Is really Cristiano Ronaldo worth £100m?

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Across the world, trade between developed economies has slumped. Recession has bitten, and it's bitten hard - especially in the Eurozone.

But if there's one trade that's weathered the fierce head winds, it's the trade in football players, and the European market is booming.

There's something uncomfortable about talking about transfer fees, about treating people like commodities with a "value" or "worth".

In American sports, players are only "worth" something relative to other competitors, athletes are traded for their peers rather than for cold, hard dollars.

But, in football, that's not how it's done. Straight swaps rarely happen, and the financial imbalances between clubs, leagues, countries and continents makes it preferential to maintain the status quo as is. And you only have to look at the evolution of the transfer record fee to see just how weighted towards the wealthy the game has become. 

Between 1979 - the year of the first million pound transfer - and 1992 the value of the British record transfer fee increased by £5m. In the ten years between 1999 and 2009 it increased by almost £60m.

Now, big-spending Paris St Germain have been linked with a £100m bid for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portugal international already holds the world record after Real Madrid paid Manchester United £80m to bring him to Spain three years ago.

Now, after 111 goals in 98 La Liga appearances, Paris St Germain, backed by Qatari billions, are keen to lure Ronaldo to France - and they've got the money to make it happen.

The Daily Mail sources reports in France and Spain that make it clear PSG are seriously considering a world-record bid for the Portuguese star.

But, before you clamber aboard your high horse, morally objecting to such an obscene splurge of resource-based wealth on the grounds that is just that, obscene, just consider whether Ronaldo might actually be worth it.

Consider the context. Top clubs in the Champions League routinely post turnover in the hundreds of millions of pounds. Prize money from the Champions League was worth almost £50m to Chelsea last season alone.

And the Premier League is set to seal it's most lucrative ever TV contract ever - close to £5bn for the global rights to the English game.

The game is worth billions, it's stars are worth tens of millions, so conceivably the best players could be worth even more. Considered in isolation the fees are grossly inflated, disgusting even, but viewed within the context of football, and the money in football, you can see why it makes sense for clubs to pay such astronomical figures.

Because it's not just what Ronaldo does on the pitch. Real Madrid claimed the former-Manchester United star paid off his £80m fee within 12 months thanks to shirt sales alone.

The 27-year-old is a marketing dream, and Real Madrid took a calculated gamble back in 2009. While the transfer fee was unprecedented, they figured they were getting a world-class player capable of 60 goals a season, whose worth to the club as an asset would easily reach into the hundreds of millions.

Less than a year after he joined Madrid, the La Liga club said they had sold more than 1.2 million 'Ronaldo 9' shirts' in the Spanish capital alone, with millions more bought around the world.

At the time The Metro quoted experts who predicted that over the course of the forward's six-year deal, he would more than earn back his value in merchandising alone.

His presence allows Real Madrid to bargain from a position of strength when it comes to kit deals, sponsorships agreements and other commercial trappings - the club's recent eight-year Adidas shirt deal is reportedly worth a record $50m per year.

Ronaldo himself has cashed in as well. He may trail Lionel Messi when it comes to individual trophies, but only David Beckham tops him when it comes to endorsements.

Forbes calculated he earned $42.5m last year, including Real Madrid salary, making him their ninth highest paid athlete in the world, and leading the magazine to mark him out as potentially 'the most marketable athlete in the world.' For a sport with a reach as global as football, that kind of appeal is invaluable.

And Ronaldo knows this better than anyone - reportedly a quarrel over image rights renegotiation was behind his well-documented 'unhappiness' earlier this season.

Real Madrid have been no stranger to such deals - remember the Galacticos - they practically invented the modern art of establishing a club as a luxury brand. The era of Ronaldo (Brazil), Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham and Luis Figo was as much an exercise in marketing as it was a serious attempt to build a title-winning dynasty.

Ronaldo has more Facebook fans then any other athlete - more than 50 million - and only Kaka has more Twitter followers. At 27-years-old he's entering his prime, and his performances on the pitch reach scarcely more unbelievable heights as each year passes.

If he was worth £80m to a football club in 2009, and was good value for that, then in 2012 he's easily worth £100m.

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