The price to pay for talent
A lot is discussed about player wages and the eye-watering sums they receive in compensation for their performances on the pitch. Recently released salaries in Serie A revealed Cristiano Ronaldo earns €31m per annum – 74% more than the second-highest earner – 20-year-old Matthijs de Ligt (€8m).
But how important is our league when it comes to a player’s paycheck – and which players are underpaid relative to their contributions?
Wages can vary significantly depending on league. Over the past two seasons, the top 25 players (according to our Player Contribution Model) in each league were best-paid in Spain – but if you took the 26th-50th, 51st-75th and 76th-100th best players in each league, players in England were best-paid.
Interestingly the 76th-100th best Premier League players (£4.7m) were compensated more than the top 26-50 in Serie A (£4.6m), Bundesliga (£4.4m) and Ligue 1 (£2.9m) – displaying the buying power of the Premier League. The distribution of wages varies quite considerably by league, with a significant drop from the Premier League and La Liga to the next three leagues.
One other observation reveals that players 51-75 in La Liga (£3.5m), Serie A (£2.7m) and Ligue 1 (£1.6m) were paid less than the next best 25 players (76-100). One reason for this could be the diminishing contribution of older players that still remain on high wages in these leagues. Knowing these systematic failures can help clubs begin to exploit inefficiencies in the market. Picking off players with high performance levels in the past two seasons that fall below the trend line in terms of wages, could be a valuable strategy in identifying top talent – whilst paying the right price.
Sevilla maximised the peak years of Wissam Ben Yedder on a relatively low wage for his contributions. Last season, for instance, he recorded 18 assists and 9 goals in La Liga before AS Monaco came calling for €40m – a hefty fee for a player that turned 29 in August.
A similar story can be told of Pablo Sarabia who was reportedly on a wage of around €2.9m per annum at Sevilla – players of his quality were on double or more on average over the last two seasons. Now at PSG, his earnings are reportedly closer to that trend at around €7.3m.
Data has revolutionized football but it has also meant there are now fewer hidden players. As a result, the huge challenge for clubs is to get the right quality of players at the right price – but also at the right wages. By combining data with inefficiencies in the market, like the lag in wages as players improve, clubs will be able to reduce the risks yet still acquire top talent for the right price. Doing so, they will not only improve the quality of players at their disposal – but also avoid disrupting their wage structures.
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