Posted in The Sport Review

All details correct as of May 2017.

The face of football has changed rapidly in the last decade and the root cause of this transformation is money. Big wads of it. From the television deals which inflate clubs pockets to mega-rich philanthropists who buy teams when they seek a new challenge in the world of business – the sport is swimming in currency.

Now, the gap between the elite teams and the rest is a yawning chasm, so the chase for top-flight football becomes a furious frenzy. The promised land awaits, and the cash may have stolen the heart from the game, but it can also revitalise those cash-strapped outfits. The ultimate double-edged sword.
The torrents of money rolls downwards, and it pools in the pockets of the players who are lured by the lucre. Wages for superstar players are reaching astronomical levels as managers go to the transfer market with a blank chequebook.

Players now command a weekly wage that most can only dream of. To illustrate this, here are the twenty highest paid footballers in the world in 2017:

20. Bastian Schweinsteiger. Now at Chicago Fire, formerly of Manchester United.

Salary = £200k per week. (Schweinsteiger now at Chicago Fire.)

The German World Cup winner may be languishing on Manchester United’s bench, but he is trousering a corking wage to do nothing. His move from Bayern Munich was meant to show Europe how United was still a force even though Sir Alex Ferguson may have gone, but injuries and a lack of faith from Jose Mourinho has seen this legendary figure of the game fall from prominence.

19. David De Gea. Manchester United

Salary = £200k pw

Manchester United may not be the force of old in terms of trophy-laden seasons – but they are still a powerhouse in terms of income. The £200,000 paid to goalkeeper De Gea is a drop in the ocean and is viewed as a sound investment after the Spaniard was their best player in the post-Fergie years. Will the money be enough to stave off interest from La Liga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona? 

18. David Silva. Manchester City

Salary = £210k pw

Quick-footed Silva was one of the influx of players Manchester City bought to flex their new found wealth when Sheikh Mansour purchased the club. He has since won two titles for the blue half of Manchester, and City fans would say that this large amount of money has been well spent. 

17. Ezequiel Lavezzi. Hebei China Fortune

Salary = £220k pw

The Argentine represents the first entry from the new force of football in China – but isn’t the last. Lavezzi joined from fellow moneybags outfit PSG, and he is one of the golden generation from his homeland in South America which includes Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuian and Lionel Messi. The versatile forward paved the way for more players to fly over and help China put their football league on the map.

16. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Manchester United

Salary = £220k pw

Another entry for Manchester United, and another for a former PSG man. The player who is known simply as Zlatan in some circles has seen and done it all in Europe. Spain, Italy, Netherlands and France, before coming to Old Trafford to link up with Jose Mourinho again, after doing so well in their time together at Inter Milan. The Swede has banged in the goals wherever he has gone – and even at 35 years old, this shows no sign of stopping. 

15. Asamoah Gyan. Shanghai SIPG

Salary = £227k pw

From Sunderland to China, via the UAE. Gyan lit up the North East in his short spell for the Mackems, but the call came from Al Ain and the Ghana striker showed where his allegiances lie. He has since gone to China and continued to rake in the dough, and is now on loan from Shanghai back to the UAE with Al Ahli. 

14. Luis Suarez. Barcelona.

Salary = £230k pw

The buck-toothed Suarez was idolised at Liverpool, coming close to single-handedly inspiring them to a first title in over two decades. He had offers elsewhere, but he was adamant that he must go to Barcelona. It has been the dream move for the Uruguayan, and the mistakes of the past have melted away in the face of a hatful of goals and a deadly partnership with Lionel Messi and Neymar which has seen them lift all manner of silverware. A shrewd buy even in the face of such high demands.

13. Sergio Aguero. Manchester City.

Salary = £230k pw

The lethal Aguero has been the leading light in the Premiership when it comes to goals, and he has shown remarkable loyalty to City since joining. The Argentine has been the model of consistency and his performances have given a helping hand to City in their quest for domestic and European dominance. He may be currently on the bench watching upstart Gabriel Jesus take his spot – but there will be no doubt he will do the busniess when he pulls the shirt on again.

12. Yaya Toure. Manchester City.

Salary = £230k pw

If Aguero was the blade of the Manchester City sword when winning their trophies in the last 5-6 years, then Toure was the hand which propelled it. The Ivorian has eviscerated midfields since joining in 2010. When on the ball, he has proved nigh-on impossible to stop, and despite being in his twilight years in his career, he has been recalled to Pep Guardiola’s service recently. £230,000 can get him plenty of birthday cake….

11.  Robin Van Persie. Fenerbahce.

Salary = £240k pw

The Dutchman was patiently modelled by Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, and he came good in spectacular fashion. He then chose to join rivals Manchester United, where he won them the title thanks to his bagful of goals. It petered out at Old Trafford, but the Dutchman is still doing what he does best in Turkey for Fenerbahce. For a 33yr old, he is doing well to earn this princely sum.

10. Wayne Rooney. Manchester United.

Salary = £260k pw

Even though Rooney had been terrorising defences and winning trophies from the moment he joined United from Everton – when the England and United record goalscorer signed his latest deal, it caused consternation across the UK. It was the first time a player had commanded such a number, and he was in his thirties at the time! He must have a fantastic agent. Injuries have hampered him in recent years as well as poor form, but Rooney still does the business when called upon. 

9. Neymar Jr. Barcelona.

Salary = £275k pw

The great hope of Brazilian football and the man with more tricks than a magician’s pocket, Neymar’s initial transfer may have been investigated, but he hasn’t let that hamper him. The second of the famed triumvirate which is firing the Catalan club to goals and more goals – Neymar is proving that sometimes, you get exactly what you pay for.

8. Graziano Pelle. Shandong Luneng Taishan FC

Salary = £290k pw

This is the third entry from a newly empowered Chinese club, but the player himself must be laughing all the way to bank. Pelle was enjoying moderate success at Southampton – 23 goals in 68 appearances – before the Far East called and dropped a ludicrous number in his lap. Can you blame the Italian for upping sticks? He is now getting paid more than Neymar and Wayne Suarez! And you thought Rooney’s agent was good at his job….

7. Paul Pogba. Manchester United.

Salary = £290k pw

The extravagantly-coiffured Pogba gets the accolade for highest earner in the Premier League, as his weekly earnings grant him the 7th spot. He is also the world’s most expensive player, after joining the Mourinho revolution at Old Trafford in 2016. He may sometimes be in the headlines for his dancing and hairstyles rather than his footballing exploits, but his talent is undeniable. The Frenchman is still young and will only get better. 

6. Hulk. Shanghai SIPG

Salary = £320k pw

Hulk has been somewhat of a journeyman in his career. A maverick for hire, the Brazilian will take his boots and play anywhere that will pay him adequately for his services. Japan, Portugal, Russia and now China have recruited the player who has a reputation for goals and an amazing exocet of a shot, but also that of a mercenary. Hulk is the first on the list to break the mystical and lucrative £300k pw barrier. He had best score a shedload of goals for that kind of money.

5. Lionel Messi. Barcelona.

Salary = £336k pw

There hasn’t been much that hasn’t been said about Messi. The one thing that really points out how good he is, is his goals. 328 in just 365 games. Just like Maradona and Pele, arguments are still rife as to who is better – is it Messi or is it his lifelong rival Cristiano Ronaldo? It is difficult to separate the two, but we should just enjoy them both while they are here. His wage is one of the few that most would say is great value. Messi is quite simply unstoppable. 

4. Gareth Bale. Real Madrid.

Salary = £350k pw

From humble beginnings has Gareth Bale hailed from. There was a time when in his infancy with Tottenham when he could not buy a win when in the team. Now, he is a genuine world-class player and has won the Champions League twice. The Welshman has also seen his country revived through his creative talents – reaching the Semi-Finals of Euro2016. There appears to be nothing he cannot do. 

3. Cristiano Ronaldo. Real Madrid.

Salary = £365k pw

The never-ending duel for supremacy between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may be no nearer an answer, but the Real frontman has won the war of wonga between the two. The Portuguese sensation has done so much for his club, and his 273 goals in just 251 games is truly remarkable. He has also done something else that Lionel Messi has been so far unable to do – and lift a major honour with his country, after winning Euro2016 for Portugal. He may clear a hefty amount of money each week, but it would be hard to find anyone who could say he hasn’t done his best to reimburse his club. Champions Leagues and La Liga’s have been lifted, and so has Ronaldo’s soaring reputation as one of the finest in the game.

2. Oscar. Shanghai SIPG

Salary = £400k pw

Oscar is a fantastic playmaker who had been flitting in and out of the Chelsea side when China approached his agent. So the offer that was put on the table was more than enough to lead him away from the Chelsea bench. The playmaker could well retire from football after a few years netting this money each week, and at 25 years old as of now – that means he could be sunning himself back home in Brazil two years before he hits his thirties. Oscar’s talent is there for all to see, but with still so much to prove, was this move all about the money over footballing ideals?

1. Carlos Tevez. Shanghai Shenhua

Salary = £615k pw.

Who could have seen this coming for Tevez when he signed for West Ham in 2006? From there, he played for both Manchester clubs – winning titles at both – before joining Juventus in 2013. He then moved back home to his boyhood club Boca Juniors in 2015, and this move was presumably his last before retirement. It appears that any man has his price however, and at 33, the Argentine joined Shanghai Shenhua for a monstrous £615k per WEEK. That should be enough to set up a college fund for the kiddies and maybe a nice holiday home somewhere, right? His wage dwarfs every player on this list, and if it is a sign of things to come – then the big leagues in Spain, Germany and England will be very worried about keeping their top talent.