Lionel Messi has weaved his way to the top of his sport, and is duly paid for his living legend talents, although that money can’t make up for his frustration with Barcelona’s performances. The same cannot be said for great female athletes.
Carli Lloyd is a brilliant soccer player, but her salary would only pay for a few minutes of Messi’s time. Women in every sport struggle for fair pay, and this shocking statistic is a glaring example of the inequality.
Messi has accrued generational wealth based off his talent
Words fail to encapsulate the otherworldly greatness of Lionel Messi, but the amount of money he rakes in year after year shows how much is talent is valued in the world at large. Soccer magazine France Football ranked the best-paid players in the sport and revealed that Messi was the top dog in the men’s game, taking home $141 million from his salary and sponsorships last year.
Money certainly helps you find happiness, but it won’t do the job on its own. His paycheck did little to please Messi during this these last few chaotic months at Barcelona. Messi led La Liga in goals (25), assists (21), shots, and dribbles, but Barcelona finished second in the league and were absolutely mollywhopped by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Years of incompetent management eventually pushed Messi over the edge, and he demanded a transfer away from the only club he’s ever played for. Messi didn’t get the move he wanted, but he did stop the club from painting this as a victory by giving an interview with Goal.com where he accused Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu of repeatedly lying to him, criticized the club’s haphazard transfer strategy, and made it abundantly clear that he is playing for Barcelona against his will.
He also took shots at the club’s upper management on Instagram after the team’s starting striker – and not coincidentally, Messi’s best friend on the roster – was forced out and signed for title rivals Atletico Madrid, as reported by ESPN.
Messi’s contract expires next year, and even in his twilight years, he’s still earn a gaudy paycheck wherever he ends up playing.
Lloyd isn’t Messi, but she, and women in general, deserve better pay
Carli Lloyd’s career doesn’t compare to Messi’s, but she has accomplished as much in the women’s game as anyone ever has.
Lloyd has scored the gold medal-winning goal in two separate Olympic tournaments, is the only woman to ever score a hat trick in a World Cup final, has been named FIFA Player of the Year twice, and ranks in the top in US Soccer history in caps (third), goals (fourth), and assists (seventh).
But her achievements haven’t been converted into money in the same way. In a year that involved winning a second straight World Cup, Lloyd made $518,000 in 2019, which is 272 times less than Messi made in the same year.
Lloyd and her USWNT teammates have pushed discussions about the lack of equity between men’s and women’s sports into the mainstream. After that World Cup in 2019, the team went after the US Soccer federation in a highly-publicized fight for better pay. Their argument won over millions of fans, but lost badly in court. This defeat is far from enough to stop female athletes from fighting for better salaries.
The fight for equal pay in women’s sports isn’t new, but progress is slowly being made
Asking for equal pay across genders isn’t always a literal demand, especially in sports. No one arguing in good faith is saying that A’ja Wilson should be making as much as Kawhi Leonard. But the gap shouldn’t be as cavernous as it currently is. Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams are the only two women on the Forbes top 100 list of highest-paid athletes.
The collective salaries of the WNBA in 2019 was worth $12.5 million, which is $4.5 million less than what Bismack Biyombo made this year. Women are sick getting so much less without putting up a fight.
What advocates are asking for is greater investment and support from league owners, as well as all connected businesses and networks to sustain and grow the game on its own timeline. 2020 has been miserable, but there have been some important steps forward for several women’s leagues.
The WNBA finalized a new CBA in January that guaranteed better pay, travel conditions, and health benefits for the foreseeable future. The NWSL was the first sports league in America to return to action, and used the moment to negotiate a better TV and streaming deal for the league. The Women’s Super League became the first professional female soccer league in England. No one will be making Messi-esque money any time soon, but conditions are getting better.