Japanese baseball sensation Shohei Ohtani surpasses Lionel Messi, signs $700 million deal with Los Angeles Dodgers

Japanese baseball sensation Shohei Ohtani has signed a $700 million (£558m) 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the biggest deal in the sport’s history, surpassing football legend Lionel Messi’s four years’ deal with Barcelona of $674 million, reported BBC.

This deal is the largest ever in US Major League Baseball (MLB), making Ohtani one of the world’s highest-earning athletes.

Earlier in July 2023, Messi had signed a contract with Inter Miami where he would earn close to $60 million per year which includes his salary, owning a stake in Inter Miami and his signing bonus. The contract would run from this July 1 2023 until late December 2025, NBC Sports quoted Inter Miami managing owner Jorge Mas as saying.

Widely known and seen as among the best to have ever played the game, Ohtani was the most coveted target in baseball in current times.

Earlier, the bidding war for his signature started when Ohtani opted to leave the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent following his contract expired following a six-year stint.

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“This is a unique, historic contract for a unique, historic player,” The Guardian quoted Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, as saying in a statement. “He is excited to begin this partnership, and he structured his contract to reflect a true commitment from both sides to long-term success.”

According to reports, the value of the contract ranks alongside the amount megastars like footballer Lionel Messi or basketball player LeBron James have commanded.

Ohtani’s total was 64 percent higher than baseball’s previous record, which is $426.5m, 12-year deal for Angels outfielder Mike Trout that began in 2019, reported The Guardian. 

Experts believe Ohtani is equally skilled at both disciplines compared to most baseball players who specialize in batting or pitching.

In 2021, Ohtani won the American League MVP award, and in March he Japan to a famous victory over the US in March. This was Japan’s first-ever win over the Americans in the final of the World Baseball Classic championship.

In a statement posted on Instagram, Ohtani said the Angels would be “etched in my heart forever”, adding: “Until the last day of my playing career, I want to continue to strive forward not only for the Dodgers but for the baseball world.”

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Published: 10 Dec 2023, 03:40 PM IST

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