The transfer of Neymar from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record $273 million last summer heralded a new era of big-money signings in sport.
The richest clubs and franchises now have a distinct advantage as they have the means to procure stars for huge sums, but does a colossal outlay actually pay dividends, and are sports stars really worth it?
Cristiano Ronaldo is the world’s highest-paid sports star, with an annual $58 million in salary and bonuses and a further $35 million in endorsements. The 33-year-old is a case study for how huge payments can translate to elite performance as he has scored a staggering 443 goals in 429 appearances in all competitions for Real Madrid during the last decade. His goals and assists have earned Madrid back-to-back Champions League titles and a host of other honors.
In contrast, Ronaldo’s teammate Gareth Bale has not delivered value for money despite taking home $23 million in salary and bonuses. The Welshman has been plagued by injuries at the Bernabéu and has been linked with a summer switch away from the La Liga giants. While Bale is still regarded as world class in some circles, he is far away from delivering the return on investment of a Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.
Neymar’s switch to PSG has also been underwhelming for both player and club. The French team crashed out of soccer’s elite European club competition at the round of 16 stage, and there are rumors that the unsettled 25-year-old could make yet another big-money move to Real Madrid in the summer. Neymar is unlikely to pay back his fee on the pitch, but his signing did raise the profile of PSG, which is often why so much money changes hands.
LeBron James is the basketball equivalent of a world star, and he currently earns just over $31 million a year in the NBA. The small forward delivered the goods when he secured a championship win for his hometown franchise, Cleveland, and he will certainly be spoken about in the same bracket as Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan when he retires.
In the NFL, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is one of the highest-paid athletes in the world with a total salary of $47 million, but the 28-year-old is arguably below the elite category in his position and has yet to propel his team to a Super Bowl. Whether his salary is well earned is up for debate.
In terms of undervalued players, look no further than Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, who has scored 28 Premier League goals this season after a relatively small £39 million transfer last summer. The Egyptian’s salary is some way short of the names mentioned here, but he is quickly becoming a world star. Salah is sure to be among the goals during the remainder of the 2017/18 season, and the best odds for him finding the net can be found at Stakers.
Big-name players don’t always provide value for money then, but elite stars always have the potential to elevate the performance of their respective teams, so sports brands around the world will continue to invest in them as they target success and glory.