Indecent proposal

If you haven’t seen the film Indecent Proposal, the key question posed by it is this: as a married woman, would you spend one night with another man for a million dollars?

Now football has its very own indecent proposal: Manchester City’s audacious bid to buy Kaka – certainly one of the top three players in world football over the past few years – from AC Milan.

As things stand this morning, Milan themselves have confirmed that City have been granted permission to speak to the player, with a view to a deal in which Milan would receive a world record fee of as much as €115m (£105m), while the player is afforded a contract worth £500,000 a week.

Credit crunch, what credit crunch?

Setting aside the transfer fee, is any footballer worth £500,000 a week? (That’s equivalent to £26m per year or, to put it another way, £71,000 per day- about as much as the average British adult earns in three years.) Robinho, Kaka’s Brazil and would-be Man City teammate, is reportedly football’s current highest-paid player with a weekly salary of £160,000, but even this is dwafed by the terms apparently on offer to Kaka. Even in the English Premier League, the richest league in world football, the number of players earning a basic salary of over £100,000 a week (a mere one-fifth of what City are offering Kaka) is small: Cristiano Ronaldo, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Ballack being the only names which sprang to mind, with a larger gaggle in the £80k-£100k range.

(Incidentally, I wonder how long it will take Robinho – a key behind-the-scenes influencer in this deal – to demand a new contract more in line with his compatriot’s? Or, for that matter, Stephen Ireland, Shaun Wright-Phillips et al?)

If we look further afield than football, there are a few – but only a few – examples of sportsmen who are being paid a salary approaching what Kaka may soon be earning. Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees is on $25m pa (about £16m at today’s exchange rate). And in Formula 1, Michael Schumacher was reportedly being paid upwards of £25m pa by Ferrari, for whom he duly delivered five drivers’ world titles. (Schumacher’s successor at Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen, is earning at a similar level.)

But that’s not really the point. You cannot directly equate salaries in one sport with salaries in another, because their commercial economics are different. A top rugby or cricket player will struggle to secure a contract paying £500,000 per year, because their clubs and their sports simply cannot afford any more than this. Even a double Olympic gold medallist like Rebecca Adlington has to get by on lottery funding of £24,000 a year – Kaka would earn this much every eight hours – and the goodwill of private sponsors, simply because she competes in a sport which has the money-making power of a three-year old with a crayon and a sheet of A4.

Make no mistake, despite being awash in cash for the past 15 years or so, the proposed Kaka deal is wildly out of step with the prevailing football and global economies, particularly at a time when businesses are going under and people are losing their jobs or having their pay frozen. What Manchester City are doing in trying to buy their way to instant success – even if it is being funded by the owners rather than the fans – is not indecent at all.

It’s obscene.

About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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