In case you missed the latest rumor regarding Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s future, prepare to frown more than just a little bit.
According to multiple media outlets, the Swedish striker will be offered a ridiculous $75 million euros ($83.8 million US) by the Chinese government to play in the Chinese Super League. Yes, the Chinese government is willing to pay the salary of a Swedish international soccer star to play in a league that, while very volatile, is a serious threat when it comes to potentially ruining any Atlanta United plans of acquiring top European talent.
Why is this bad for Atlanta United? Even if he doesn't end up in China, it definitely means Zlatan is not in the future plans for AUFC.
While the money always looks nice, players don't get hyped to live in China for their foreseeable future. So let's assume that Ibrahimovic decides he doesn’t really want to play in China. That doesn’t necessarily do any favors for Atlanta United, or anyone else in MLS for that matter. $83 million is now the starting price for his notoriety, skill and name in whatever league decides to overpay for him. Any number thrown at him lower than $83.8 million would lead him to point at the Chinese Super League figure. Zlatan is going to get as close to that enormous amount as possible. And if you’re thinking "Blank is a billionaire. He can afford to spend big money," a signing like this wouldn’t make financial sense, EVEN if it meant winning MLS Cup in year one.
According to Soccernomics author, Stefan Szymanski, ticket revenue for the MLS alone was $120 million in 2014. That's a COMBINED $120 million, an average of $6 million per team. MLS financial information isn't made public, but I believe it's safe to assume ticket sales are the highest source of revenue for teams. Even adding additional revenue from sponsors and any other sales, I haven't factored in costs.
Just to give you a frame of reference as to how much Atlanta United WON'T spend for a player, Arthur Blank agreed to spend $70 million as an expansion fee simply to join MLS. We'd be asking Blank to pay more than his expansion fee for one player, for a very limited amount of time. We’ve heard Uncle Arthur say he wants AUFC to be competitive and are willing to spend right from day one, but Zlatan could cut the Super League number in half and it still wouldn’t make financially sense to sign him.
Kaka is paid $7.16 million by Orlando City SC and by that standard, I wouldn't expect the highest number Atlanta United would even consider would be near $10 million. Still an enticing number, but definitely not enough to pry Zlatan away from the Super League, specifically, the Super League money.