[FOUNTAIN]Soccer fever, and cashBritish soccer fans might have been hurt when their idol, David Beckham, commanded a lower transfer price than did Zinedine Zidane of France and Luis Figo of Portugal. Real Madrid paid Manchester United $41.3 million to buy the rights to Mr. Beckham’s services; in earlier transactions, the club paid $66.2 million for Mr. Zidane and $56.1 million for the Portuguese star.
But Mr. Beckham was in first place in total income last year among soccer heroes, raking in $17 million from his pay, bonuses and advertising endorsements. That was about $1 million more that Mr. Zidane earned.
So Mr. Beckham has a claim to being the most popular soccer player in the world. In Hong Kong, his personal history is the subject of an academic course in how to be rich and successful.
So does the lower transfer fee mean that although Mr. Beckham is more popular than Mr. Zidane, his soccer skills lag those of his rivals? If that were the case, Ronaldo of Brazil would have been outraged at the $45 million fee he commanded, implying that he was not as skilled as Mr. Zidane. The connection between fee and talent is murky.
In recent days, the Financial Times, a British newspaper, presented an analysis that the fee for Mr. Beckham was not such a bargain. Mr. Beckham had only two years left on his contract with Manchester United. If the club had not been able to agree to a new contract with Mr. Beckham during that period, he would have become a free agent. Mr. Beckham was becoming a depreciating asset for Manchester United.
Real Madrid is now enjoying the “Beckham fever” it saw in China, Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand during exhibition matches. Tickets for every event were sold out and in Japan, 45,000 people crowded to the team’s training camp that was opened to the public ― for a fee.
Packianathan Chelladurai, a management professor at Ohio State University, emphasized the importance of the entertainment aspect of professional sports.
Real Madrid followed his advice faithfully by buying superstars such as Figo, Zidane, Ronaldo and Beckham one per year since 2000. Its revenue has become tops in the world, surpassing that of Manchester United.
The Spanish media says Lee Chun-su is being scouted by Real Societad, a rival of Real Madrid in the Primera Liga. We hope to see the day when he competes with Mr. Beckham.
by Lee Se-jung
The writer is a deputy business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.