Envisioning pro soccer following NBA approach to player contracts

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Will pro soccer emulate pro basketball in the future?

A recent article posted on football365.com (“NBA blockbuster trades offer glimpse of football’s future…”) suggests that one aspect of NBA’s business operations could be copied by top soccer leagues in the future.

“If you think the Premier League pays handsomely you really should see how much the top boys in the NBA make,” the mailbox feature intro stated.

“Basketball is obviously very different in that there is one league paying the highest salaries where the best players want to go (there is money in Europe and China but nothing compares to the NBA), there are less players on a team and there are a finite number of teams with no relegation. They also have the college system where players are drafted rather than coming through the youth systems.

“But … they also have this idea of fairness and of loyalty where they try and ensure that the best players are spread amongst the teams. They brought in a system where players could qualify for ‘super-max’ contracts if they stayed with their original team. This has been counter-productive where players now wait until they qualify for the highest contract and then engineer a move to their favoured club/city. More than that, they are now working with other players to make sure that they are also signed to the same team.”

Contracts and trades

The Toronto Raptors are, of course, the prime example of a team acquiring a star — a guy named Kawhi Leonard — and then losing him the next year.

The football365.com article continued: “What this means is that it’s now unusual for teams to sign players to more than two years on their contract. They get shipped off in the last year of the contract with the team accepting that they are paying for a ‘rental’; Toronto won the Championship this year with a one year rental in Kawhi Leonard who has now moved to the LA Clippers and he himself has made sure that he signed along with another superstar in Paul George from Oklahoma.

“I can see this happening in football with the top stars signing short contracts and moving around Europe/USA/China every two or three years with them getting even more money because the transfer fees are no longer part of the deal.”

New contracts

Actually, many NBA players sign long-term contracts, but not everyone.

For instance, 2019 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard inked a three-year deal with the Clippers for $103 million. But the third year is a player option. And Seth Curry signed a four-year $32 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks this week.

Here’s a handy rundown on NBA contracts:


Which got me thinking: Will the NBA ever take a page out of pro soccer’s business manual and start charging transfer fees?

What do you think?