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

  • Benfica, Sporting Lisbon and Porto generated +£1bn 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 £1.05bn in revenue from the sale of homegrown players over the past decade. 

Benfica tops the list, having raised £476 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 £329m 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 £318m and £252m 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 £476.3m
Ajax £329.8m
Real Madrid £328.9m
Sporting Lisbon £318.4m
AS Monaco £286.8m
RB Salzburg £266.7m
Porto £251.8m
Manchester City £230.7m
FC Barcelona £221.1m
Atletico Madrid £219.3m

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 £312m in transfer profits since the beginning of the 2018/2019 term. 

Ajax and Lille come second and third, having generated £270m and £248m in profits respectively, with the French side’s profitable sales including Nicolas Pépé’s £70.2m 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 £313.2m £625.4m £312.3m
Ajax Amsterdam £276.3m £547.4m £270.2m
LOSC Lille £192.1m £441.2m £248.2m
Red Bull Salzburg £118.4m £340.4m £221.9m
Sporting Lisbon £159.6m £351.8m £192.1m
Olympique Lyon £234.2m £417.5m £183.3m
AS Monaco £432.5m £603.5m £170.2m
PSV Eindhoven £82.5m £249.1m £165.8m
FC Porto £209.6m £372.8m £163.2m
FC Nordsjaelland  £5.3m £114.9m £109.6m

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 £624m, having cost the club £342m – a £282m increase in worth. Not far behind, Arsenal’s current squad is worth £238m 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 £873.4 £393.4 £480.0
Tottenham Hotspur £623.9 £342.4 £281.5
AC Milan £503.9 £222.5 £281.4
Real Sociedad £333.8 £82.0 £251.8
FC Barcelona £668.4 £423.2 £245.2
Arsenal £704.4 £466.3 £238.1
Inter Milan £487.7 £265.4 £222.3
RB Leipzig   £432.7 £226.2 £206.5
Villarreal £254.1 £52.0 £202.1
Liverpool £816.7 £622.0 £194.7

*Values taken on January 31st 2023

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. Click here to find out more.


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About the report
The Football Investment report looks at how football clubs in Europe’s top leagues conduct their business when it comes to transfers and the development of talent, showing how certain approaches can be directly linked to well-established retail investing strategies. Drawing on rich data from Transfermarkt, we delve into the approaches adopted by different clubs, highlighting those teams which have been particularly effective in certain categories. For example, finding young stars at a low price and selling them at a huge profit, or growing the value of a squad through brilliant coaching. The similarities between the football transfer market and retail investing are striking and for the growing army of retail investors out there, there are important lessons to be learned from the way Europe’s elite teams conduct their business.



We have examined which clubs are most effective at making profits and creating value from the transfer market – analysing tens of thousands of transfers and using figures, some of which are publicly available, and some of which only exist in the Transfermarkt database. Depending on the type of the transfer, we have chosen time frames of five or ten years to ensure a more comprehensive view, whilst in some cases we look back even further. We have also looked primarily at the transfer activities of Europe’s most well known leagues, where the biggest fees are changing hands. Throughout the report, transfers were recorded in Euros and we then applied a Euro/£ exchange rate of 1.14, taken on January 31st 2023

About eToro

eToro is a multi-asset investing platform that empowers people to grow their knowledge and wealth as part of a global community of investors. eToro was founded in 2007 with the vision of opening up the global markets so that everyone can trade and invest in a simple and transparent way. Today, eToro is a global community of more than 30 million registered users who share their investment strategies; and anyone can follow the approaches of those who have been the most successful. Due to the simplicity of the platform users can easily buy, hold and sell assets, monitor their portfolio in real time, and transact whenever they want. 

About TransferMarkt

Transfermarkt is the world’s largest public football database and the leading football website for players’ market values, transfer news, statistics and forums. Founded in 2001, its database is based on a user-generated content principle, and it today operates in 14 languages. Transfermarkt reaches up to 50 million football fans worldwide per month and has a social media community with over 15 million followers.


This communication is for information and education purposes only and should not be taken as investment advice, a personal recommendation, or an offer of, or solicitation to buy or sell, any financial instruments. This material has been prepared without taking into account any particular recipient’s investment objectives or financial situation, and has not been prepared in accordance with the legal and regulatory requirements to promote independent research. Any references to past or future performance of a financial instrument, index or a packaged investment product are not, and should not be taken as, a reliable indicator of future results. eToro makes no representation and assumes no liability as to the accuracy or completeness of the content of this publication.