As the continent focuses on the latter stages of Euro 2021, the domestic game within England has faced its latest round of speculation and rumours regarding movements of the league’s most valuable players. Two prominent English footballers have found themselves at the forefront of such conversations in the form of Harry Kane and Jack Grealish. In both instances, the club that finds themselves clamouring over their services and the figure are the same; Manchester City and an astonishing £100million.
The financial backing of modern-day football giants has been accelerated in recent times, to the point where 9-figure offers are no longer as scarce as they once were. Now, almost every transfer window, there will be an astonishing amount of money that changes hands as players find themselves sent all over the world in search of a new club. In the summer transfer window alone, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier League clubs spent a colossal £1.3billion on 115 permanent signings. So just what is the market rate for an elite footballer in the modern game?
As the technological boom that coincided with the new millennium found itself interwoven within popular culture and sport as an entity, the money that flooded into the game changed. The accessibility of stars through social media and the broadcasting contracts that accompanied the extensive coverage that was now available to fans meant that clubs had a greater source of income from which to expand their growth.
As a result, increased sponsorship opportunities from sports manufacturers such as Nike, Adidas and Under Armour were a necessity for all teams looking to connect with their fans. Greater prominence for the games’ greatest stars resulted in a greater following from all over the world and subsequently a greater source of income for clubs. Cristiano Ronaldo has recently surpassed 300million followers on Instagram, being the most high-profile athlete account on the platform. Clubs were then able to pay players a higher salary, which in turn drove up their market price and the spiral was only exacerbated as all of the contributing factors grew simultaneously.
Players and their agents have become very aware of the rise in market price for players in recent times, becoming increasingly savvy with their marketing opportunities during negotiation processes. Notably, Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne recently signed a new contract at the club in which he negotiated the terms whilst representing his own interests, a rarity in the modern game. Through this process, the Belgian international negotiated the most lucrative contract in Premier League History worth an astounding £385,000 per week. Whilst the money throughout the upper tiers of the game have undoubtedly increased, the rate at which it has done so has been nothing short of remarkable.
Increased Money Within Football
Of the 100 most expensive transfers in the history of football, only one has come before the turn of the new millennium. In that time, 9 transfers have been above the price of €100million with only one team from England, Manchester United, have been involved in spending one of the 15 most valuable prices for a player of all time. Despite that, Manchester City have been linked with two players in the past month in Harry Kane and Jack Grealish, both of which it was claimed they would be willing to pay £100million to acquire the services of.
Whilst the increase in financial flexibility for the top clubs throughout the continent has undeniably been a beneficiary of the modern technological advancements involved in elite sport, the money embedded deep within a clubs’ infrastructure comes initially from the owner. In recent times, the premier league has seen an influx of foreign owners looking to build and support the success of the very top sides in the country.
These owners, often with minimal previous history within top level football, look to provide the financial support a club needs to compete in the very biggest competitions in world club football by funding transfers, recruiting the very best managers and building the infrastructure on which a club is based.
European Super League
Just this past year, the management of some of the country’s biggest clubs have come under intense scrutiny when plans were released for a breakaway European Super League. The concept looked to secure the positions of some of the biggest clubs within European football within an elite competition. The lack of relegation or demotion secured a consistent and comprehensive financial benefit that would accompany the broadcasting rights and sponsorship agreements associated with the competition.
Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal were among the teams involved in the breakaway competition that would have seen them no longer compete in the Premier League. Widely criticised by pundits such as Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher for Sky Sports as a money-grabbing exercise, the public condemnation and criticism forced a dramatic u-turn but showed the dangers that accompany the increased financial constraints on modern football.
How expensive will footballers become?
In the modern game, the acceleration of financial support and the subsequently increased value placed on individual footballers has been astonishing. The prospect of a 9-figure fee for a player seemed inconceivable when Luis Figo, one of the world’s all-time greatest players, made the switch from Spanish giants Barcelona to Real Madrid for £37million in 2000. Fast forward 20 years and English teenager Jason Sancho has just agreed terms for around double that price with Manchester United.
As the boundaries continue to be pushed and the ceiling is moved ever higher, there seems to be no immediate restrictions on the value that will be placed on those involved in the elite end of modern football. The extent to which footballers have become celebrities in their own right, expanding into ever-diversifying methods of sponsorship and exposure beyond their exploits on the pitch will only increase as technology does so in turn. As the opportunities expand, the numbers will follow, with no clear end in sight.