Once upon a time, £70m would have been considered a huge amount in the transfer market, even for elite clubs. But given the enormous inflation at the top end of the game, an offer of £70m plus a 30-year-old with a rapidly falling value of his own, rather seems like an insult.
How much would it actually cost if Real are serious about Sterling? In fact, how much would it take to buy several of the world’s other best players in this day and age?
Everything from quality, age, length of contract, marketability and more, determines what a club might sell for, with attacking players commanding higher prices than defenders.
From the perspective of what their current clubs might accept for them, here’s a speculative look at what the best footballers on the planet might actually cost to buy…
He’s won all there is to win at club level multiple times over, has scored more than 700 career goals, is among the best of all time and has more left in the tank than a typical 34-year-old. But Ronaldo has been more human than super-human since joining Juventus.
Potential Cost: £75m
Perhaps not at quite the same premium of just 18 or even 12 months ago, Chelsea could still command a sizeable fee should they be willing to sell N’Golo Kante. He’s older now, while recent injuries have limited him – both of those things affect what he could be sold for.
Potential Cost: £90m
If Oblak wanted to leave Atletico Madrid, he could easily do so if a club was willing to trigger the €120m (£103m) buyout clause written into his most recent contract. With goalkeepers not usually hitting their peak until later, that figure offers tremendous value.
Potential Cost: £103m
Koulibaly has a release clause in his Napoli contract that stands at €150m (£129m) and is due to become active in 2021. There is no ceiling to his value before then, but should a suitor come anywhere close, would the club really turn it down for a player who turns 29 in June?
Potential Cost: £115m
On current form at the start of the 2019/20 season, there is reason to argue that Lewandowski is right now the single best player in the world. He’s on course to set a new Bundesliga scoring record, although he likely has a limited shelf-life left at the very top.
Potential Cost: £120m
Virgil van Dijk
There is no question that Van Dijk is far more valuable than the £75m Liverpool paid for him in 2018, but as a defender he will never be worth as much as attacking players. That is just how things work. But if Harry Maguire went for £80m, the Dutchman is easily worth close to double.
Potential Cost: £150m
Messi will probably retire at Barcelona, even admitting this year that a dream to play for boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys probably isn’t feasible as he wouldn’t be keen on uprooting his family. But if someone wanted to buy him now, £150m might be a fair price.
Oddly, Messi has a clause that allows him to leave for free at the end of any given season.
Potential Cost: £150m
Contract: 2021 (+1)
A contract that expires in 2021, albeit one that can be extended by 12 months, will limit what Manchester United could demand for Pogba in the transfer market. The Frenchman also arguably has plenty to prove as he has lacked consistency ever since returning to Old Trafford.
Potential Cost: £160m
The last two years have hurt Neymar tremendously. While €222m might once have seemed like a logical investment by Paris Saint-Germain, he has struggled badly with injuries and there are now questions being asked about his character and dedication.
The problem for PSG is that they will refuse to take a big loss, which may be inevitable.
Potential Cost: £170m
Few Liverpool fans could have imagined that Salah would have been quite this good when he moved to Anfield from Roma in 2017. He’d never previously scored more than 20 goals in a season, and even a ‘down’ year in 2018/19 saw him net 27 times in all competitions.
Potential Cost: £190m
Mane has been getting progressively better year on year since joining Liverpool, to the point where he eventually may be in a position to be considered Africa’s greatest ever player. He is arguably a better all-round player than Salah, although his marketing pull isn’t quite so huge.
Potential Cost: £190m
To put it bluntly, Kane is a striker who has scored 169 since becoming a first team regular at Tottenham in 2014 and is still only 26, about to reach what should be his peak years. There is a risk of injury, but age also brings maturity when it comes to training and recovery.
Potential Cost: £200m
That Real Madrid’s potential offer of £70m plus Gareth Bale for Sterling was deemed laughable when it was reported tells you the Manchester City star should command a much, much higher price. Remember that he’s only 24 and has added goals to his game since 2017.
Potential Cost: £230m
Mbappe is only 20 years of age and is already so good that it is frightening to imagine the levels he might reach over the next ten seasons. Any investment in the player is for the long-term and transfer fees generally will only climb and climb.
Potential Cost: £300m