European football · Football finances & business · Playing football · Professional players · World football

Player Salaries

The following is a list of footballers earning £100,000 a week or more extracted from a list of the 50 highest paid football players for 2008/2009, which appeared on  “Futebol Finance” on 5 February 2009:

Player Club

Week (£)

1 Zlatan Ibrahimović Internazionale 166,000
Ricardo Kaka AC Milan 166,000
3 Lionel Messi Barcelona 156,000
4 John Terry Chelsea 140,000
Frank Lampard Chelsea 140,000
6 Thierry Henry Barcelona 138,000
Samuel Eto’o Barcelona 138,000
8 Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United 125,000
9 Ronaldinho Gaucho AC Milan 120,000
Andrei Shevchenko AC Milan 120,000
Michael Ballack Chelsea 120,000
Steven Gerrard Liverpool 120,000
Rio Ferdinand Manchester United 120,000
14 Raul Gonzalez Real Madrid 118,000
Ruud van Nistelrooy Real Madrid 118,000
16 Iker Casillas Real Madrid 110,000
Frederic Kanouté Sevilla 110,000
18 Wayne Rooney Manchester United 110,000
Michael Owen Newcastle United 110,000
20 Fabio Cannavaro Real Madrid 107,000
21 Robinho Manchester City 105,000
22 Francesco Totti AS Roma 101,000
Luca Toni Bayern Munich 101,000
24 Arjen Robben Real Madrid 100,000
25 Ashley Cole Chelsea 100,000
Deco Chelsea 100,000
Fernando Torres Liverpool 100,000

It includes a note that players in the Premier League have dropped down the list as a result of the fall in the value of the British Pound against the Euro.

It would appear to be the salary contracted to be paid by the club to the player, and I imagine it does not include additional income, such as from endorsements.

Footballers have come a long way since the early days of the Association Footballers’ Union, the precursor to the Professional Footballers’ Association, in the late 19th century:

The Association Footballers’ Union (1898 – 1901) was the name of the first attempt by football players to combine themselves into a union within the United Kingdom.

The Association (‘AFU’) was formed in Liverpool in February, 1898 in response to the proposal of Derby County FC to introduce a maximum wage in professional football in England in September, 1893. Officials at that club suggested that £4 should be the maximum rate paid to a player. At the time some players were earning more than this.

This issue was compounded by a League decision of the same year (1893) to limit the freedom of players, contracted to play for one club, who wished to move to another club. Therefore if a decision was made by a club to limit the earnings of their best players, then their best players could not go to another to earn more if the club for whom they were contracted to play refused to sanction the move.

The highest earning players in the country therefore combined to create the AFU in order to safeguard their interests and to force the League to withdraw the resolution which kept players at clubs until those clubs freed the players from their contracts.

….The reason why that Union failed was due, firstly, to the fact that the players of the day were not all professionals. Whereas they were paid by the clubs to play, the vast majority of players were employed in addition to their role as footballers. ….

The result of this state of affairs was that income earned by players was supplementary to that earned in their working lives. Players earning less than the maximum wage (and who could easily be sacked from their positions with clubs) did not fully back the high earners in the game. As a result the higher earning players found themselves without the required support to push through the movement’s proposed objectives.

The other issue arising from the AFU is that whereas some clubs ignored the proposal of Derby County in order to attract star players, the fact that the players could not leave clubs freely limited their earning powers considerably. …. Therefore the high earners, who were famous and who could bring the necessary publicity and drive to such a movement, soon found themselves in a position where their only option was to either submit to the proposal or go elsewhere and join clubs not affiliated with the Football League.

…. Other notable figures from that first movement journeyed South to play for clubs in the Southern League whose club directors were quite willing to pay the excess salaries for the available talented players. …

The increase in the respective strength of the Southern League and Football League itself is underlined by the fact that Southampton and Tottenham both reached the final of the FA Cup around the turn of the century.  ….

The AFU was a progenitor of the Professional Footballers’ Association in that it created a precedent for footballers to organise themselves into a collective. But it did not last and the Union dissolved itself in 1901.

The balance of power between clubs and players has come a long way since the early 20th century. However, I think it’s gone as far as it can.

With clubs facing a credit crunch, it is inevitable that the balance will start shifting back in favour of the clubs before long.

The market will sort itself out, in the longer term if not in the short term. You don’t need American-style salary caps, or FIFA’s daft 6-5 principle.


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