Sports: High value soccer stars

Earn it like Beckham

At US$ 49 million, David Beckham set the pace for some scorching figures that were handed out to the world’s top soccer players by way of salaries and endorsement fees

David Beckham’s move to the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer last summer was a big score for U.S. soccer and an even bigger one for Beckham, the former captain of England’s national team. The Galaxy’s attendance for the five matches he played (he missed much of the season due to injury) averaged 37,659, 57% more than the team’s previous record. Beckham posted huge wins off the pitch as well. Of the $49 million he made in 2007 to make him the highest-paid soccer player in the world, $12 million constituted salaries from Galaxy and Real Madrid, and $37 million came from image rights, including a portion of the proceeds from 300,000 sold Beckham Galaxy jerseys and endorsements from Adidas, Pepsi, Coty and the likes. The superstar further fuelled his hype by signing a three-year Armani underwear contract last November, worth upwards of $20 million. 
The deal launched with a series of advertisements showing Beck provocatively posed in only designer drawers..

A look at the remaining list of top paid players (salary plus incentives and endorsements) emphasizes the blurring line between athlete and celebrity. Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s showboating on the field helped earn him $19 million, nearly half of which came from endorsements including a spot in a Fuji Xerox commercial.

For Nike, Ronaldo laced up a pair of Mercurial Vapor IV boots and took on another formidable challenge—a race against an equally beautiful Bugatti Veyron, the fastest accelerating street car in the world. Having eclipsed Man-U’s season goal-scoring record for a winger (held by the late great George Best), the 23-year old Ronaldo only needs a Posh Spice-like wife to fully eclipse Beckham’s fame.

Kaká (AC Milan) followed in the footsteps of fellow Brazilians Ronaldo and Ronaldinho by capitalizing on being named FIFA’s 2007 World Player of the Year with big money endorsements with Adidas and Armani. But unlike his countrymen, this 26-year-old known banks on his rare “wholesome athlete” image to earn almost half his income from sponsors.

After Kaká helped the Rossoneri to a seventh Champions League crown in 2007 (and finished as the competition’s top scorer with 10 goals), he removed his jersey to reveal an “I Belong to Jesus” T-shirt. Of the $18 million he earned last year, he tithed 10% to his Church.


June 2008

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