Common sense tells us that paying 90% of our budget on one player and then spreading the remainder over the rest would not enable us to compete. But, neither would paying everyone the same as it would prevent us from attracting those key players that often make the difference in performance, while also leaving a lot of our wage bill on the bench.
As ever, the answer lies somewhere in between these extremes and the varied approaches adopted by clubs historically suggests that there is a lack of consensus as to exactly where. That some degree of wage inequality is a good thing for performance is agreed, but where do you draw the line?
As a good rule of thumb, our research suggests an investment of around 40% of the wage bill on the best five players, 25% on players 6-10, 15% on players 11-15, 12% on players 16-20 and 8% on players 21-25.
This is by no means definitive, but it does stand to reason. The forced distribution of wages in salary cap leagues, for example, where inequality is often intensified through rules such as ‘designated players’ in MLS, often hampers the club’s ability to efficiently translate financial investment into performance.
Using this rule of thumb as a framework should help us to ask the right questions that will ultimately inform our strategy for this summer. For example, is the allocation of our budget reasonable? Are all of the players in each segment giving us a reasonable return? Which segments present the greatest opportunity for upgrades?
This may help to justify a substantial investment in a stellar talent over more modest investments across a number of players, for example. At the very least it will help to shape our activity.
There are clearly other factors at play, including the extent to which squad turnover impacts harmony, the positional needs of the squad and the availability of suitable targets in our required positions among them. But ultimately, a rule of thumb will help to direct our plans, and ensure that whatever strategy we choose to execute, the allocation of our budget is the result of a deliberate choice.
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