We have created a year-end team portfolio ranking. The exercise is to evaluate every club as if they were a portfolio of assets to determine which is most valuable.
The only considerations are talent, age, contract situations and youth system with the goal being to eventually compete for and win every major trophy available to them. An older team already contending is more valued than a younger team with a ton of talent that may not get there, but the younger team with upside is a better bet than an older team that’s currently better but without the upside.
There is no consideration given to club history, current manager or ownership.
Soccer has a fairly solidified yet ever-changing landscape, but this creation of a hierarchal ranking gives a look to how we would choose their collective situations at the end of 2016. Last year's rankings are in parenthesis, which you can also read here.
15. Monaco (NR): The results are perpetually inconsistent but Monaco is always a through-station for talented young players either from one of the big clubs in Portugal or the lesser ones in France. The current generation is headlined by Bernardo Silva, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Thomas Lemar and Fabinho. Monaco balances out their young, high upside players with veterans like Falcao and Joao Moutinho.
14. Tottenham Hotspur (12): Manager Mauricio Pochettino’s high pressing style and players in their early 20s compliment each other. Victor Wanyama, Moussa Sissoko, and Vincent Janssen were high profile signings from the last summer’s transfer window, but Pochettino’s work in improving players already at the club warrants mention on this list. The attacking foursome of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, and Erik Lamela are all 24 years or younger. 22-year-old midfield anchor Eric Dier showed a maturity beyond his years in last summer’s European Championship. Kyle Walker and Danny Rose may be the best fullback duo in England. Pochettino’s ability to integrate young talent is as impressive as any of his tactical innovations. -YM
13. Sevilla (NR): The success Unai Emery found in the Europa League has carried over with Jorge Sampaoli. The constant has been Monchi, who is a wizard at finding overlooked mid-career players and turning them into a collection of overachievers. Former Real Madrid youth product Pablo Sarabia is one of his latest finds. Sergio Rico is destined to eventually move onto a bigger club and possibly challenge David De Gea on the Spanish team. -CR
12. AC Milan (NR): Milan’s turnaround from an aging squad to a foundation filled with youth academy prospects playing beyond their age show how far a side can come in one season. While their past reputation is evident in the likes of Luiz Adriano and Keisuke Honda, their rebirth in 2016 is spearheaded by the 17-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma, 18-year-old Manuel Locatelli, and 21 year old Alessio Romagnoli. Suso, one of the breakout players of Serie A, is just 23 years old; M’Baye Niang still 22. The turnaround was planted last season by Sinisa Mihajlovic. It’s up to Vincenzo Montella to mature this side into a European force once again. Milan could make another leap on this list in 2017. -YM
11. Manchester United (14): Paul Pogba has been better than many realize in his return to the Premier League and he’s still 23 for a few more months. We still don’t know how much better he can become and the exact type of player he’ll be long-term but you can confidently build a Champions League club around him into the next decade. The rest of the roster is filled with past their prime older players and high upside, high risk younger talents like Marcus Rashford, Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial, Eric Bailly and Luke Shaw. De Gea hasn’t been quite as good this season and his ability on the ball is under-utilized under Jose Mourinho, but he’s still clearly a top-3 keeper in the world. -CR
10. Paris Saint-Germain (4): Uncharacteristically in third place in the Ligue 1 table, the results say more about Unai Emery’s struggles in adapting his style than the overall talent of PSG. David Luiz and Zlatan Ibrahimovic left this summer but were replaced by Hatem Ben Arfa, Grzegorz Krychowiak, and Jese. Marco Verratti, Angel Di Maria, Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi, Adrien Rabiot and newly signed Julian Draxler make up one of the best midfield units in Europe. In defense, Marquinhos, Serge Aurier, and Layvin Kurzawa are 24 years old or younger. Caught between last season’s possession style and Emery’s counter attacking mentality, it may take another manager to fully unlock the quality of this squad. -YM
9. Arsenal (6): Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are a highly talented 1-2 but a clear cut below the top-end talent of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern. The real issue for Arsenal is the drop off from those two and the rest of the roster that is very deep yet ultimately underwhelming when it comes to actually winning a major trophy. Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi are the two most promising younger players while the addition of Shkodran Mustafi this year was an excellent one for Arsene Wenger. Arsenal appears reluctant to extend Sanchez and Ozil, who are each 28 and will become significantly more expensive as they inevitably continue to tread water individually and as a club.
8. Manchester City (5): The comparison is unfair to Barcelona and Bayern Munich is unfair, but it does explain to some length Pep Guardiola’s struggles in his first season in England. Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva are world class playmakers, and Raheem Sterling, John Stones, Leroy Sane, and Kelechi Iheanacho hold up their end in producing in their early 20s. Yet the players that fill out of the squad, relied on to keep possession and play ticking, reveal the biggest gap in quality from Guardiola’s past. Fernando and Fernandinho fill positions previously held by the likes of Sergio Busquets, Thiago Alcantara, and Philipp Lahm under Guardiola. Another round of transfer window upgrades will see City improve in both year end rankings and in actual results. -YM
7. Chelsea (8): The quality of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa we forgot about during their lost season of 15-16 has come back swiftly under Antonio Conte and are two of the top-5 players in the Premier League. The additions of Marcos Alonso and N’Golo Kante in the summer have each been brilliant while incorporating Victor Moses validates their immense loan system as more than a mere financial scheme. Thibaut Courtois, who also returned from loan in 2014, is still just 24. Michy Batshuayi has had a weird beginning to his Chelsea tenure but he looked like one of the next great strikers with Marseille before his £33 million move. -CR
6. Juventus (7): It is a testament to Juventus’ depth (and budget) that they could lose Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata and remain highly ranked. And while many asked whether the high priced addition of 28 year old Gonzalo Higuain fit into their transfer philosophy, one cannot argue the merits or results of adding a world class striker. Miralem Pjanic was seen as Andrea Pirlo’s replacement in midfield, all while weakening a league rival. You could criticize their age, with Paulo Dybala and Daniele Rugani the only players under 23 years old to get meaningful minutes in the past year. But lead by the defensive foundation of Gigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, and Andrea Barzagli, the biggest compliment you could give Juventus is that they perform higher than the sum of their pieces. -YM
5. Atletico Madrid (10): The Diego Simeone system, reliant on grit and defense, established the current run of success but the overall level of talent anchored by Antoine Griezmann has begun to match the other top clubs in terms of pure attacking skill. Griezmann was a Ballon d’Or finalist and has good of a shot as any player to end the Ronaldo/Messi hegemony as he’s still only 25. Koke, Yannick Carrasco and Saul are just 24, 23 and 22 and more than battle tested at this point, while the familiar veteran mainstays Diego Godin, Filipe Luis, Gabi and Juanfran continue to play at a high level. -CR
4. Borussia Dortmund (9): On one hand, Dortmund lost Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mats Hummels, and Ilkay Gundogan last summer. On the other hand, they added Ousmane Dembele, Emre Mor, Mario Goetze, Raphael Guerreiro, Marc Bartra, Sebastian Rode, and Andre Schurrle to the foundation of Julian Weigl, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marco Reus, and Christian Pulisic. Manager Thomas Tuchel has perhaps the most dynamic u-23 players in the world at Dortmund, playing in a style that allows each to express their athleticism and skill on and off the ball. It’s conceivable they again lose key players this summer, reload, and rank this highly on next year’s list. That is the Dortmund way. -YM
3. Bayern Munich (2): Pep Guardiola, Bayern Munich and German football in general met somewhere in the middle during that special three-year run and the merging of styles will continue for many years to come. In the short-term, the way their roster moved away from being reliant on the aging talents on the wing in Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery have given the club a seamless transition. Bayern has the elders (Robben, Ribery, Xabi Alonso, Philipp Lahm), the mid-career prime players (Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer, Douglas Costa, Arturo Vidal) and the youngsters (Joshua Kimmich, David Alaba, Thiago Alcantara, Kinsley Coman, Renato Sanches, Juan Bernat). -CR
2. Barcelona (1): Luis Enrique’s side started 2016 on top of La Liga, having achieved a balance between their possession DNA and the counter attacking incisiveness provided by the MSN. Granted, any side with Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Iniesta, and Busquets on its roster will rank highly on this year-end list. Yet there is underlying concern as the foundational Barcelona players move into their 30s, combined with La Masia failing to produce a regular starter for years. The 23-year-old Samuel Umtiti flourishes in defense, yet Andre Gomes and Paco Alcacer have struggled to replicate their previous form. Barcelona will rank high on this list again in 2017, but they cannot rely on Messi forever. -YM
1. Real Madrid (2): MSN remains superior to BBC but the depth of talent, particularly the young talent of Real Madrid elevates them to the top slot to close out 2016. Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos are all in their 30s now while Karim Benzema and Marcelo will soon join them, but there is practically a whole another XI of elite players who are just hitting their prime. Even the non-regulars like Isco, James Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata and Lucas Vazquez could have an entire Champions League caliber club built around them. The challenges facing Florentino Perez are a different set than for clubs on lesser budgets, but his run over the past two or three seasons has been remarkably successful. Even an expensive transfer like James that hasn’t worked out has been more because of their depth than for him not being good anymore or injured like what happened not too long ago with Kaka. -CR