Neymar vs. Gareth Bale: Examining Which Side Got the Best Transfer Deal

Nick Dorrington@@chewingthecocaSpecial to Bleacher ReportMarch 21, 2015

ELCHE, SPAIN - JANUARY 24:  Neymar JR of Barcelona celebrates after scoring during the La Liga match between Elche FC and FC Barcelona at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero on January 24, 2015 in Elche, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Neymar and Gareth Bale both moved to La Liga in the summer of 2013. Neymar joined Barcelona from Santos in May, while Bale signed for Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur on September 1.

The transfer fee for Neymar was eventually revealed by Barcelona (h/t Rob Harris of The Associated Press) to be €86.2 million, while Madrid paid €91 million to sign Bale, as per FIFA.com.

With nearly two seasons of football under their belts and with the pair of them set to lock horns in Sunday’s Clasico, we can now reasonably ask the question: Which side got the best transfer deal?

We can start by looking at the top-line output of the players in their time in Spain to date, taking into account goals and assists in La Liga and the Champions League.

Per data from WhoScored.com (plus additional author calculation), here first are Neymar’s figures.

SeasonMinutesPer 90sGoalsAssistsG+A Per 90
2013-142,53228.1313110.85
2014-152,27125.232040.95
Total4,80353.3733150.90

And, again using data from WhoScored, those for Bale.

SeasonMinutesPer 90sGoalsAssistsG+A Per 90
2013-142,95532.8321161.13
2014-152,66429.601460.68
Total561962.4335220.91

The totals put the pair on an even footing, separated by just 0.01 direct contributions to a goal per 90 minutes of action since their arrival in Spain.

Bale had a much better top-line output during his first season. In addition, he provided some key goals, including the winner in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona and the go-ahead goal vs. Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final in May.

The tables have, however, been turned during the current campaign. Neymar’s goalscoring record, in particular, has improved his own statistics and also seen him comfortably get the better of Bale, who has suffered a significant drop-off.

And it is not just the Brazilian’s top-line output that has improved. Per Michael Caley of ESPN FC, the number of shots he has attempted or assisted from inside the danger zone (“This region, the centre of the penalty area, is where the majority of goals come from”) has increased during his second campaign in Spain.

Bale has struggled a little during his second season in Spain.
Bale has struggled a little during his second season in Spain.Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

This was perhaps to be expected. Bale came to Madrid on the back of an excellent Premier League campaign with Spurs and some experience playing in the Champions League. Neymar arrived at Barcelona having never before played outside of his native South America.

The Catalan side knew they were buying a talented 21-year-old with big potential for improvement. Madrid were signing, in the 24-year-old Bale, someone they considered much closer to the finished article.

TransferMarkt estimated Neymar’s value in the summer of 2013 to be €50 million, in comparison to €80 million at the time of writing. Bale, too, has a current valuation of €80 million but was valued at €65 million upon his move to Madrid.

If we take into account the full value of each transfer deal, including wages and other considerations, we can see how much each of the two players have contributed in comparison to the money spent on them.

Barcelona have, helpfully, made these details public for Neymar, as illustrated in the tweet below. The left-hand column shows their official figures for the transfer, totalling €86.2 million.

Over the length of his five-year contract, that works out at €17.24 million per year.

Bale signed a six-year deal when he joined Madrid, on a reported weekly salary of £300,000, as per ITV. That equals £15.6 million per year, which is €21.5 million at current exchange rates. Added to the €91 million fee, that puts the total cost at €112.5 million.

That works out at €18.75 million per year.

We are around three-quarters of the way through the current campaign. Taking this into account, the following table displays the Euro cost of each direct goal contribution to date.

Player1.75-Year CostGoals + AssistsEuro Cost per G or A
Gareth Bale€32,812,500.0057€575,657.89
Neymar€30,170,000.0048€628,541.67

By this measure, Bale has offered better value for money so far. However, that will soon change if Neymar continues to produce a better top-line output than the Welshman throughout next season.

In truth, both clubs will be relatively pleased with their purchases to date.

Bale made key contributions to the two trophies Madrid won last season. Jose Felix Diaz of Marca (h/t ESPN FC), wrote on Friday that while the club are not considering selling Cristiano Ronaldo anytime soon, they do view Bale as a ready-made replacement for the Portugal international. And it is certainly possible that with the same freedoms afforded to Ronaldo, his numbers would increase.

Neymar has enjoyed a much improved second campaign in Spain and can be expected to continue this progression over the course of his contract at the Camp Nou.

There can be no doubt that the latter is currently in the ascendancy, while Bale is enduring a difficult season in comparison to his relatively trouble-free debut campaign. But at the current moment in time, it is tough to definitively say that one deal was better than the other. Only time will reveal this in full.

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