How much is an athlete worth? You could say it depends on their skill, their talent, and love for the sport and maybe the amount of time left for them to play their best. So how much should an athlete be paid? Well, it’s not $835 million, I can say that much.
Lionel Messi plays soccer for a Futbol Club Barcelona as a forward. Messi is likely one of the best players of all time. He has received four Golden Shoes, was the league top scorer in four separate seasons since 2009 (two seasons consecutively) and was twice named the Union of European Football Associations best player in Europe. The FC Barcelona website even describes him as “the best player in the world.”
Messi originally had a new contract with Barcelona drawn up in June, a contract which FC Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu told Forbes magazine was perfect for Messi.
“Although the one [contract] we signed in June was up to par with his greatness as a player, the new one is more in line with the current situation in the ever-changing world of football,” Bartomeu said. Bartomeu went on to say that he was glad to see Messi “renewing his love for the club,” a sentiment with which Messi himself agreed in a tweet on Nov. 25. How much is that love worth?
What is this new contract that was drawn up? According to Forbes, this new contract will keep Messi at Barcelona until 2021, with a salary of $667,000 a week, a signing bonus of $59.6 million and a buyout clause of $835 million.
Now, this isn’t on Messi. He’s a man doing well at his job, and he deserves to be payed well for it. But if the original contract – which had a buyout clause that was about half of the new one – was good enough for Messi, as Bartomeu said, why would a new one need to be drawn up?
This trend isn’t exclusive to soccer. The NFL is one of the best examples of dropping huge contracts on a single player. For example, in 2016, the Indianapolis Colts signed quarterback Andrew Luck to a $140 million contract with $47 million guaranteed. Luck is a good quarterback in his own right, and the mentality was to make him the Colts’ franchise quarterback. He can’t do that though when he’s hurt.
Luck has gone seemingly from one injury to the next. From a shoulder injury, to leaving last season in week nine due to a lacerated kidney, to not even playing this season because of a continued shoulder injury. The Colts had years to build an offensive line to protect Luck, but they never addressed it, leading to Luck’s consistent injuries. Now, Luck has a good contract, but he can’t even play.
Sports franchises need to stop spending massive amounts of money on individual athletes if they cannot afford it. A team is a team, not one person.
Athletes make a team, but one player will not guarantee success. If the Colts really wanted Luck to play well for them, they should have invested the money to keep him protected. If Messi was really worth the original contract, there was no need to make a new one.
Short-term planning is a consistent failure of these franchises across all sports. No matter how skilled someone may be, no athlete needs $835 million.