Transfermarkt, the German website that assesses the market value of players using a formula based on stats, transfer fees, and vibes, recently updated the entries on MLS players and posted a nifty tweet with the Top 10 valuations. Right in the middle of that list is New York City FC forward Talles Magno: The 21-year-old winger is valued at $13 million, which makes him the fifth most valuable player in MLS.
Talles Magno isn’t the clickbait for the Transfermarkt update: That would be Lionel Messi. And it’s no surprise that Messi is the most valuable player in the league even though he has yet to play an MLS game. (His eight appearances for Inter Miami have been in Leagues Cup or US Open Cup play.) Messi’s stature is so formidable that Paramount+ now has a dedicated MessiCam which follows the player’s every move. Who cares about the goals, fouls, and nutmegs taking place on the rest of the field when you can watch Messi stroll across the center circle?
Most of the others in the Top 10 also make sense. They are among the best players in the league, the most dangerous goal-scorers and creators. Which prompts us to ask: Why is Talles Magno at #5?
The Most Valuable Players in MLS: 2023 season stats to date
Goal Invls/90 Mins
Lionel Messi *
Inter Miami CF
* Lionel Messi’s statistics are from Leagues Cup and US Open Cup matches
Talles Magno: Good but inconsistent
When NYCFC signed the Brazilian to a Designated Player contract in 2021, it was believed that the club just might have made one of the greatest deals in MLS history. Talles Magno was just 18 at the time, and thought to be on his way to Europe and possibly earning a spot on the Brazilian national football team. (To learn more about the machinations it took to bring Talles Magno to New York City, you should read the excellent piece Sam Stejskal wrote for The Athletic.)
Since then, Talles Magno has been an inconsistent part of the NYCFC lineup. He rarely featured under then-head coach Ronny Deila in his inaugural year, when Talles Magno made only five starts. He logged a total of 444 minutes over 15 appearances that year, with Deila limiting the playing time of the teenager. He never went a full 90 minutes in 2021.
His minutes and role grew in 2022, when he was groomed to lead the NYCFC attack after the planned departure of Taty Castellanos that summer. It was a strong year on paper: Talles Magno made 32 starts and 34 appearances in MLS league games, logging 2604 minutes. He scored seven goals that year and made ten assists for 17 goal involvements, which works out to a solid 0.59 goal involvements per 90 minutes. But his performances were inconsistent. Talles Magno was a beast one week, invisible the next.
2023 numbers don’t add up
This brings us to 2023, when Talles Magno was unfairly asked to carry the NYCFC attack without a striker partner, or much of a supporting cast — it’s no accident that four attacking players were added in the summer transfer window.
And yet, the numbers Talles Magno has put up this year are far below what you’d expect to see from the fifth-most-valuable player in the league. If you look at the table above, his four goal involvements are well below those of everybody else on the list. His goal involvements per 90 minutes are even worse. Messi’s super-human 1.93 goal involvements per 90 minutes skews the number. But you see the value of Thiago Almada, Hany Mukhtar, and Cucho Hernández when you consider that each adds about one goal per game. Talles Magno adds one goal every four games.
Even Riqui Puig finds a way to contribute even though he plays for an LA Galaxy which, like NYCFC, sit well below the playoff zone and have a hard time scoring goals. Good players on poor teams find a way to make a mark.
There’s another way to read the table above: Talles Magno is valued according to his potential, not his accomplishments. That’s fair. The winger is regularly considered one of the top prospects anywhere in the Americas, North, South, and Central.
But it’s hard to look at a list like this one and want to see more from the 21-year-old. Transfermarkt might be more based on opinion than fact, but it remains that Talles Magno is being grouped not just with Messi, but with Mukhtar and Sebastián Driussi, two veterans who consistently carry their teams over the line, and Almada and Facundo Torres, two starlets who are linked with moves to Europe.
Talles Magno has had moments of brilliance — he was a beast when NYCFC defeated Orlando City 2-1 last October at Red Bull Arena. It was a key win that helped New York City finish the year in third place in the Eastern Conference. But we have yet to see Talles Magno perform at that level this year, never mind consistently put up one Mukhtar- or Alamada-like game after another.
Could he do it? Yes. He has all the tools: Technical ability, fitness, opportunity.
We’ll be there for it when he does.