Top 10 Most Valuable Major League Soccer Players (2021)

By Ben Morris in Soccer
| May 3, 2021 8:05 am PDT

Every year, the Landon Donovan Most Valuable Player Award is handed out to the top performer in Major League Soccer with the prize being given to the player who puts in the best on-field displays across the season.

But have you ever wondered who the real MVPs are?

Toronto FC’s Alejandro Pozuelo was named the 2020 MVP for his dazzling displays last year. However, that does not mean that he has the highest market value in the league.

So, who are the most valuable MLS players in 2021?

In this post, I look at the ten most valuable Major League Soccer players right now, according to Transfermarkt.

10. Brenner ($11.0m)

  • Age: 21
  • Club: FC Cincinnati

At just 21, Brenner is the youngest name among the top ten most valuable MLS players in 2021.

But when you consider that he was the subject of the third-most expensive transfer in MLS history, it is hardly surprising that he features on this list.

Currently valued at $11 million, the Brazilian starlet was signed by FC Cincinnati in a deal worth around $13 million, plus an additional $2 million if incentives are met.

Having scored 24 goals in 54 appearances for Serie A giant Sao Paulo, Cincy fans will be hoping that Brenner can help their side to shake off the tag of being one of the worst teams in MLS history.

Good luck, Brenner!

Brenner

9. Emanuel Reynoso ($12.0m)

  • Age: 25
  • Club: Minnesota United

You don’t play 66 games for Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors without being a good player, right?

Prior to signing with Minnesota United, Emanuel Reynoso was only valued at $6 million.

After contributing a whopping 12 assists in just 16 outings across his debut season in Major League Soccer, the 25-year-old’s market value has doubled.

The gifted playmaker proved his worth during the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs, racking up one goal and six assists in three postseason matches, including a hat-trick of assists in a single game against Sporting Kansas City.

With numbers like that, there is no denying that Reynoso deserves to be one of the most valuable players in MLS.

8. Gonzalo Higuain ($12.0m)

  • Age: 33
  • Club: Inter Miami

In his prime, Gonzalo Higuain joined Juventus from Napoli for almost $110 million (yes, $110 MILLION).

Of course, the former Real Madrid striker is longer the force he once was. But he is still one of the most valuable MLS players in 2021.

When you consider that Higuain has commanded close to $200 million in combined transfers fees over the years, Inter Miami was extremely fortunate to sign the striker on a free transfer last year.

GONZALO HIGUAIN – TRANSFER FEES
Year Left Joined Transfer Fee
2020 Juventus Inter Miami Free
2019 Juventus Chelsea $9.5m (Loan)
2018 Juventus AC Milan $12.5m (Loan)
2016 Napoli Juventus $110.0m
2013 Real Madrid Napoli $47.0m
2007 River Plate Real Madrid $14.5m

Having made a relatively uninspiring start to life in Florida, Higuain is one of several designated players who need to step up in 2021.

7. Rodolfo Pizarro ($12.0m)

  • Age: 27
  • Club: Inter Miami

The second Inter Miami player on this list, Rodolfo Pizzaro played a key role for the Herons throughout their maiden season in Major League Soccer – dishing up four goals and four assists.

The attacking midfielder conquered Mexican football, winning domestic titles with Pachuca, Guadalajara, and Monterrey in his homeland, as well as leading his country to CONCACAF Gold Cup success in 2019.

He also secured back-to-back CONCACAF Champions League triumphs with two different clubs and was named the 2018 CCL Best Young Player for his troubles.

Need I say more? You get the picture – this guy is good!

Rodolfo Pizzaro

6. Lucas Zelarayan ($12.0m)

  • Age: 28
  • Club: Columbus Crew

It is easy to forget the Lucas Zelarayan only has one full season of Major League Soccer in the bank. I mean, it feels like the Argentine has been tearing it up at Columbus forever.

The ex-Tigres UANL star was valued at roughly $5 million when the Crew signed him at the end of 2019. One MLS Cup and one MLS Newcomer of the Year award later, Zelarayan’s market value has skyrocketed to $12 million.

The 2021 Columbus Crew roster is packed with top-quality attacking players, but Zelarayan is arguably the pick of the bunch.

If Zelarayan can build on his impressive debut-season tally of eight goals and three assists in 2021, he could be worth even more come the end of the year.

Big players rise to the occasion of big games and Zelarayan’s performance in the 2020 MLS Cup Final proves that.

5. Eziquiel Barco ($12.0m)

  • Age: 22
  • Club: Atlanta United

Atlanta United paid just shy of $15 million to acquire Eziquiel Barco’s services back in 2018, making him the second-most expensive MLS signing of all time.

Granted, the DP hasn’t always lived up to his price tag. But he remains one of the most valuable Major League Soccer players in 2021.

By their own high standards, Atlanta United endured a dismal 2020 campaign. Barco only managed to contribute two goals and two assists as the Five Stripes finished third from bottom in the Eastern Conference.

As a result, his market value dropped slightly.

However, it is important to remember that Barco is still just 22. If Gabriel Heinze – one of several new MLS head coaches in 2021 – can get the best out of him, his value could soar in the coming years.

4. Alejandro Pozuelo ($14.5m)

  • Age: 29
  • Club: Toronto FC

I think it’s fair to say that Alejandro Pozuelo is something of a late bloomer.

Even when the Spaniard was playing in the EPL for Swansea City back in 2014, he was only valued at around $2.5 million – and his value dropped even further after that.

Fast forward to today, and the reigning Landon Donovan MVP is among the most valuable players in MLS.

ALEJANDRO POZUELO – MARKET VALUES
Year Club Market Value
2013 Real Betis $1.5m
2014 Swansea City $2.5m
2015 Rayo Vallecano $1.5m
2016 Genk $3.5m
2021 Toronto FC $14.5m

Few could argue that Pozuelo wasn’t the best player in the league last year.

After all, he notched up nine goals and nine assists across the campaign, while Toronto (1.91 PPG) finished just behind Philadelphia (2.04 PPG) in the Supporters’ Shield standings.

At 29, It is difficult to imagine Pozuelo’s market value rising further. Then again, he has continuously proved the doubters wrong throughout his career.

3. Josef Martinez ($17.0m)

  • Age: 27
  • Club: Atlanta United

There was a time when Josef Martinez was valued at just over $21 million. That was, of course, after he achieved one of the most prolific Golden Boot-winning seasons in MLS history.

We all know that Martinez spent the entirety of the 2020 season sidelined through injury, seeing his value drop to $17 million.

But if he can rediscover his best goalscoring form, he could easily overtake the two remaining players on this list.

The Venezuelan made a modest start to his career, struggling to make a name for himself in Europe. Following uneventful spells at Swiss side Young Boys and Italian club Torino, Martinez arrived in the US in 2017 – and he hasn’t looked back since.

His outrageous record for Atlanta currently stands at 90 goals and 12 assists in 108 games. You can bet your bottom dollar that he isn’t finished yet.

2. Carlos Vela ($18.0m)

  • Age: 32
  • Club: LAFC

When Carlos Vela joined LAFC three years ago, few would have predicted that the forward would become a bona fide MLS legend. As it turns out, the Mexican magician has exceeded all expectations.

Valued at around $6 million while playing for EPL giant Arsenal in 2010, Vela swapped Real Sociedad for Los Angeles in 2018, arriving with a market value of $12.5 million.

Following three glittering seasons in the Black & Gold jersey, Vela is now worth $18 million.

Having recorded 14 goals and ten assists in his maiden MLS campaign, records tumbled when he netted 34 goals in 31 regular season matches in 2019.

An injury-hit 2020 prevented him from significantly adding to his tally, but he is still among the most valuable MLS players in 2021.

Carlos Vela

1. Diego Rossi ($24.0m)

  • Age: 23
  • Club: LAFC

Not only is Diego Rossi the most valuable player in Major League Soccer right now, but he is also miles ahead of the other guys on this list.

I mean, the jump from Brenner at ten and Vela at two is $7 million, while the gulf between Vela and Rossi is $6 million.

However, you can’t exactly argue with his valuation.

The 2020 Golden Boot winner has been immense over the past couple of years. In just over a century of appearances for LAFC, the Uruguayan has chalked up 53 goals and 21 assists – cementing his status as one of the league’s leading lights.

Remarkably, Rossi cost LAFC just $3 million when he joined from Penarol in 2018. It is surely only a matter of time before Europe’s top clubs come calling, so the Los Angeles outfit is set to make a huge profit on the 23-year-old.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that I’m backing Rossi to clinch the MVP award this year. If you’re interested in seeing more of my 2021 MLS predictions, check out the post below.

Player Award Predictions for the 2021 MLS Season – MVP, Golden Boot, and More

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Wrapping Things Up

Looking at the breakdown of the most valuable MLS players in 2021, there are some interesting trends to discuss.

Three clubs (LAFC, Atlanta United, Inter Miami) have two representatives on the list, while LAFC owns the two most valuable players in Major League Soccer right now.

Interestingly, nine of the top ten most valuable players in MLS hail from Latin America. Pozuelo is the only European on the list.

There are four Argentines (Reynoso, Higuain, Zelarayan, Barco) and two Mexicans (Vela, Pizzaro), along with a Venezuelan (Martinez), a Uruguayan (Rossi), and a Brazilian (Brenner).

With player’s market values continuing to rise, it wouldn’t be a shock if someone like Rossi became one of the most expensive outgoing transfers in MLS history in the coming years.

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