Updated: Jul 29, 2020
The perception of age is a definite factor in evaluating an investment on Football Index. Yet, a huge bulk of Europe's elite this season are in their 'twilight years' - or so we think. But are we mistreating our elders? Is there far more value in older investments than we anticipate?
La Liga Golden Boot, Most Assists: Lionel Messi, 32 years old.
- 22 league appearances
- 19 goals
- 12 assists.
Bundesliga Golden Boot: Robert Lewandowski, 31 years old. 82 mins/goal.
- 24 Bundesliga appearances
- 26 goals
- 1 assist
Serie A Golden Boot: Ciro Immobile, 30 years old. 81 minutes/goal.
- 26 Serie A appearances
- 27 goals
- 7 assists
Premier League Golden Boot: Jamie Vardy, 33 years old.
- 26 Premier League appearances
- 19 goals
- 4 assists
Cristiano Ronaldo, 35 years old, 2nd in Goals in Serie A. 93 minutes/goal.
- 22 Serie A appearances
- 21 goals
- 3 assists
Karim Benzema, 32 years old, 2nd in Goals in La Liga:
- 26 La Liga appearances
- 14 goals
- 6 assists
Luis Suarez, 33 years old, 3rd in Goals in La Liga
- 17 La Liga Appearances
- 11 goals
- 7 assists
Sergio Aguero, 31 years old. 88 mins/goal.
- 22 Premier League appearances
- 16 goals
- 3 assists
Josip Ilicic, 32 years old. Best season to date.
- 21 Serie A appearances
- 15 goals
- 8 assists
This output through their 30s is dominant. Their value on the index is almost insulting in comparison to some millennials. The reason for their low value? Risk Reduction.
Messi is good now.. but what will he play like in 3 years time. That's the surface argument in investing in a player that is perceived as old. This season Messi is posting 99 minutes per goal. Last year 75 minutes per goal. If he's not as fit, he's not as good. If he's injured, he's less likely to come back to the top. He's only getting older. If I buy now, his price is only going to decrease. It's a logical approach and for plenty of players it's a valid model.
The counter-argument: Who is better? Messi is still leading the Spanish league. Nobody has stepped up yet. If Messi plays just 75% of the minutes, and is STILL leading the league in goals AND assists, how can we honestly suggest that there is a player better equipped to win PB in that league? How can we argue that there's a better media dividend winner in La Liga when he's the headline act? He turns 33 this summer, yet is indisputably the best player in that league and arguably the greatest player of all time - but we'll leave that argument for another day!
We've also had the privilege of watching these global superstars throughout their previous years and have come to expect BIG numbers. We know Aguero can score. Now he's scoring less. We know Ronaldo has dominated before, now he's dominating less. But this idolised perception has given us an arrogant view of how incredible they have already been.
Luis Suarez is 3rd in La Liga goals - behind Messi and Benzema (both veterans) despite only playing 53% of the minutes this season. Surely we'd come to expect somebody to infiltrate the Top 3 that isn't in their 30s? Yet we've gone another season seeing these 'old-boys' dominating the big stage.
The Premier League was calling out for more youngsters and new signings to fill the ranks of the elite this season. Yet, we saw Jamie Vardy step up highest... at 33 years old! He has 1 more goal this season compared to last, and has another 8 games to further stretch his improvements from last season's tally.
Another consideration is the advancement in sports and rehabilitation science. Ronaldo has the body of an individual almost a decade younger than him. The degree of conditioning and rehabilitation available to the older players stretches the boundaries that all predecessors have set. 35 year olds have never dominated the wings to such an extent. Ronaldo can still win a footrace against plenty of Europe's top defenders. Yes he's shifting more central, but he's also reaching top gear and troubling defenders physically.
There are plenty of reasons to avoid buying players in their senior years. Those that have faced injury-issues, like Suarez, pose a risk that one day they'll end their career in a heap on the floor. Others that rely heavily on their physical attributes, such as Ronaldo and Vardy, pose a risk in not being able to transition into their 'older bodies' as time goes on. Politics plays a part too. Clubs need younger players match-ready to fill those boots left by the veterans. That doesn't happen when they're on the bench for the entirety of the previous season. The oldies are phased out to make way for the youngsters, even if they've still got their A-Game. When contracts are ticking to expiration, take Modric for example, the minutes start to dwindle. You don't want to invest in a player that is being phased out.
The key problem? Nobody knows when these vital moments occur. Ronaldo and Vardy are physically still in their respective leagues' elite. They're still capable of producing at the top. Lewandowski is in the form of his life at 31 years old. He could still be going at 35 years old for all we know. Messi is leading in assists AND goals approaching 33 years old - he's not shown a glimpse of making way to a youngster? Why would anybody sell these players now when they're the best on the pitch?
Some of these experienced superstars may well still be sat at the same value in 3 years time if they're producing the same numbers as they do now. If that's the case, investing, reaping PB and media dividends, then selling at the same price in a couple of seasons time is a dreamy proposal. For those that currently hold these players, it's almost a foreign concept to sell them when every month they dish dividends out.
But as mentioned, nobody knows when these players will expire. Be it a career ending injury, a fizzle rather than a bang due to physical degradation, or political action that sees them step-down from the top. One thing for sure is that they will all make way one day. But will they perform at the top for seasons to come? Or is this the last season that we see 30-somethings all dominating the top.
If we knew when these moments would occur, we wouldn't be writing this article...