The role of money in soccer today has become completely detached from the reality of the sport.
My local club Bohs will come into a windfall if Matt Doherty’s transfer from Wolves to Spurs is completed. Bohs sold teenaged Doherty to Wolves for €40,000 a decade ago, and part of the contract gives Bohs 10% of any sell-on transfer fee.
If Doherty moves to Spurs for the speculated €18 million, Bohs would get €1.8 million of that. For perspective, if Bohs were to win the League of Ireland, they would get just €110,000 in prize money.
At the other end of the money scale, Real Madrid and Barcelona are worth over €3 billion each, with Bayern Munich and the two Manchester clubs not far behind. Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus make nearly €90 million each every year.
Here’s one example of how the role of money in soccer today compares to when I was a child following Bohs in the seventies.
Back then Manchester United and Derby manager Tommy Docherty was able to buy five Bohs players (Mick Martin, Gerry Daly, Ashley Grimes, Gerry Ryan, and Fran O’Brien), who played nearly 150 internationals between them, for a combined total of less than £150,000.
By the nineties, Newcastle had paid Blackburn a hundred times that for one player, striker Alan Shearer. By 2017 Paris Saint Germain paid Barcelona €263 million for Brazilian striker Neymar. Today Barcelona are valuing Lionel Messi at €700 million.
Back in 1973 Manchester United paid Bohs £12,500 for Gerry Daly. To be fair, even the most fanatical Bohs or Manchester United supporter might concede that Messi is somewhat better than Gerry Daly was. But how much better?
Even after taking into account inflation of over a thousand percent, Lionel Messi would cost the same as four thousand Gerry Dalys. That’s the equivalent of the top four divisions of English football combined, with each club having a squad of more than forty Gerry Dalys.
To quote one of the new Father Ted stamps: That’s mad, Ted.
(P.S. Yes, of course, my analogies above are flawed. I’m making a general point, not writing an economics thesis.)