Wales must harness power of world's most expensive player to beat Euro 2016's most expensive team Belgium

 
Joe Hall
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Wales v Northern Ireland - Round of 16: UEFA Euro 2016
On average, Wales' players cost £5.5m (Source: Getty)

They have already confounded expectations but in order to beat Belgium and reach the semi-finals of a major competition for the first time in history Wales must achieve they are yet to manage at Euro 2016: avoid defeat against a side with a higher market value.

Wales’s historic quarter-final in Lille on Friday pits Euro 2016’s most expensive player against its most expensive team.

Gareth Bale, whose £85m move to Real Madrid in 2013 remains a global record, leads Wales into battle against a Belgium team whose squad has commanded £318.9m in combined transfer fees throughout their careers — and that is before the impending £33m transfer of Michy Batshuayi from Marseille to Chelsea.

In estimated market value terms too, Marc Wilmots’s £345.7m men are behind only Germany and France of teams left in the competition. Wales are second lowest, behind Iceland, with a squad value of £127.6m, according to independent database transfermarkt. Only Iceland’s meeting with hosts France matches the game for disparity in squad personnel in this weekend’s quarter-finals.

The Red Devils are valued at £15m on average compared to an average of £5.5m in the Wales squad.

Beyond Bale and Aaron Ramsey, who is valued at £22.5m, no Wales player has a market value upwards of £10m while eight members of the squad are not even estimated to be worth seven figures.

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By contrast, more than half the Belgium team are valued over £10m and seven players top the £20m mark: Eden Hazard (£52.5m), Kevin de Bruyne (£45m), Romelu Lukaku (£26.3m), Thibaut Courtois (£26.3m), Christian Benteke (£22.5m), Axel Witsel (£21m) and Radja Nainggolan (£20.3m).

Wales have beaten sides with a smaller collective value – Russia (£102.2m), Slovakia (£63.3m) and Northern Ireland (£20.5m) – but in their one game as monetary underdogs so far they were narrowly defeated by England, who are valued at £357.8m.

Yet Chris Coleman’s side have already upset the odds against Belgium’s golden generation during qualifying, drawing in Brussels in 2014 before beating them 1-0 in Cardiff last June.

And as video footage posted on social media showing Ramsey and team-mates deliriously celebrating England’s humbling by Iceland has demonstrated, Wales have had plenty of precedent at Euro 2016 to look to if proof were needed of the power of a well-drilled team against a haphazardly assembled group of stars carrying big price tags.

Against sides with a smaller collective value; Russia (£102.2m), Slovakia (£63.3m) and Northern Ireland (£20.5m), Wales have triumphed but in their one game up against the monetary odds so far they were narrowly defeated by an England valued at £357.8m.

Yet Chris Coleman’s side have already upset the odds against Belgium’s golden generation during qualifying; drawing in Brussels in 2014 before beating them 1-0 in Cardiff last June.

And as video footage posted on social media showing Ramsey and teammates deliriously celebrating England’s humbling by Iceland has demonstrated, Wales have had plenty of precedent at Euro 2016 to look to if proof were needed of the power of a well-drilled team against a haphazardly assembled group of stars carrying big price tags.

Read more: We beat you before and we're even better now, Gareth Bale tells Wales's Euro 2016 opponents Belgium

England’s aforementioned humiliation at the hands of the smallest nation ever to qualify for a major tournament saw a squad valued at £31.1m overcoming an opposition worth £326.6m more on the market — the biggest upset in monetary terms at the tournament so far.

Northern Ireland’s 2-0 group stage triumph against Ukraine represented the overcoming of a £63.8m disparity between the two squads’ values while Austria, valued at £96.3m, succumbed to a defeat by the same scoreline to the tournament’s least valuable team Hungary — a £75.8m disparity.

Antonio Conte’s Italy, derided as being one of the worst Azzurri teams ever pre-tournament, are valued at £204m but managed to nullify reigning champions Spain, £214m their richer, in the last 16.

Italy’s own surprise loss to the Republic of Ireland in the final round of the group stage saw them toppled by a squad with a market value £137m less than their own.

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