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SPORTS | 17-05-2024 12:07

Lionel Messi's record US$20.4 million salary dwarfs entire MLS teams

Lionel Messi's record US$20.45 million annual salary makes him by far the best paid player in Major League Soccer – but that figure does not include the huge income the World Cup winner receives in commercial deals, endorsements and sponsorships from companies such as Adidas and Apple.

Lionel Messi's record US$20.45 million annual salary from Inter Miami makes him by far the best paid player in Major League Soccer but also puts him ahead of the entire squads of 25 of the league's clubs, according to data released by the MLS Players Association on Thursday.

The players union regularly releases the full pay details of the entire league and while it was no surprise to see the eight-times Ballon d'Or winner at the top, the gulf with other players and indeed teams is striking.

Messi has a guaranteed compensation of US$20,446,667 made up of a base salary of US$12 million plus various bonuses.

The figures from the players' union do not include the huge income the Argentine World Cup winner receives in commercial deals, endorsements and sponsorships from companies such as Adidas and Apple.

Messi signed his last contract with Spanish club Barcelona in 2017, a four-year deal that gave him the potential to earn 138 million euros per season including salary and add-ons.

Messi moved to Paris Saint-Germain in August 2021, after his contract with Barca ended and was reported to be earning between 30-35 million euros with the French club.

The 36-year-old joined Miami in July last year on a deal which runs until the end of the 2025 season but he may still be receiving payments from Barça.

Joan Laporta, the Barça president, said in January 2022 that the club were scheduled to make deferred salary payments to the player until 2025.

Toronto's Italian striker Lorenzo Insigne, who was MLS's best-ever paid player until Messi's arrival, was second on the list with a guaranteed income of US$15.4 million from the Canadian club.

Messi's Spanish team-mate, Sergio Busquets, the 35-year-old former Barca midfielder, is the third top earner in the league on US$8.8 million guaranteed.

Miami's former Barça duo of Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez and Spanish full-back Jordi Alba each earn US$1.5 million per year.

Inter Miami's total wage bill is US$41.68 million with Toronto second on US$31.41 million. Current league champions, the Columbus Crew, had a total salary cost of US$15.19 million, ranked 21st in the league.

Messi shares a dressing room with a number of team-mates earning just a tiny fraction of his income – defender Noah Allen, a regular part of the matchday squad, earns a total of US$91,383.

The average MLS salary is US$594,390 in 2024 which is up 12.1 percent from last year.

Miami are able to pay Messi such a high salary because of the 'Designated Player' rule which was brought in to allow Los Angeles Galaxy to sign David Beckham in 2007 on a base salary of US$6.5 million a year with his total deal earning him around US$50 million in five years.

While Messi's income is huge by MLS standards it is well below the levels of top performers in other major sports in the USA.

Last year Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow signed a five-year deal worth US$55 million per season, a new league record. 

The NBA's top earner Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors makes US$51.9 million.

by Simon Evans, AFP

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