Ronaldo deal - obscene or money well spent?

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 June, 2009, 12:00am

The word obscene has, amid the global financial crisis, been used a lot to describe the amounts of money that some people consider themselves to be worth. It has been given a fresh airing over the sums involved in the transfer of star footballer Cristiano Ronaldo from one of Hong Kong's favourite English Premier League clubs, Manchester United, to the big spenders of the Spanish league, Real Madrid. They are an GBP80 million (HK$1.02 billion) fee for the English club, and GBP107 million over six years for the player, with a final-year salary of GBP29 million.

A blogger in London's The Times newspaper articulated the reaction of a lot of people: 'Obscene! How do people paying and earning this sum of money sleep knowing that much of the world's population live on less than a dollar a day?' It does seem a touch out of this world, which is, after all, in a recession. But there is also something reassuring to be found in the deal, amid global financial stress and public anger at richly rewarded bankers who were held to blame for it but did not share the pain. What sets the Ronaldo deal apart is that the price is based on results. However absurd Ronaldo's market value may seem, his wealth has been transparently acquired and, more importantly, seen to be earned.

Morally speaking, people who lost their savings in the financial meltdown, battlers and the well-off alike, would not be as affronted by Ronaldo's deal as they were by bankers whose fall from grace was cushioned by lavish pay, bonuses and huge payouts just to go away. US President Barack Obama spoke for these people when he described big bonuses for Wall Street bankers when others were dealing with economic hardship as shameful, irresponsible and unacceptable. In a word, obscene was the term most people used.

Ronaldo still has to deliver the success he brought to Manchester United for Real Madrid, because 'buyer beware' is the rule in the trade in team sports stars. The same rule applies, of course, when Ronaldo comes to choose where and with whom to invest his stellar earnings to maintain his celebrity lifestyle after football, lest he puts his own, no doubt considerable, retirement savings at risk.