Why top footballers are expensive

In 2001, French football legend and current coach of Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane moved from Juventus to Real Madrid for a world record fee of £46.6 million. At that time, the Frenchman was the best player in football. Fast forward to 2016, another Frenchman – Paul Pogba – cost Manchester United a whopping £100 million.

And in 2017, both Liverpool and AS Monaco are demanding £134 million for Philippe Coutinho and £161 million for Kylian Mbappe respectively – even though both players cannot be said to be as influential as Zidane in his playing days. Why are they very expensive?

One thing is clear, football isn’t just about the skills and entertainment anymore. For many clubs, the business side of the game is a priority. And when it is time to negotiate contracts, players, clubs and agents all look to get better deals, knowing full well that, like other businesses, the law of demand and supply is also applicable to football.

In this article (you can see the infographic too), we take a look at some of the reasons top football players have become overly expensive.

Image Rights: Outrageous wages are not paid for on-field skills alone, though it is a no brainer that the better the skill-sets, the higher the wages that could be could be commanded. But footballers are moving ads: Their images, names, nicknames, voices, signatures and other unique traits can be exploited by football clubs for monetary gains. After moving to Manchester United, Pogba’s replica jerseys shot to the top of the list of the football shirts sold in England. Surely, there are some gains for the Red Devils in there.

Buyout Clause: For selling clubs, buyout clauses, also known as release clauses, are, by far, the biggest bargaining chip. Clubs have mastered ways of inserting outrageous clauses in contracts, which could far exceed the player’s’ market value. For buying clubs to secure the player’s’ services, the valuations in the clauses have to be met. However, some less financially powerful clubs use buyout clauses to deter bigger clubs from preying on their players.

Sign-On Fees: Players get paid just for signing for clubs. How much that is varies from player to player. I guess you don’t expect Lionel Messi and Ivan Perisic to be paid the same sign-on fee.

Players Wages: Doing the research for this article, I realised Mesut Ozil’s monthly wage could pay my annual salary. And Messi’s? His weekly salary could buy me a fantastic car and a house and I will still have some cool millions left in my account. That’s how expensive footballers are.

Add-On Bonuses: Buying clubs are usually committed to paying selling clubs, and sometimes, the players too, agreed sums of money when the players participate in a specific number of games. Players also earn extra quid when they win silverwares.

At the end of their successful 2016/2017 season, Real Madrid paid each player €1.5 million as a BONUS. Outrageous?

Goal Bonuses: Wonder why strikers want to notch more and more goals every season? They get paid extra for each goal. While more goals help clubs to move up league tables, it also means more money for the scorers. Who pays? The club, of course.

Agent, Selling, Buying Club Fees: Ever heard of Jorge Mendes, Mino Raiola and Pere Guardiola? These are men that have amassed a fortune – millions of dollars being agents to the biggest footballers on earth. Some buying clubs loathe these men because they are sometimes responsible for the hyper-inflated cost of footballers. This feeling is summed by The Telegraph’s Mark Bailey thus: “Football agents, for many, epitomise everything wrong with the game today.”

But who pays for all these? The fans, mostly. The fans buy merchandise from these clubs. They pay through their noses for tickets to go watch them play live. And if they can’t go to the stadiums, they subscribe to cable television to watch their teams play. And yes, football clubs also get money from sponsors. But the sponsors transfer the cost to their customers, who may even be fans of the clubs.

•Tonye Bakare is the Online Editor of The Guardian.

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