Benzema – the numbers game

July 2, 2010 Tags: Reads 11 comments

Today’s report in Marca that Sir Alex Ferguson is once again on the Karim Benzema hunt should be taken with the large pinch of salt Manchester United supporters normally reserve for summer transfer rumours. The Scot’s long-term admiration for the French striker is undimished but it’s unlikely United’s finances will stretch to acquire the 22-year-old hitman.

Much apart from the £25 million fee the former Olympique Lyonnais striker is likely to command, Eurozone exchange rate changes and major differences between Spanish and UK tax law mean that United will have to fork out more than a quarter million gross per week simply to match Benzema’s current wages.

Benzema joined Real Madrid for a reported €35 million fee, rising to €41 million with performance based bonuses. That’s £28.9 – £33.8 million at today’s mid-market prices. Meanwhile United, we’re told, had been prepared to go up to £25 million for the striker, who scored 43 goals in 112 Ligue 1 games for Lyon during his time at Stadium Garland.

Quite whether United’s bid was serious, with Benzema’s agent almost certainly telling Old Trafford’s management that a move to Santiago Bernabeu was his client’s preference, is now moot.

Benzema’s stint in the Spanish capital has been anything but auspicious though, with the Frenchman suffering a drop in form before being consigned to the bench for Real’s La Liga run-in. The striker’s 12 goals in 38 games last season tells a story; perhaps even more pertinent is that half the player’s appearances came from the bench.

Indeed, the striker’s form dipped so far that the former golden boy of French football was left out of Raymond Domenech’s squad for the World Cup in South Africa altogether. The decision didn’t go down well with everybody in the camp but Benzema can have few arguments on form alone.

As part of El Presidente Florentino Pérez’ Madrid ‘project’ Benzema has long been thought safe, with Gonzalo Higuain touted around Europe’s leading clubs at one point last season. But politics is never static at the Bernanbeu, with the Argentinian’s 27 La Liga goals and newly signed six year contract putting paid to that idea. It is now the Frenchman most at risk of Perez’ axe as Madrid attempt to improve on last season’s second place in La Liga.

Even with favourable Eurozone changes in recent weeks, Benzema’s less than spectacular form and the normal amortization of a player’s value over the length of a contract the Frenchman will be phenomenally expensive. In United’s current parlous financial state there can be few certainties that the club will – or can – spend more than £25 million on a transfer fee.

Perhaps an even greater barrier to any deal for Benzema is the player’s €8,500,000 – £7.02 million – annual contract that runs to June 2015. While the £163,000 per week before bonuses deal far exceeds United’s best paid player – Rio Ferdinand on £120,000 –  Spanish tax law places the Frenchman’s take-home pay into a relm United simply cannot match.

The UK’s 20 / 40 / 50 per cent tax bands would, assuming standard PAYE practices – in principal almost all footballers engage in legal tax avoidance schemes – leave Benzema with a net weekly wage of around £66,500 at Old Trafford. In Spain the player’s net is closer to £125,000 due to the so-called ‘Beckham’ law that enables the highest earning overseas workers to pay a flat-rate 24 per cent tax. While the law is being phased out it remains in place for current contracts, or the next five years in Benzema’s case.

The rub is this. United, to maintain the player’s current pay packet, will need to find an incredible £250,000 per week in gross wages unless the Frenchman accepts a huge pay cut. Footballers are many things. Philanthropists they are not.

The knock on effect on a Benzema transfer would surely be felt in the Glazers’ bean-counting office, with senior players such as Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra entitled to demand parity or close to it.

As the Americans are so fond of saying. You do the math.


My Opinion - July 2, 2010 Reply

Cynicism at its finest…or worst. I guess

william - July 2, 2010 Reply

Benzema has the same quality as Berbatov thus he was a bench player for Real. 25 million for him would be wasted money that should have been spent on Tavez. Do NOT buy him!!

Alfonso Bedoya - July 3, 2010 Reply

Nonsense… he’s nothing like Berbatov, and he’s more or less still a kid.

pjch - July 2, 2010 Reply

Oh my now thats a lot of wages and every club would gasp at the money he gets ( and £250000 wow ). But hold on If hes not wanted at Real he has 2 choices. The first he says stuff them and stays and takes the money – now thats a poor choice because his carreer would stagnate and he won’t be playing many games – French International up the spout etc. The 2nd he sees that hes not wanted at Real and looks to the future. No club will pay these wages so he has to cut his loses to further his ambitions. Where he ends up is up to him but if he is a footballer who wants to play every week he knows he has to move on and take a pay cut

ja - July 3, 2010 Reply

United are slowly being strangled by the Glazers. Even if he were prepared to take a substantial pay cut, no top player in his right mind would go to Old Trafford they want medals. The Glazers have set the bar at top 4 finish and quarter finals in CL.
Losing to Leeds and Burnley was no aberration, there is more to come as long as ‘no value in the market despite there being 95 million available’ means cheap untried punts like Smalling, Diouf and Hernandez are the only kind of reinforcements likely in the Glazer red ink future.

ben - July 3, 2010 Reply

should spend that money on Ozil. quality player and young. I genuinely dont’t think we need another striker, think hernandez looks sharp and would like to see him given a chance and got strikers coming thru the ranks ie will keane, josh king as well as kiko and welbeck. if u get benzema, they’ll never get a chance in the team.

Ozil can play left or centre and make things tick

eddieTheRed - July 3, 2010 Reply

Good article Ed; well – researched as ever; The numbers game precludes him from becoming a United player but he is also the prime suspect in the French underage prostitute scandal; seemingly he is the one who paid for an underage prostitute to be flown in to wherever the French players were staying; in order to book the flight (by credit card) he would have needed to submit the girl’s passport number; therefore he is deemed under French law to have knowledge of her passport and hence, prior knowledge of her age before the “act” took place; hence he is the only one of the group who has a case to answer under French law. I cannot see United touching him until this case is resolved regardless of the price of his services (nor would I want to see him at United; and I used to be one of his greatest admirers).

RedAlert260599 - July 5, 2010 Reply

Benzema rejected United – why give him another chance to do the same? I agree with Ben – Ozil would be perfect for us. Although out of all the players I’ve seen at the World Cup, Suarez is the one I’d most like to see at OT. This might be controversial on this site but he reminds me of Robbie Fowler, but fitter, stonger, and quicker. What a handful he is for any defender. Please Fergie, sign him up!

Luke Hewitt - July 5, 2010 Reply


‘Benzema rejected United.’ Erm, no he didn’t.


And where do you think United are going to find the £15m or so needed to buy Ozil? Down the back of Fergie’s sofa? In Malcolm’s underpants?

@Alfonso Bedoya

or simply the truth? or realism?

Airmchair Devil - July 5, 2010 Reply

So clearly he’d need to take a big pay cut. But let’s face it, even £65k p/w take home is more than enough for a life of luxury, so it’s not inconceivable he would take a cut… but yeah, that’s a lot of money to drop.

I think he’d be a good buy but clearly Berba would need to move on to make room with all the strikers we have already.

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