Clubs often struggle to keep hold of their best players, especially with financial muscle becoming increasingly decisive in the modern game. Not much can be done to stop a wantaway heading for the exit door when he or she is offered higher wages and a new house thrown in with a handful of other incentives.
For clubs with expert business negotiators, inserting a release clause or buy-out clause can go a long way towards deterring rivals from pinching star players. Although there is a slight difference between the two terms, the result of offering to pay the required fee is virtually identical. For the sake of simplifying this article, it will include both types of fees.
A release clause legally binds a club to sell a player when it receives a bid that meets or exceeds an amount specified in his or her contract. This condition can be activated by various circumstances set out in a player’s contract including timing, relegation or failure to qualify for the Champions League. On the other hand, a buy-out clause sets a figure for which the player can buy his way out of his contract with the club.
Neither of these conditions are common in English, French, German or Italian football, but buy-out clauses are mandatory in Spain. However, these are rarely triggered due to a number of reasons, but mainly because the release sum often vastly exceeds the player’s estimated market value.
As the presence of money in football continues to rise, clubs will be become increasingly desperate to protect their most cherished assets from the clutches of richer, more prestigious rivals. As players attract bigger transfer fees, teams set higher buy-out and release clauses. It could be described simply as fighting fire with fire.
Here are the top 15 biggest release clauses in world football.
*All figures were converted to pounds based on conversion rates from June 26th, 2015.
15 Koke – £48m
14 Marc-André ter Stegen – £57.2m
13 Javier Mascherano – £71.5m
12 Gonzalo Higuain – £72m
11 Gareth Bale – £75m
10 Iker Casillas – £85.3m
9 T7. Sergio Busquets – £107m
8 T7. Jordi Alba – £107m
7 T7. Pedro Rodriguez – £107m
6 Neymar – £135m
5 T4. Jesé Rodriguez – £143m
4 T4. Andres Iniesta – £143m
3 Luis Suarez – £160m
2 Lionel Messi – £179m
1 Cristiano Ronaldo – £1 Billion
Whether Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo is the best footballer in the world, the Portuguese is unquestionably the more marketable player. Bearing in mind the two are virtually inseparable in terms of ability and statistics, commercial appeal could perhaps explain why the Real Madrid star’s buy-out clause is four-times greater than his arch rival. According to his agent Jorge Mendes, Ronaldo's buy-out clause sits an incredible £1 billion. Manchester United fans still dream of watching the 30-year-old play in red at Old Trafford again, but it would take a monumental fee to convince Real to let go of its record-breaking superstar.
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