Messi hailed as 'global example' amid footballer pay-cut debate

Sports psychologist Tom Bates thinks Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney are showing the way forward for footballers during the COVID-19 crisis.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi   -  Getty Images

Barcelona star Lionel Messi is "a global example" when it comes to the debate over footballers and pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a sports psychologist.

Messi issued a statement on behalf of the Barca first team on March 30 to confirm that the players had agreed to a 70 per cent reduction in wages to help to ease the financial burden on the club while football is largely at a standstill.

The players are also making further financial contributions to ensure Barca's non-playing employees can take home their full wages while LaLiga remains suspended during Spain's nationwide lockdown.

READ: United boss Solskjaer says players are 'easy target' in pay row

Atletico Madrid announced last week that its players would be taking a similar pay reduction.

The decisions from two of Spain's top clubs encouraged debate over the practices of the Premier League elite, whose players are yet to announce any definitive agreement on wage reductions or financial contributions towards frontline health systems.

Tom Bates believes Messi and Barca's example will help to encourage other clubs to follow suit while the COVID-19 crisis persists.

"The players that I have spoken with from the Premier League all the way through, they have different perspectives, naturally," he told Stats Perform.

"One of the things that the guys have said is, 'Well, actually at our club we are quite a wealthy club, so we could probably afford to keep our staff paid, but other clubs in different leagues won't be able to do that'. Others feel like taking a pay cut to keep their staff on board is absolutely fine.

"The classic case is Leo Messi, who started this and was one of the first players to take a 70 per cent pay cut in order to make sure the staff at Barcelona were able to carry on working, and I think that really is a global example to everybody when you're talking about that level in money in wages, and that type of athlete.

"I am very privileged: I have met Leo Messi and [Pep] Guardiola over there in Barcelona together as a team, and it doesn't surprise me that they are leading the way with this.

"If there was going to be a global example of a player out there doing something for the greater good of their club – and he embodies that for me – so, in my professional opinion, if you can afford that and if you're able to support by taking a pay cut, then clearly those who need it the most are going to benefit."

Bates also praised the influence of former Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney in encouraging conversations around mental health.

Writing for The Times, Derby County star Rooney outlined how the suspension of the football calendar could have implications for the mental wellbeing of players who have seen their routine grind to a halt.

READ: Rooney critical of Premier League's decision, says players left in 'no-win situation'  

"Wayne is in many ways an ambassador, he is a cultural leader for the game, especially because what he has achieved at international level, and certainly to be continuing his career even now and still performing at a very high level encourages others to do the same," Bates said.

"When you have somebody like Wayne come and be very open and very honest about mental health on a global level within the game, that can only be a good thing because it encourages others to have conversations, to open up conversations and be courageous enough to talk about their own mental health, and of course talking about it is the first step to improving it."

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