+ €731.24 million
Want to learn how to combine player development and sales with good football? Go to Lisbon. Benfica's headquarters will give you an erudite explanation. Until recently, former midfielder Rui Costa was in charge of the sporting department, who managed to take the magic from the pitches to the office. Now he oversees the running of the club from his position as president. And it's a pleasant spectacle. The Portuguese club has made a profit of over half a billion euros since the 2012/13 season. It has won the league five times, reached the Europa League final twice and is even in the Champions League quarter-finals this season.
Looking at the top 5 players sold in the period, two (Joao Felix and Ruben Dias) have come through the famous Benfica Campus. The talent factory is not planning any downtime. There are others on their way to glory. For example, the 19-year-old centre-back Antonio Silva joined the squad led by coach Roger Schmidt last summer. At the time, the respected Transfermarkt site valued him at €300,000. Today, Silva is at 25 million.
+ €455.55 million
Quite a similar story to Benfica. Ajax also boasts an academy that churns out one interesting player after another and isn't afraid to give them a chance in the first team. Both clubs invest a lot of money in scouting outside Europe as well. No wonder then that it comes back to the club through sales. Over the period under review, Ajax, where icons like Edwin Van der Sar or now former sporting director Marc Overmars set the processes, turned in a profit of 455 million euros.
Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and Donny van de Beek headed from Amsterdam to the world's top clubs. All three had been with Ajax since they were teenagers. But the fact that scouting in South America is also working is evidenced by two other names on the list.
Brazilian Antony arrived in the summer of 2020 from Sao Paulo for 15 million euros. Two years later, Manchester United bought him for 95 million. Another example of clever overseas scouting is Lisandro Martinez - he came from Argentine Defensa for seven million and three years later the Red Devils sent 50 million more to secure him.
+ €437.98 million
And we're back on the Iberian Peninsula again. It should be mentioned here that Sporting just missed out on the top 5 clubs with the biggest profits. What is interesting about the port city's case, however, is that it hasn't sold a player for more than €50 million yet. The first place is held by Brazilian centre-back Eder Militao, who moved to Real Madrid in the summer of 2020. He is followed by Colombian winger Luis Diaz to Liverpool and the third place is shared by James Rodriguez (Monaco) and Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City).
Porto made several transfers worth 30-40 million euros in the period. Most recently, Vitinha was sold to PSG for that amount. It was these sales that catapulted them into the elite five clubs with the biggest profits. Moreover, unlike Benfica, they do not embark on pricey projects. The most expensive player, David Carmo, was brought in from Braga last summer for €20.3 million. Even so, Porto has remained competitive with Benfica and Sporting in the long run. It has won the Portuguese league four times in the last 10 years and regularly appears in the spring stages of the Champions League or Europa League.
It may come as a surprise to some, but the systematic work of now-former sporting director Luis Campos at the club is bearing fruit. The man who did a fantastic job at Monaco has also made a name for himself in the north of France. Just look at the record sales for the period: Victor Osimhen is leading Napoli to the league title and is now a striker worth 100 million if not more. Rafael Leao and goalkeeper Mike Maignan helped AC Milan to the title last season. Sven Botman is set to be a mainstay in Newcastle's chase for the Premier League elite, much like Eden Hazard once was at Chelsea. Perhaps only Nicolas Pepe failed to back up his huge transfer fee with performances after moving to Arsenal.
But Lille have other players ready to send out into the world. One of them is Canadian forward Jonathan David. The French team spent a record 27 million to get him from Ghent in 2020. Today, his value is estimated at twice that. That, in short, is how the Lille factor works. And just as players are disappearing, so are the people in charge. Coach Christophe Galtier, who won his first league title with the Doges in 10 years, has gone via Nice to PSG, where he has linked up again with old friend Campos, whose services the Parisian club also secured.
+ €359,14 million
The now-famous academy near Mozart's hometown is one of the best in the world. Yes, another European talent factory cost a whopping 60 million euros. But can you see the club's profit over the last 10 years? Salzburg could build five more like it and still have plenty of money left over. The Red Bull network from Europe to Africa to Brazil is working. Education, scouting, great training conditions and super-modern technology help prepare future world stars. No exaggeration. Erling Haaland, Sadio Mane, Naby Keita, Dayot Upamecano, Karim Adeyemi and many others have gained the necessary knowledge here. The club's strategy of fielding a first team full of young hopefuls with a couple of experienced players is paying off.
Salzburg already have two departures lined up for this summer with Benjamin Sesko moving to Leipzig for 24 million and Nicolas Seiwald for 20 million. Moreover, the club utilises cooperation with the second-league side Liefering as a place where their teenagers are introduced to adult football. In fact, the youth selections end with the under-18 team at the Austrian club. In addition to the players, the RB brand also sends coaches out into the world. Just to name a few: Jesse Marsch (Leipzig and Leeds), Marco Rose (Monchengladbach, Dortmund, Leipzig), Adi Hutter (Bern, Frankfurt, Mönchengladbach) and Roger Schmidt (Leverkusen, PSV, Benfica).