Why Lionel Messi's salary is thoroughly well-earned and completely justified
Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is undoubtedly one of the greatest footballers to have played the game and his salary is surely justified. Still only 28, the Argentine international has already won the World Player of the Year award on four occasions and is the hot favourite to bag it for a fifth time when the time comes for its announcement at the end of the year.
Messi has been with Barcelona since the age of 13, and he made his competitive debut four years later against Espanyol in 2004. After the team’s triumph against Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup, his trophy count with the Spanish club has reached 25. In May 2014, Messi put pen to paper on an improved deal with the club, his seventh such deal in nine years. And the above stat underlines Messi’s importance to Barcelona.
He has won it all with the Catalan club multiple times, and he showed his worth by scoring two beautiful free kicks as Barcelona overcame Sevilla 5-4 in the final of the UEFA Super Cup. But how much salary does Messi actually earn for his efforts? Where does he stand in the list of world’s richest sportspersons? Let’s take a look.
Messi’s salary: He is the fourth-highest paid athlete in the world
Forbes magazine named Messi as the fourth-highest paid athlete in the world with total earnings of $73.8 million. Only Cristiano Ronaldo, who has $79.6m in yearly earnings, is ahead of The Flea when it comes to footballers.
The 28-year-old enjoyed a pay rise of $9 million after signing the improved contract last May and reportedly earns $51.8m in yearly salary alone. $40.6 million (£26m) of that amount comes in basic salary while the rest is contributed by performance-based bonus – and that is something he enjoys in plenty with Barcelona as evident from the treble winning 2014/15 campaign.
Messi also has a plethora of advertising deals with some of the biggest brands in the world like Adidas, Samsung, Turkish Airlines, Electronic Arts, Audemars Piguet, PepsiCo, Gillette and many more. He rakes in $22m through these endorsements; and his outstanding performances on the field coupled with a clean behavioral record off it make the Argentine highly marketable.
Adidas is his biggest sponsor, paying him nearly $4 million a year. The German sports brand released a limited edition commemorative ‘Messi studs’ after he broke Barcelona’s all-time scoring record in March, and it sold out within an hour in the USA.
Messi is the global face of FIFA 15 and has featured in commercials for Turkish Airlines with Didier Drogba and basketball player Kobe Bryant. Earlier this year, he also portrayed the role of Iron Man in Samsung ad campaigns to promote the movie Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Messi earns nearly £1m weekly when you add up his salary and commercial deals – an amount that can get you four Lamborghini Aventadors.
Messi’s goal-scoring records justify his outrageous earnings
If you think the astronomical numbers above are enviable, a number of other top class footballers would be thinking along the same lines looking at Messi’s incredible scoring record. And it’s not just the goals that sets him apart, it's also the number of assists he provides for his teammates.
Messi became Barca’s all-time leading goalscorer in official competitions at just 24 years of age, and his 412 goals for the club will take some catching up to. The Argentine is La Liga’s top scorer with 286 goals in 315 appearances and is tied for the top spot with Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the leading scorer (77 goals each) in European Cup/Champions League competitions, though Messi has played 16 games fewer than the Portuguese international.
In the 2011–12 season, Messi set the European record for most goals scored in a season with 73 goals, while his 91 goals in 2012 broke German legend Gerd Muller’s 85-goal record of most number of goals in a calendar year.
He also scored in a record 21 consecutive league appearances during the 2012/13 season – a run that fetched him 33 goals. In the 2014/15 season, Messi’s partnership with Luis Suarez and Neymar produced 122 goals between them as Barca claimed the La Liga, Copa Del Rey and Champions League title.
Messi’s international exploits may not be as spectacular as his achievements with his club side, but are highly impressive nonetheless. He helped his nation secure the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2005, where he was voted the best player; he was the leading scorer as well.
He came narrowly close to repeating the feat for the senior team as well but Argentina were defeated by Germany in the final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Yet again, Messi won the Golden Ball award for being the tournament’s best player.
Is Lionel Messi the greatest footballer of all time?
Messi has four Ballon d’Or titles to his name – the only player in the world to do so – and at 28, it's frightening to imagine that his best years could still be ahead of him. With the backing of the above statistics, it’s easy to understand why Messi is paid so much.
Transfermarkt values him at €120m, while a study by the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) Football Observatory put his value even higher at €220m, way ahead of his closest contender, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
Barcelona though are not taking any chances; they have included a €250m release clause in Messi’s contract at the Nou Camp. He is arguably the greatest player to have ever played the game, and the club are understandably desperate to keep him till the very end of his career.