As the World Cup in South Africa comes to an end next week we thought it might be worth commenting on a few of the luminaries. Of note were two players who stood out as over-marketed, very hyped-up, and ultimately useless during this tournament. These two strikers scored a grand total of only one goal across nine matches for their national teams. We speak of Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina's Lionel Messi of course. We actually happen to like Messi because he's humble, hard working and has some qualities that remind us of the great French striker Zinedine Zidane. Besides, he’s only 5’6’’ so we'll cut him a little slack. Ronaldo on the other hand should move to Mexico and pursue a career in telenovela acting. The guy took too many easy dives, acted like a cry-baby in front of referees, and we find his consistent display of narcissism shameless. During World Cup play he was selfish with the ball, hardly created any interesting plays, and his only goal came in the 86th minute against a heavily battered North Korean side (i.e. the lowest-ranked team on the planet). Look at all those marketing dollars (Euros, rather) and ad-time/space gone to waste. Frankly the vuvuzela created more of a buzz during the World Cup than these two so-called superstars. This is a theme that we will revisit often, but the reality is many pro athletes (globally) remain massively overpaid. Don't sports teams have CFOs or accountants? Don’t endorsers run cost-benefit analyses? Are they really worth all that money? We think not.
Welcome Alternative: If you are looking for inspiration from your soccer players look to the German squad. We find in Miroslav Klose a formidable striker, who may this year beat Pelé and other greats to break the World Cup goal-scoring record. Nike, Adidas and other large sports endorsers should a) verbally lash out at Messi and Ronaldo for their dismal showing and b) have performance covenants or clawbacks built into endorsement contracts going forward; shouldn’t compensation always be linked to performance? Soccer clubs in Europe (many are heavily indebted and barely break-even) should start negotiating lower contracts and source more talent from Africa and Asia, even the United States! Think of this: back in the late 1950s it was unheard of when Joe DiMaggio made $100k a year with the Yankees. You can talk about inflation all you want, but mark my words: the money being thrown at athletes today is simply unsustainable.