With soccer transfer fees spiraling ever higher, we estimate what the world’s best players would be worth in Adam Smith’s barter economy.
In 1776, Adam Smith published his highly influential work The Wealth of Nations. The book was the basis for the field of economics for years to come. One of Smith’s assertions was that modern, currency-based economies had come about out of dissatisfaction with previous barter systems.
While anthropologists and historians debate whether this is actually true, it leads to an interesting thought: what if soccer teams used a barter system among themselves? What if, instead of paying massive amounts of Euros and Pounds for star players, they traded valuable items?
This is, of course, ludicrous. But then again, so is paying people hundreds of millions of dollars to kick around a ball in a big stadium filled with people watching you while other people watch them on a broadcast over satellites and radio waves. Anything is absurd, really, if you’re not used to it.
Take note that some of these comparisons are genuine calculations of a player’s worth, either in transfer fees or earnings. Others are similarities between an item and a player. Some are just jokes, because jokes are fun.
Here’s what each player would be worth in a barter economy.
Lionel Messi: A blockbuster
Lionel Messi is worth a Marvel movie. I don’t mean he’s worth a legally-downloaded digital copy of Spider Man: Homecoming. He’s worth everything that goes into the production of a major tentpole action film.
You could make a movie on his release clause alone, which is said to be $290 million. To put that in context, Avengers: Age of Ultron, the third most expensive movie ever made, had a budget of $279 million. When adjusted for inflation, there are only about half a dozen films that have a larger budget than what Messi is worth to Barcelona.
A studio could finance a giant action-adventure film, with CGI and practical effects, have James Cameron direct it, make Hans Zimmer do the score, get Adele and LeBron James to do the soundtrack, pay Daniel Day Lewis $50 million to come out of his third retirement and have money left over for marketing. They could also probably build a time machine and convince Oscar Wilde to write the screenplay. Maybe get Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson as script doctors.
So, what any team hoping to sign Messi needs to do is finance and produce the above mentioned film. Then, they should sign over the rights to Blockbuster: The Movie™ to Barcelona. The team will have no choice but to give the rights to Messi over to that club. LAFC or the Galaxy would obviously have an inside track on making this happen given their locale.
Maybe Barcelona won’t know what to do with the movie. But once they find a distributor, it’s pretty easy from there.