Following the Coronavirus outbreak, football clubs’ finances have taken a huge hit, demonstrated by clubs as large as Manchester United and Tottenham taking out loans in order to assist with running costs and the unfortunate news that Wigan Athletic has entered administration.
With this, one of the first cost cutting exercise clubs will undertake is significantly reducing their transfer budgets for the upcoming season. Furthermore, the Arthur and Pjanic swap deal between Juventus and Barcelona demonstrates how player-swap deals are likely to become much more prevalent in order to report profits from player trading to stakeholders.
For this reason, we have decided to produce a list of five players that appear to be undervalued in the current market as clubs aim to maximise the impact of any funds they are able to invest in the transfer market.
The first player on our list is Southampton and Denmark midfielder Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg. After spending time as a youth player with BK Skjold, FC Kobenhavn and Brondby, Höjbjerg made the move to Germany to join Bayern Munich as a 16-year-old. The Dane continued to develop in Munich and under Pep Guardiola’s reign, was given opportunities in the first team. Despite this, following successful loan spells to Augsburg and Schalke, Höjbjerg was deemed surplus to requirements and was sold to Southampton for £13.50m.
Since joining Southampton, Höjbjerg has established himself as one of the first names on the team sheet and was handed the captains armband under Ralph Hasenhüttl. At the time of writing, the midfielder has made 131 appearances for Southampton, scoring five goals and assisting six. However, with just one-year remaining on his contract, the 24-year-old will not be signing a renewal and has made his wishes clear to leave Southampton in the pursuit of Champions League football.
Capable as playing as a number six or number eight, the Dane has averaged 2.6 tackles and 1.5 interceptions and 56.2 passes per game in the Premier League this season, with a pass success rate of 77.4%. Tottenham are known to be interested in the player and may attempt to use Kyle Walker-Peters, who is currently on loan at Southampton, as a makeweight in any deal.
Höjbjerg is presently valued by Transfermarkt at £10.80m although our calculations estimate his market value to be £24.85m. Therefore, Höjbjerg would represent fantastic value this transfer window.
A graduate of the famed Dinamo Zagreb academy, Tin Jedvaj has become a regular feature in the Croatian national team since reaching the World Cup final in 2018, accumulating 24 caps . Capable of playing in any position across the defensive line, Jedvaj has now returned to Bayer Leverkusen after a successful loan spell with Augsburg, for whom he featured in 31 of 34 league games, scoring twice. Between Zagreb and Leverkusen, the Croat had a one-year stint in Italy with AS Roma, although he was restricted to just two Serie A appearances before moving to Germany, initially on loan before the deal was made permanent.
This season, Jedvaj has averaged 1.4 tackles, 1.9 interceptions, 3.7 clearances, 0.6 blocks and 34.2 passes per game in the Bundesliga, with a success rate of 73.7%. At 24 years of age, the defender still has his best football ahead of him and has proved himself to be a reliable performer in the Bundesliga and on the international stage.
Currently valued at £6.30m by Transfermarkt, our calculations estimate Jedvaj’s value to be £16.38m so he could prove to be a shrewd addition to the defence of any club in the top five European leagues.
Staying in Germany, the next player to be highlighted is Fortuna Dusseldorf defender Kaan Ayhan. Born in Gelsenkirchen, Ayhan came through the youth set-up at his hometown team of Schalke, eventually playing in the Bundesliga, Champions League and Europa League with the club. Despite this initial promise, Ayhan was sent out on loan to Eintracht Frankfurt for a six-month spell in the 15/16 season yet was limited to just 78 minutes of football. Following this, the defender joined Dusseldorf for just £450k and has subsequently become a first-team regular as the Club won the 2. Bundesliga in 17/18 and finished 10th in the Bundesliga in the 18/19 season. Unfortunately, Dusseldorf were unable to continue this form into the current season and have been relegated back to the second tier of German football.
Initially starting his career as a central midfielder in Schalke’s youth setup, Ayhan has been dropped deeper into the centre of defence for much of his senior career. This highlights the player’s versatility, as he is able to play as a central midfielder, defensive midfielder or a right back as well as a centre back.
Over the current season, Ayhan has averaged 1.2 tackles, 1.4 interceptions, 2.3 clearances, 0.5 blocks and 54.9 passes per game in the Bundesliga, with a success rate of 83.5%. These passing statistics reveal the players ability to play out of defence, an important attribute in today’s game as more coaches aim to dominate possession.
Despite being born in Gelsenkirchen, Ayhan is a dual national, also holding citizenship in Turkey. After playing for both countries at youth level, the German-born defender eventually elected to play for Turkey at senior level. The player is now an experienced international, making 28 international appearances to date.
At the time of writing, Ayhan is valued at £6.30m by Transfermarkt and now Dusseldorf’s relegation is confirmed, the player is likely to be available on a reduced fee. However, our calculations place an estimated market value of £19.25m on the player.
Next up is Ayhan’s international compatriot, Villareal and Turkey striker Enes Ünal. The Turk developed at his local club Bursaspor and made his first team debut as a 16-year-old. After two seasons in the first team, making 54 appearances across the League, Cup and Europa League, he was purchased by Manchester City for £3.96m. Following various loan spells to Genk, NAC Breda and FC Twente, Ünal was sold to Villareal for £12.60m without ever appearing for Manchester City. Despite this move, the loan spells have continued with a two-month stint at Levante in the 17/18 season followed by a two-year loan to Valladolid, which expires at the end of the current season.
In total, Ünal has made 66 appearances for Valladolid at the time of writing, scoring 14 goals and assisting five. This is a decent return in a team that are perennial relegation candidates in La Liga, with Ünal finishing the 18/19 season as the Club’s top scorer in the league. In the current season, the Turkish striker is Valladolid’s joint top scorer in both La Liga and the Copa del Rey.
The player has averaged 1.7 shots, 0.8 key passes, 0.8 dribbles and 18.9 passes per game in La Liga this season, with a success rate of 64.5%. On the international stage, Ünal has already made 13 appearances for the Turkish national team after making his debut as a 17-year-old.
Currently valued at £3.60m by Transfermarkt, our calculations provide Ünal with an estimated valuation of £10.92m although at 23 years old, this valuation is likely to rise over the coming years.
The final player on our list is FC Metz and Senegal player Opa Nguette. The winger came through the ranks at Valenciennes, going on to a make a total of 71 appearances for the senior side in Ligue 1, Ligue 2 and domestic cup competitions. However, at the end of the 15/16 season, Nguette’s contract with Valenciennes expired and the player signed for FC Metz.
The Senegalese has become a first-team regular for Les Grenats and after the Club was relegated to Ligue 2 for the 18/19 season, Nguette was integral to the side that bounced straight back to Ligue 1. Prior to the French football season being ended due to Coronavirus, Nguette made 26 appearances for Metz, scoring five goals and assisting two. The player averaged one shot, 0.8 key passes, 2.4 dribbles and 19.5 passes per game over the 19/20 season with a pass success rate of 81.2%.
Born in France, Nguette eventually elected to play for the Senegalese national team despite featuring for his country of birth at youth level. The winger currently has seven caps to his name, although he has not featured for his country since the Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign in 2018.
With a present valuation according to Transfermarkt at £2.52m, our model estimates his current market value to be £10.02m. At 25 years of age, Nguette is only now entering his peak years and could prove to be a great value option for any Ligue 1 side looking to increase their depth in wide positions.