Salary inequality in soccer: Why does Neymar earn 175 times more than Marta? It may surprise you, but it’s not because of gender discrimination

Note from BBT: The origins of today’s post started with a video that I watched on YouTube, I guess a couple months ago now. You gotta love comedians, especially those who know how to break down a current debate or analyze a social issue that many people are thinking out. I like comedians who have the nerve to say things outloud that many of us were simply thinking but didn’t say outloud or perhaps did say and got mad pushback from others who couldn’t believe you said it. The latter has been me more times than I can remember for at least the last 15 years of my life.

I always love it when people looked at me in shock, don’t want to hear what I’m saying, can’t debate the topic or, my favorite, label me a conspiracy theorist. My thing is, NO, I don’t believe in every conspiracy theory that’s out there but, then again, when you do enough research on a certain topic and can back up your claims with facts, at some point, the topic leaves from the realm of conspiracy theory and becomes, simply conspiracy. Don’t bother asking me what conspiracies I’m talking about because this is not the platform for such discussions. But today, I will discuss a type of conspiracy theory that we’ve long heard about for years.

Let me just say, for years, I have supported the idea that certain groups of people are victims of an enormous conspiracy whose goal is to keep them in ‘their place’. I’ve discussed this much on thos blog in terms of the position of black Brazilians in Brazilian society. Don’t get me wrong, I am not completely backpeddling on my position, it’s just that I know that everytime you believe in something, you must be willing to test your conclusions even if the results show that what you believe is completely wrong. To be specific, we must question the idea of how certain groups are being legitimately ‘held back’, other explanations for their situations amd also question how many of them are at least partially to blame for their own condition.

Let’s take the question of salary differences according to gender. The obvious argument here is that women earn, on average, less money that men simply because they are women. But does the gender question really explain why men earn more money than women, or are there other factors to consider? When comedian Bill Burr brought up the issue of why female soccer and basketball players earn significantly less money than their male counterparts, he drove this point home. It’s not simply a question of skill or gender and this should be quite obvious.

After having heard the bit a few times, I remembered that this same topic had been debated in Brazil several years before, which what I want to discuss today. Some years ago, there was a discussion going on online that asked the question, “Why does Marta make so much less money than Neymar?” If you’re not a fan of soccer, or what Brazilians call futebol, you may not even know who Marta and Neymar are.

For years now, Neymar (hard to believe the guy just turned 30) has been one of the highest paid soccer players in world and his name has appeared on a number of posts on this very blog. On the other hand, Marta, one of the greatest women to ever kick a soccer ball around, is still a personality that I haven’t really discussed at length, even though she has appeared in a few posts.

Clearly being one of the best to ever lace up a pair of cleats, a lack of talent or influence are obviously not reasons why I haven’t written a full piece on her. But as much as I’ve covered on this blog since 2011, there are still numerous topics having to due with the issue of race that I simply haven’t gotten to.

Marta’s case is intriguing in terms of race as well. I wasn’t sure how Marta identified herself in terms of race. She has appeared on the cover of Raça Brasil magazine and people within Brazil’s movement for black rights also see her as black. Regardless of how she defines herself, her accomplishments place her among the best of all-time, of any team sport, male or female. Once called ‘Pelé in a skirt’, even ‘The King’ himself agreed the comparison. Maybe after this article, I will really need to set aside time to give Marta her flowers.

For now, let’s get into the discussion. Whether you know who Marta is, or Neymar for that matter, you’re sure to learn a little something about them in today’s post.

So, why does Marta earn so much less Neymar?

Why does Neymar earn 175 times more than Marta? It may surprise you, but it’s not because of gender discrimination

Courtesy of Brasil Paralelo, Geração de Valor, Estratégia Concursos

Both Neymar and Marta are standouts in what they do. Voted best player in the world six times by FIFA, Marta has a longer career, more titles, awards and honors. Even so, she is paid less than Neymar, who is younger and has no awards like hers.

Is this difference in their salaries a result of machismo and discrimination against women?

In Enem (Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio or National High School Exam) 2020, a question addressed the difference between Neymar’s and Marta’s salary. It is a great example for the salary difference between men and women.

To answer it, we have to resort to philosophy. According to Karl Marx, the value of a good or service is determined by the amount of labor employed. But this has not been verified in reality.

According to Marx, the value of a good/asset is determined by the amount of labor employed in its production. If there is more labor, there is more value; if there is less labor, the value is less.

Based on this reasoning, value, for Marx, is linked to the cost of producing a good. Since the labor factor is a cost in the production process (represented by the wage), goods that employ more labor in their production must cost more.

Based on this reasoning, Marx reached several conclusions. The most important of these was the exploitation of labor. For him, since only a portion of the income from the good was paid to the worker, the workers were exploited by their employers. Workers of the world, unite…

Marx also concluded on this premise that capitalism was doomed to fail. As there was a tendency for wages to fall, due to the “industrial reserve army” and increase of profits, capitalism would suffer a crisis of overproduction, which would lead to its end.

Marx was wrong on absolutely everything! The Marxist theory of value is a kind of “terraplanism” in economics.

Price is linked to value, not to the amount of labor. People’s willingness to purchase something changes, and as that willingness changes, so does the price.

When an institution pays Neymar more, it expects to make more profit from him. This, in fact, happens. If he didn’t give a return, he wouldn’t receive such a high salary. If they pay Marta less, it is because she brings less profit in comparison.

Even so, Marta is the second highest paid woman in women’s soccer. The comparison with Neymar, who is paid more than his male colleagues, is disproportionate and gives the impression that she is paid less because she is a woman. To evaluate only the number of goals and awards and compare the salary is insufficient and does not lead to the conclusion that there is discrimination. We need to go further.

Consider these questions:

How many fans watch Neymar’s game and how many watch Marta’s games?

Does she sell her sponsors’ products as well as he does?

Are the ticket prices for her matches sold in the same quantity and at the same value?

In general, are the audiences for men’s soccer proportional to those for women’s soccer?

Is the reality of women’s soccer as strong in Brazil as the men’s?

These are factors to be considered as well.

Exemplifying Marx’s theory even further, if two hours are used in the creation of a product, both should have the same price. But what about who made the product, the rarity, people’s desire to have it, and the art involved? This is not considered in his theory.

To talk about salary is not to talk about male and female sex, but about market. For example, PSG (Neymar’s team, Paris Saint-Germain) sells 1 million euros worth of shirts in one day, through Neymar. His high salary is not a male enhancement. The player brings profit and pays himself.

Marta earns 400 thousand dollars a year, according to an agreement between her sponsors and the team where she plays in Sweden. She has the second highest salary in the world of women’s soccer, second only to American star Alex Morgan, who currently plays for the San Diego Wave and has a salary of $450,000 per year.

In the face of all this controversy, some flags were raised, among them that Marta earned badly because she is a woman. However, it is worth making it clear that Marta earns more than 99% of the professional male players who play in Brazil, according to data from CBF (Confederação Brasileira de Futebol or Brazilian Football Confederation). By the way, 96% of the players who play in the country of soccer earn less than 5 thousand reais per month (source: CBF).

Therefore, we bust two myths in one shot:

1. Does a soccer player earn well in Brazil? It is quite different from what people fantasize. The average salary of soccer players in Brazil is lower than the average salary of teachers.

2. Does Marta earn poorly because she is a woman? No. First of all, she earns very well and still earns more than 99% of the male soccer athletes who play in Brazil.

But what if we compare her to Neymar?

1. Does she attract the same public as Neymar?

2. Does she sell her sponsors’ products as Neymar does?

3. Neymar plays for 77 thousand fans on average per game. Marta, despite her genius, plays for 1,000 fans per game in her club.

We need to understand that we earn proportionally for our rarity, for what we are capable of producing, and for the impact we generate in the market. Often, as in the case of athletes, depending on the impact that a particular sport has on the country, an athlete can be valued more or less. Rugby players are not even professionalized in Brazil, while in New Zealand they are national heroes. Therefore, if a Brazilian is a Rugby phenomenon, there is no point in complaining that he earns poorly in Brazil. It’s better that he moves to New Zealand, where the market gives him more value.

Alex Morgan, San Diego’s athlete, besides her salary, receives a few million dollars a year in advertising contracts signed with big companies. They compete for her image, because Morgan sells well, conveys good credibility, and, on the field, she is a national star. She wins by the impact she generates in the market, by what she sells, and by the attributes of her image that companies want to incorporate in their brands. She also earns more than the overwhelming majority of male soccer players playing in the USA.

So when it comes to talking about athlete salaries, we need to talk about market, not gender. After all, these two talented female players are at the top of the pyramid. Both Marta and Neymar are outstanding and nobody dares to disagree with that. However, they are paid differently and, in this respect, Neymar beats Marta by a landslide.

In his transfer to PSG, Neymar was valued at 600 million dollars for a period of 5 years. 250 million dollars went to Barcelona (his former club), while the former Santos player will receive 350 million dollars for the period. In addition, Forbes[1] estimates that Neymar receives around $17 million per year from advertising and sponsorships.

In other words, Neymar earns approximately 175 times more than Marta, if we consider only their salaries as soccer players.

It is a big difference, isn’t it?

And here comes the economic analysis. So, again, is this difference really the result of machismo or discrimination against women? Or is the difference driven by economic issues?

Are you still wondering why PSG pays so much for Neymar, while Orlando Pride pays so little (comparatively speaking) for Marta?

By paying that amount to Neymar, PSG believes they will be able to maximize profits, have a higher level of utility when compared to the scenario without Neymar.

After closing the deal with Barcelona and the Brazilian player, PSG’s manager, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, stated that the club became worth €300 million more. The club also increased its revenue with tickets, products, image rights, among other forms of income linked to the Brazilian player.

The same rationale applies to Marta, but with different values, as we have seen.

Since the male soccer audience is much larger than the female soccer audience, the marginal gain obtained by PSG with Neymar is much higher than the marginal gain obtained by Orlando Pride with Marta.

Conclusion: in economic terms, Neymar is worth more than Marta!

This is not a question of gender, discrimination against women, or misogyny. It is an economic issue: the higher the marginal utility of a good/asset, the higher its price/value.

We can apply the same reasoning to any market. If, for example, we consider the value of models (male and female), we will see that female models earn much more than male models. Go Gisele Bundchen!

By the way, it is interesting to note that Gisele Bundchen, a supermodel, earned twice as much (or more) than her husband, the superathlete Tom Brady, during his career.

Can anyone help me answer why?

Source: Brasil Paralelo, Geração de Valor, Estratégia Concursos

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. This is the worst article I’ve ever seen posted on this site. The headline and the article completely misses the point and relies on poorly thought out “economic” arguments to justify chauvinism.

    Why would you bother to post this article giving this weak excuse for gender inequality, positioning yourself as opposed to equity as it if makes you sound smart? This article and the poor logic it expresses are trash.

    It is easy to say today that the women’s game doesn’t generate the same amount of revenue as the men’s game and simply assume it is the natural course of things.

    The article never mentions the fact that women were legally outlawed from playing the sport for over 50years. Allowing the men’s game to develop in professionalism, sponsorship and fan bases. The women’s game is still in it’s infancy when it comes to professional development.

    Over this 50years, the Brasilian government (and governments around the world) invested heavily in the men’s game allowing it to flourish. Something they did not (and still haven’t committed to) do for the women’s game.

    Further, the women’s game is still plagued by thinly veiled chauvinism from male fans (and some women) who rather than take in the beauty and skill of the women atheletes as they are, always want to compare it to the men and judge the value against them. Despite again the men’s game (and skill level) having 50 years and an infinite amount of resources with which to develop while the women’s game have so little.

    Many young women who want to play in Brasil can’t even access regular training, clubs and leagues to compete in until they are much older. Putting their development individually years behind the men.

    We should marvel at the fact that women like Marta were able to develop and become so highly skilled at all given the context and lack of support around her.

    I spent a month in Brasil during July-August and tried to see a Flamengo women’s match. But was not allowed into the club house stadium (I’m not a club member) to see it. It’s as if they don’t expect, nor care if the women’s game would develop a fan base. I can go to the club house and buy tickets for the men’s team, but when I asked to purchase a ticket for the women’s team matches, they don’t even sell them in the club house!

    You won’t find any posters or images of the women’s team in the club house. So how can they ever develop a fan base, sponsors and investment if the clubs, and Federation make no attempt to promote and support them.

    This article is poorly thought out and easily dismissed. There is rampant discrimination against women athletes in Brasil and around the world that limit their commercial appeal and earning capacity.

    And finally, the Federation is not a for profit organization and has a responsibility to develop and support the men and women’s game. They must invest equitably and pay them equally for the work they put in to wear the colors and represent the nation in international play.

    • ‘’Poorly thought out and easily dismissed?’’ I don’t see it that way at all and if you disagree, that’s fine. I would never deny discrimination against women in sports. But, by the same logic, black athletes were the target of exclusion from sports 60-70 years ago. Today, they are some of the highest paid athletes in the world.

      The fact is, if you had a business and your employees wanted to make 100k per year but the income generated by your business only allows you to pay them 50k, where do you suppose this money is supposed to come from? Do you go bankrupt to pay what your workers demand or pay them what you can afford to pay them?

      If women supported women’s sports, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation because WOMEN ARE THE MAJORITY IN THE WORLD. Period. Marta should indeed make as much as Neymar, but where does this money come from? I cannot complain that I’m not making enough money if I choose to be an elementary school teacher. If I want more money, the answer is to enter a field where the salary is higher.

      How much would the income gap between black and white disappear if black people were to study in higher income professions? This also applies to women’s choices in majors and in job choices.

      So, as I said, I support the idea that women should be paid more money, but do tell me where this money is supposed to come from. I will dismiss your argument because you cannot argue with the facts and simple logic.

    • But you must be able to explain why it would be sexism. Please explain why Serena Williams earned so much money in her sport. I totally agree that women should be able to pull in the same figures as male athletes, but tell me where this money is supposed to come from when the stadiums where these sports are played aren’t filled to capacity.

      In Brazil, top male soccer players will never earn as much as they could in Europe because the money isn’t there, that’s why they go to Europe. And that’s talking about male players, which eliminates the sexism argument. Look at the empty stadiums in Brazilian stadiums. Explain how Neymar would earn 90-100 million Euros playing in Brazil.

      I’m not saying it’s fair because many female athletes are incredible but until women start packing the stadiums to see the women play, equal pay will never happen and that is not sexism.

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