After four seasons with Liverpool, Mo Salah hit his 100th Premiership goal for the club this month, averaging 24 goals a season: more than any other player in the League over this period.
He is now reportedly asking for a weekly wage of GBP 600,000 ($820,000), but aside from the goals, what could be the financial implications of replacing a £30 million ($41 million) a year striker?
Should Liverpool look to replace Salah they would be looking at a player with a transfer fee in the region of £60 million+ ($82 million), and a further £10-£15 million ($14-$21 million) a year in wages. If they went down this route, over the course of four seasons there would be minimal difference in cost (a saving of around £10 million ($14 million)) along with uncertainty over replacing a certified goal scorer.
But Salah not only brings value to Liverpool on the pitch through his performances, and contribution to silverware, he has also been a focal point and key ambassador for Liverpool’s commercial presence in Africa and, more specifically, Egypt.
To put simply, the business of football is no longer limited to scoring goals: commercialisation and brand management has become the focus, both for the players and the clubs.
Players can create value for their clubs in various ways.
The first and most obvious means is through contributing on the pitch and helping their clubs win matches, building club revenues through prize money. But, they also have a significant indirect effect on other revenue streams such as match day, broadcasting, and commercial.
The influence a single player can have depends on their on-pitch contribution, calibre, and popularity amongst global football fans.
Since Salah’s arrival in 2017, Egyptian Companies AlexBank and Tatweer Misr, a property development firm, have become official partners of Liverpool FC which, in 2018 alone, helped contribute to an 18 percent increase in commercial revenue. Between 2017-2020, Liverpool FC’s brand value experienced a 55 percent growth, peaking at €1,262 million ($1,143 million) ranking it as the 4th most valuable club in world football in 2020.
If you asked fans to describe Barcelona over the years you would undoubtedly hear the name Messi. He was the core element of the club brand for over a decade.
Over his career, Barcelona benefitted from his contributions on the pitch and the global significant following he brought to the club. This allowed them to secure silverware and highly lucrative sponsorships whilst selling high volumes of merchandise.
Messi’s contributions to his club’s brand value helped maintain Barcelona’s position amongst the top of the Brand Finance Football 50 rankings for the past 10 years. Currently Barcelona is the second most valuable football club brand in the ranking, with a value of €1,266 million ($1,487 million), and only €10 million ($11.7 million) behind rivals Real Madrid.
This is a big step up from PSG whose brand value has depreciated €12 million ($14 million) in the past five years, with its limited success in Europe coupled with low Ligue1 broadcasting (relative to other top European leagues) revenue, playing a large factor in the club’s inability to climb above seventh.
The addition of Messi to the PSG squad will strengthen the French club’s brand.
Barcelona’s main challenge following Messi’s departure is to ensure they continue to perform on the pitch and attract top players to act as brand ambassadors for the club and its sponsors. Whilst the club still has some of the most recognisable names in football, Messi is simply in a different league as an athlete and celebrity who is recognised beyond the world of football.
PSG will look to capitalise on the Argentine’s ability and potential on and off the pitch. The French outfit have been unable to get their hands on the UEFA Champions League trophy. They lost out on the league title to Lille last season and will look for success on all fronts.
The lure of Messi to attract bigger sponsors will happen, with many of the player’s fans shifting club allegiance to PSG. The club has already gained 4 million new followers on Instagram since his arrival.
Liverpool’s commercial efforts are now focused in the African, Asian and Middle Eastern markets, and having three of the most renowned African players (Salah, Mane and Keita) at the club has helped the club appeal to a greater array of commercial sponsors. For example, Standard Chartered, Liverpool’s front of shirt sponsor, recently announced 90 percent of their total group profits come from these African and Asian markets.
Is it likely that we will see yet another record-breaking Premier League salary, or will Liverpool look to replace Salah at the end of his contract in June 2023 in hopes of saving the £10 million ($14 million) difference in signing a new striker? The cost of restructuring profitable commercial revenue streams in the African markets could well tip the balance.