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Messi Worth Twice as Much as Ronaldo, Study Says; Only?

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The economic (market) value of FC Barcelona's Argentine superstar Lionel Messi is more than twice that of the second-best soccer player in the world, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo who plays for Real Madrid, according to an annual report published in June by the CIES Football Observatory .

Fully endorsed by FIFA, soccer's world governing body, the CIES ( International Center for Sports Studies) Football Observatory is a respected research group that provides detailed statistical analysis of the football players' labor market in the "big five" European leagues - English Premier, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1.

If a club would like to acquire Messi's services, its initial transfer offer to FC Barcelona should be well over $300 million. Estimated on the basis of an exclusive econometric model, Messi's transfer value is between 217 and 252 million euro ($279 million and $324 million), according to the report. The upper limit is very close to the buyout clause (250 million euros / $321 million) in Messi's contract to Barcelona, which runs through 2018.

Ronaldo's estimated value is listed at between 102 and 118 million euro, still above the 94 million, the highest transfer fee in football history, that Real Madrid paid Manchester United in 2009. For whatever reason the Swiss researchers never used in their study criteria suggested by Madrid media and Real fans in their laughable attempt to push their guy up to Messi's stature. Yes, Cristiano runs faster and jumps higher, but we're not talking track and field here.

Messi was God's gift to Barcelona. As everybody knows, Barça got Messi for free when Catalan legend Carles Rexach signed him on a restaurant napkin 13 years ago. Well, they paid his medical bills for a while and kept him in La Masia, but look at the rewards. Messi and Barcelona have been the top two words in world soccer for a half-decade now.

With such a staggering price on his head, and emerging Brazilian megastar Neymar, the second-hottest player in the world right now on its roster, should Barça consider selling Messi, as Catalan icon Johan Cruyff suggested recently? What if a crazy Russian billionaire or an ambitious sheik puts, let's say, a half-billion on the table? How does Barcelona president Sandro Rosell say no to such a windfall?

He must, because some things just don't happen, even if in our materialistic world everyone and everything has a price. Michael Jordan never left Chicago, though he wasn't always happy. Kobe Bryant sulked, but he's still in L.A. Can you really imagine Messi in a different camiseta ?

For sports talent movers, filthy rich owners or Swiss researchers with too much time on their hands - Pedro and Fellaini yes, but no Ibrahimovic in the top 60? Are you nuts? - Messi may be worth two Ronaldos, four Cavanis, five Rooneys or 10 Iscos, but for Barcelona supporters and Messi fans worldwide La Pulga is invaluable. Today the Barça universe begins and ends with Messi. The club motto should be rewritten - Messi que un club! Can you have a solar system without the sun?

Vladimir Moraru played soccer for 15 years and has watched it for 60. He hasn't seen a player like Messi and a team like FC Barcelona

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