Last week the 2023 Salary Guide for the MLS was released. This is some of the best data we have on salaries in football as it comes directly from the players association. The data contains salary information for all MLS players under contract as of September 15, 2023. Messi is earning $20,446,667.00 in Guaranteed Compensation. While there is still a great degree of inequality in pay, there are now 114 MLS players earning $1m or higher in Guaranteed Compensation.
The Lorenz curve below is a useful way to visually represent the income (in)equality across the 2023 salaries. The graph plots the relationship between the percentage of the population of players (924) according to their guaranteed compensation and cumulative income. The diagonal line represents perfect equality in income and the curve offers visual insight on how far away from this equal distribution the actual salary distribution is - the further the curve is beneath the straight diagonal line, the higher the level of inequality.
The Gini coefficient is 0.6 suggesting there is a substantial gap in earnings. This is a measure of dispersion and is the ratio of the area between the perfect equality line and the curve. The higher the Gini coefficient (0-1), the more unequal the distribution is. In a simply sense, this figure tells us that a bigger share of the total budget is in the hands of a relatively small group of players.
Does it matter? It may for individual franchises. There is evidence in sport that teams with lower levels of wage inequality can achieve higher win rates. Maybe paying Messi so much more than his colleagues is not the best idea?