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The curious science of sports salaries

Who’s the best worst player you can get?

By Benjamin Markovits   October 2019

Gareth Bale playing for Real Madrid. Photo: Carlos Sanchez Martinez/Zuma Press/PA Images

I once heard of an academic who used to do the rounds on the speakers’ circuit. He was enough of a big shot that people paid him to show up. This is how he negotiated his price. “I’ve got two talks,” he said. “A $1,000 talk and a $500 talk. I really recommend the $1,000 talk.”

The Gareth Bale saga made me think of him. As I write these words, he’s still under contract at Real Madrid—the…

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