Over the course of Lionel Messi’s illustrious career, it was always a given that the FC Barcelona star was well-compensated for his talents.
There has never been a better time to be quite possibly the greatest player in history on one of the world’s richest clubs. You could assume Messi was paid along the lines of the world’s top athletes, like Patrick Mahomes, LeBron James and Mike Trout.
Thanks to a leak via Spanish newspaper El Mundo, we now know you would be wrong to assume that. Very wrong.
In reality, Messi’s reported income blows every known athlete salary out of the water, even the half-billion dollar contract Mahomes received last year and was widely reported to be a record in the sports industry.
Lionel Messi’s contract is a world-shaker
Here are the numbers of the contract Messi signed back in 2017, via Italian reporter Fabrizio Romano: €555,237,619 over four years, with an annual salary of €138 million including variables, a €115 million “renewal fee” and a €77 million loyalty bonus.
With five months left on the deal, Messi will have already earned €511 million.
El Mundo today, what a bomb. Leo Messi’s contract with Barcelona revealed on front page 🔴👇🏻 @elmundoes
- €555,237,619 contract [4 years].
- €138m per season fixed + variables.
- €115,225,000 as ‘renewal fee’ just for accepting the contract.
- €77,929,955 loyalty bonus. pic.twitter.com/FK3I34hJta
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) January 31, 2021
Those numbers translate out to $674 million for the entire contract, $167 million per year, $139 million renewal fee and a $94.6 million loyalty bonus in 2020 dollars.
Compare that to Mahomes’ 10-year, $503 million deal (in reality a $450 million deal due to some creative accounting) or Mike Trout’s 12-year, $420 million contract, and you’ll see that the highest reaches of European soccer blow away American sports salaries. Messi’s contract is higher than the highest reaches of the biggest contract on record, and it’s only over the course of four years. The total money over the course of the contract comes out to about $320.55 per minute.
In fact, Messi’s $167 million annual income is higher than the combined salaries of Trout, LeBron James, Tom Brady and Connor McDavid this year, according to Spotrac’s numbers for yearly cash.
In just his income from Barcelona, it seems likely that Messi is already a billionaire. Even more unbelievable is that Messi actually tried to get out of this contract a few months ago, seeking a club to pay an $828 million release clause.
Barcelona’s finances are in bad shape
Why are we only finding out about Messi’s salary now?
Well, it may have something to do with where Barcelona is financially right now, and the fact that Messi seems intent on exiting the club in a few months.
Barcelona’s decline on the global stage has coincided with a jaw-dropping accumulation of debt amid player acquisitions and the COVID-19 financial crunch hitting the sports world. Per ESPN, Barcelona’s total debt currently sits at €1.173 billion, with a net debt of €488 million, with player expenses reportedly accounting for 74 percent of that.
That’s not too different from what many other soccer giants are going through right now (Real Madrid’s debt reportedly sits at €901m), but is staggering nonetheless. So it makes sense why Messi’s salary has emerged out of nowhere, with Barcelona on the verge of a painful period of austerity.
Messi’s brilliance has generated millions, maybe billions, for Barcelona over the years. Barcelona signed him to that deal for a reason; he has been one of the most valuable sports products on Earth for a decade. Now, the club is best-served by reminding its fans what he costs.
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