Real Madrid and FC Barcelona square-off at the Bernabeu in Madrid on Sunday for a pivotal Clásico. As usual, the stakes are high; this edition’s twist has Barca emerging from a controversial spell with dropped points, a tax scandal, and a 4 point gap between themselves and the league-leading Madrid. From a business perspective, it’s an opportunity to see how the two highest profile transfers of the offseason have matched-up since joining their respective squads. Below we will examine the cost-benefit aspect of the Gareth Bale and Neymar transfers and contracts:
A quick cost analysis suggests that Neymar has so far been the better purchase. The methodology is a simple fraction:
= Transfer Fee / (Goals + Assists)
= Estimated Gross Salary / (Goals + Assists)
The result should be a good indicator of how much offensive value the clubs are getting for their outlay of cash to bring the players in, and contract their services, respectively. It’s a function of cash-flow and return-on-investment.
A quick look suggests that the player performances have been relatively comparable in terms of playing time and offensive contribution. Notably, Bale has produced more, but is more costly. The difference in production is misleading, as the 2 goals and 3 assists yield a 22% variance – attributable to a small, sensitive set of data. Both players have missed a few games from injury and at this point of the season, it’s reasonable to assume that the initial phases of adaptation have passed. Going forward, Bale and Neymar are looking to further assimilate and assert themselves in La Liga.
There are important considerations beyond the data above; primarily, Real Madrid is currently atop La Liga as a side that has trended up since the early stages of the season, whereas Barca has had ups and downs. On the other hand, not accounted for is Messi’s absence in the Barca squad; if Messi played all season, one would think he’d attract most of the attention from opposing defenders, thereby opening some opportunities for the likes of Neymar to contribute more. All these factors point to the difficulty, and perhaps impossibility, of comparing players strictly based on numbers.
Regardless of who you might argue is the better buy, the following is indisputable: Neymar cost Barcelona significantly less than what Bale cost Madrid, his contracted services cost less, and he is putting up comparable numbers to Bale. Barca is paying a discount on his goals and assists in comparison to Madrid’s fee for Bale’s contributions. Neymar also has Barca within striking distance if they can pull off a tough victory away from home. Personally, I still prefer Bale based on his style of play, his physical abilities, and the complementary effect he has with Ronaldo; the cost data suggests otherwise. It will all be of little importance if Madrid takes La Liga and captures their most-coveted tenth Champions League title.
Dollars and Euros aside, it all sets the stage for must watch action on Sunday.