All in the Game: ‘Shirts pay transfer fees’ myth debunked

Win trophies? Arsenal fans left wondering if Martin Odegaard was being funny

Just a myth

News last week that Manchester United had sold £187 million worth of Cristiano Ronaldo shirts since they re-signed the fella led to more than a few reports suggesting that this meant the club had already covered the cost of his transfer fee, add-ons, bonuses and salary, with a decent chunk left over.

Similar claims were made when Paris Saint Germain sold 150,000 Lionel Messi shirts on their website within seven minutes of his signing being announced.

But Dr Dan Plumley, a senior lecturer in sport finance at Sheffield Hallam University, had already debunked the commonly mistaken notion that clubs get all the loot from shirt sales when he spoke to the BBC website a fortnight ago.

At most, he said, United would get 10 per cent of those sales, possibly as low as five, the rest going to their kit manufacturer Adidas who agreed a 10 year deal with the club worth £750 million back in 2014.


Similarly, Nike would be the chief beneficiary of all those Messi shirt sales.

While Plumley reckons United will now have recouped Ronaldo’s initial £13 million transfer fee, his conclusion was that “the old ‘shirts pay for transfers’ argument is just a myth”. Myth busted.

Arsenal’s wide array of ambition

Before they beat Norwich on Saturday, Arsenal had endured their worst start to a campaign in 67 years, having lost their opening three games. Their grumpy supporters were, then, left wondering if their Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard was being funny when he was asked last week about his ambitions for the club.

“For this season, obviously we want to get back to European football and then hopefully win trophies, the Champions League and hopefully win the Premier League within a couple of years,” he said.

The first response to this quote, when it popped up on the tweet machine, simply featured 140 crying-laughing emojis, that response receiving 9,290 likes, most of them probably from Arsenal fans.

After they beat Norwich to lift themselves from the bottom of the table, Odegaard’s team-mate Pepe proved to be decidedly less ambitious when he posted a celebratory message on Instagram, which he then deleted after a somewhat negative reaction.

The message?

“We are staying up!”

Minister with responsibility for gaffes

Reddest cheeks of the week? Only one contender – take a bow Gavin Williamson, the British education secretary.

Had he ever met Marcus Rashford?

“We met over Zoom and he seemed incredibly engaged, compassionate and charming,” he said, “but then he had to shoot off. I didn’t want to be the one that was holding him back from his training.”

The problem? It wasn't Rashford he'd met on Zoom, it was England rugby player Maro Itoje who, yes, is also black. ("Due to recent speculation I thought it was necessary to confirm that I am not Marcus Rashford, " he tweeted). Morto.

Fabiani gets carried away with Ribery

"It's like Napoli bringing Diego Maradona to Naples!" – Salernitana sporting director Angelo Fabiani losing the run of himself a bit after the club signed 38-year-old Franck Ribery.

"Why would you make the best right-back in the world a midfielder?" – A not unreasonable question from Jurgen Klopp after Gareth Southgate played a very-lost-looking Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield against Andorra.

“I hate what my club has become. It’s been a long time now, it’s a hollow and an empty football club. There’s no hope or ambition and I’m pretty sick of it to be honest. It’s copy-paste- repeat every season.”

– Alan Shearer, a touch disgruntled about the state of Newcastle United.

By the numbers: 79

That’s the number of international goals Lionel Messi has now scored, his hat-trick against Bolivia last week moving him two clear of Pele’s record of 77 for a South American male player. Useful.

Word of mouth

“My friends, with each passing day I feel a little better. I’m looking forward to playing again.” - Eighty-year-old Pelé planning on getting his boots back on after undergoing surgery recently.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times