Portuguese academies are the most profitable in world football, Man City only Premier League team in top 10

  • Benfica, Sporting Lisbon and Porto generated €1.2 billion from selling academy players in past decade
  • Premier League clubs lag when it comes to profiting from sale of homegrown stars
  • Benfica, Ajax and Lille are most profitable clubs in the world based on transfer fees alone

Portuguese academies are the most profitable in world football with Man City the only Premier League club in the top 10, according to a new study, ‘The Football Investment Report’, created by social investing platform eToro, in association with Transfermarkt.

The report reveals that Portugal has become the centre of the footballing world when it comes to developing and profiting from young talent. The country’s three biggest clubs – Benfica, Sporting Lisbon and Porto – have made a combined €1.2 billion in revenue from the sale of homegrown players over the past decade.

Benfica tops the list, having raised €543m since the 2013/14 season – thanks to the sale of stars such as João Félix, Ruben Dias and Ederson. That is far in excess of Ajax, the world’s second most pro academy, which has generated €376m over the same period, with  academy graduate Matthijs de Ligt their biggest individual sale.

Sporting Lisbon – where Cristiano Ronaldo burst onto the scene – and Porto come in at fourth and seventh place, respectively, having raised €363m and €287m by offloading academy stars in the past decade.

Clubs with the highest revenues from selling homegrown players since 2013/14

Club Revenue generated since 2013/14
Benfica €543m
Ajax €376m
Real Madrid €375m
Sporting Lisbon €363m
AS Monaco €327m
RB Salzburg €304m
Porto €287m
Manchester City €263m
FC Barcelona €252m
Atletico Madrid €250m

Benfica and Ajax are most profitable clubs in the world based on transfer fees alone, with no Premier League team in the top 10

As well as highlighting revenues from academy players, the eToro report also looked at which clubs have been most profitable in recent years based on fees from all transfers. In the last five seasons, Benfica also top this list, having generated €356m in transfer profits since the beginning of the 2018/2019 term.


Ajax and Lille come second and third, having generated €308m and €283m in profits respectively, with the French side’s profitable sales including Nicolas Pépé’s €80.0m transfer to Arsenal in 2019/20. No Premier League side features on this list.

Clubs with biggest transfer profits since 2018/19


Club Money spent on player purchases Revenue from player sales Profits from transfer activity
Benfica Lisbon 357m 713m 356m
Ajax Amsterdam 315m 624m 308m
LOSC Lille 219m 503m 283m
Red Bull Salzburg 135m 388m 253m
Sporting Lisbon 182m 401m 219m
Olympique Lyon 267m 476m 209m
AS Monaco 493m 688m 194m
PSV Eindhoven 94m 284m 189m
FC Porto 239m 425m 186m
FC Nordsjaelland 6m 131m 125m

Sam North, Analyst at eToro, commented on the report: “The Premier League is the richest league in the world but it’s nowhere near the most profitable based on transfer fees alone, nor is it as prolific when it comes to landing huge fees for academy stars.

“However, one area where Premier League clubs do perform well is growing the value of their players through top coaching and consistent exposure to the highest level, with Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool amongst the top ten teams when it comes to squad value growth.”

Premier League teams amongst the best when it comes to ROI on the pitch

When it comes to growing the value of their squad of players, Premier League teams perform well, with Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool all in the top ten.

Spurs’ current squad is estimated to be valued at €711.3m, having cost the club €390.4m – a €321.0m increase in worth. Not far behind, Arsenal’s current squad is worth €271.4m more than the players initially cost the club – with a number of young stars such as academy graduate Bukayo Saka and 2021 signing Martin Odegaard soaring in value this season.


The top clubs when it comes to growing the value of their squad


Club Squad Value Purchase Value      Value added
Bayern Munich €995.7m €448.5m €547.2m
Tottenham Hotspur  €711.3m €390.4m  €321.0m
AC Milan €574.4m €253.7m €321.0m
Real Sociedad €380.5m €93.5m €287.0m


FC Barcelona €762.0m €482.5m €279.5m
Arsenal €803.0m €531.6m €271.4m
Inter Milan €556.0m €302.5m €253.4m
RB Leipzig €493.3m €257.9m €235.4m
Villarreal €289.7m €59.3m €230.4m
Liverpool €931.0m €709.1m €222.0m

*Values taken on January 31st 2023

No Romanian club features among the top 100 European clubs by market value in the Transfermarkt rankings. FCSB has the most valuable squad, valued at €32.53m, followed by champions CFR Cluj with €29.13m and Universitatea Craiova with €18.74m. However, Farul Constanța is now in top position in the SuperLiga while having made the highest net profit from transfers of €3.65m this season (2022-23) –  having spent zero on new incoming transfers. Farul is followed in transfer profits by Rapid Bucharest, which earned a net of €3.55m and UTA Arad, which earned a net income of €1.66m from transfers.

North adds:Football has arguably been in a bull market for more than 40 years and the rise in transfer fees is simply mind-boggling. But behind the big numbers, there is an intricate ecosystem of clubs, many working towards very different goals while specialising in different areas of the market. Some are expert growth investors, while others are happy to pay a higher price for the finished product.

“Whatever approach these clubs take to buying, selling and developing players, there are important lessons we can take as retail investors – whether it’s doing your due diligence, not getting swept up by FOMO to pay over the odds, and crucially knowing when to sell.”

The Football Investment Report is available to download now. Head to eToro website to find out more.


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