Neymar is headed toward being the most valuable player in all of world football. He is not yet Messi, though, when it comes to valuations.