This past week, the Spanish newspaper Marca reported that Ricky Rubio, the boy wonder of Spanish basketball, had his rights transferred to Regal FC Barcelona though doubts remain if it is a done deal. Earlier this summer, Rubio was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the fifth pick overall in the NBA draft. The Timberwolves want to sign Rubio but are prevented from doing much by an arcane NBA rule prohibiting their clubs from paying more than US$500,000 (Dh1.8m) in a player transfer.
This laughable transfer allowance, combined with the weak US dollar, makes it difficult for NBA clubs to negotiate player transfers with European clubs. As a result, the players themselves have to pay if they want to transfer to the NBA. Since the age of 14, Rubio has starred for DKV Joventut Badalona. Joventut want to sell off Rubio, whose contract allegedly stipulates a 5.75m (Dh30.1m) buyout. As of Wednesday, FC Barcelona have offered a reported 3.7m for him.
On the face of it, Barcelona's offer is not bad. In fact, it would be a record transfer fee for a European basketball team. But there is always a wrinkle. Badalona is a suburb of Barcelona and there is an obvious cross-town rivalry. Joventut are loathe to face Rubio six times a year in Spanish league play. There is already talk in Spain that Joventut fans will quit backing their club out of disgust should Joventut accept Barcelona's offer.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, Minnesota are going to be a brutal team for the next two or three years, so Rubio will have plenty of opportunities to play and gain NBA experience. I have good information that the people in charge at Joventut want nothing more than to see Rubio in a Timberwolves uniform. More than anything, the Badalona club need money. They are in serious financial trouble and are in arrears with the Spanish tax authority.
I am told that the boy wonder wants to leave Spain. Rubio has repeatedly said that his dream is to play in the NBA. He should pay a buyout and get on with it. If indeed Joventut loathe the prospect of dealing with Barcelona, Rubio should match the buyout Barcelona are offering. Presumably Joventut would rather take the 3.7m from Rubio (including Minnesota's league-mandated $500,000) than endure the humiliation of dealing with Barca.
While the sum is not small, the boy is still going to earn a hefty salary. As fifth pick, he will earn $2.72m his first year and $2.92m in his second. Those figures are a bit inaccurate, as rookies can and do receive 20 per cent more than the pre-determined rookie salaries in the NBA's collective bargaining agreement. And the Spaniard would have to really stink for the Timberwolves to not extend the team option, a third-year rookie salary of $3.13m.
All up, Rubio could make $10.5m over the next three NBA seasons. Subtracting the buyout capital, he would still make about $5.25m over three years. Furthermore, if he lives up to the hype, his endorsement contracts would go through the roof. I hear that Nike are paying him about $200,000 over the next three years. Surely Nike would rip up their existing contract and give Rubio something much more lucrative and long-term.
In this scenario, everyone wins. Joventut get paid. Minnesota gets their guy. Rubio goes to the NBA and the league's fans rejoice. If you are left thinking that Rubio loses, just remember that he and his parents accepted Joventut's original albeit ludicrous terms some years back. @Email:email@example.com