This is the M£dern Way
So Juan Mata has completed his move from Chelsea to Manchester United. The creative little Spaniard is ready to bolster David Moyes’s squad which is in desperate need from a playmaker up front to find form. Myself and other United fans can’t wait to see him grace the Old Trafford turf in the hope of finding that top 4 finish this season.
However, one element of the transfer I found bizarre, was the lack of news focus on the £37.1million transfer fee. Sure, it was mentioned, but it doesn’t shock us anymore. When pen was put to paper, the deal became the 4th most expensive Premier League transfer of all time, with Mata reportedly doubling his salary from his Chelsea contract. Then again, this is the modern way with football, and we’ve certainly come a long way since Nottingham Forest paid the first ever £1million transfer to Birmingham City for former England international Trevor Francis in 1979.
Is Juan Mata worth £37.1million? No. No-one is. Is Juan Mata worth £37.1million to Manchester United? Yes. With the shirt sales, sponsorship deals and that lucrative top 4 finish all certain to come from the transfer, the player will be worth that amount to the club. Bizarre, but true, particularly if the Champions league spot is secured.
The record breaking transfer last summer of Gareth Bale from Tottenham to Real Madrid is also similar. No player is worth £85million. That’s ridiculous. But is he worth £85million to a club like Real Madrid? Probably. The club have most likely already made a third of that money back from shirt sales around the globe, as well as sponsorship deals he can bring and the opportunity for success that his talent provides to the squad. They also needed an addition which would rival Neymar’s move to Barcelona. It’s inconceivable, but it’s true. This is the modern way.
So here comes the main question: ‘Do footballers get paid too much?’, although most people don’t phrase that question as politely as that. In short, yes. But, it certainly isn’t an accident that they get paid so much. Recent talks between Wayne Rooney’s representatives and Manchester United are reportedly discussing a deal worth £250000 a week or £1million a month. Staggering. Let’s not forget he will be taxed 45% of that, but nonetheless that is still a ridiculous amount. But to Manchester United he is worth that. The star player at one of the biggest clubs in the world. Think of football as a business. The commercial deals, the money that success brings, the television contracts. If to them Rooney is instrumental to their income, then as an asset he is worth every penny to them. It’s the modern way.
As I mentioned above, it’s no accident that they get paid so much. Footballers used to be paid a modest sum competitive with ordinary 9-5 jobs, but as money became invested into clubs, the sport expanded and so did the player’s wages. Stadium naming rights, shirt sponsors, all the other sponsors, television contracts, billionaire owners. Manchester United are now on the New York stock exchange. It all adds up.
However, here’s a view which will split opinion. I’ve already told you to think of football as a business, now think of it as a form of entertainment- which more than anything else it is. It’s only the top leagues around the world in which the players play for unimaginable amounts, yet these are the leagues which generate a global interest. Footballers are entertainers. They play the game for our own amusement. We follow them, win with them and lose with them. It’s our passion and love for the sport that keeps us interested and following our team every week. Whether you’re in the ground, watching on TV or listening on the radio, you’re being entertained. Just like how Tom Cruise gets offered millions of pounds to star in the next Mission Impossible film, top Premier League players are paid millions throughout a season to keep you entertained. It’s no different in my eyes from a huge rock band or a well known stand up comedian going on a big arena tour. It’s all entertainment, and if millions of people around the world didn’t love the sport, the commercial money would stop flooding in and footballers wouldn’t be paid so much.
I guess that’s why it’s disappointing to see a player not trying hard enough, kicking up a fuss, or even hitting the back pages for bad behaviour. Former Middlesbrough player Mido retired from the game last summer at the age of 30, stating that he’d made enough money from the sport to never work again. Tottenham defender Benoit Assou-Ekkoto has gone on the record in the past for saying he doesn’t particularly enjoy the game, but is talented enough to make a great living from it. It would be nice if more footballers paid the gesture that David Beckham made upon his arrival at PSG last year, by pledging his wages to a local children’s hospice. Or Steven Gerrard this week pledging £96000 to the Hillsborough foundation. But as the interest in the Premier League increases, so does the money. This is the modern way.