Are footballers only in it for the money?

Premier League

Money makes the world go round. And in the eyes of many people it is the demon that sits on the shoulders of footballers. The one club players are now few and far between. Those that remain loyal to clubs are from a different generation of player. Youngsters moving through the game now are paid vastly more than ten years ago. But are players only motivated by the allure of a huge pay cheque?

In 2008, Robinho’s reputation in England was cemented before he had the chance to pull on a Manchester City shirt. Chelsea had been interested in signing the Brazilian but after City lost out on the services of Dimitar Berbatov the Sky Blues hijacked Robinho’s transfer to the capital. It is believed he never undertook a medical at City and never fully understood the terms of his contract. In a press conference he was publicly corrected that he was signing for Manchester City – and not Chelsea as he believed.

At the last moment he saw pound signs decorated with Manchester City’s colours dangled before his eyes and he leapt at them. On the same day Berbatov said, “The red shirt is a really, really big thing for me. I don’t play for the money. If I want to play for the money, I would have accepted Manchester City’s offer.” Robinho accepted £160,000 per week – £100,000 more than the next highest earning Manchester City player – and from that moment on he was brandished with the label of being greedy.

Ashley Cole earned himself the nickname ‘Cashley’ when he famously kicked up a fuss after his contract demands were not met by Arsenal. He wanted £60,000 per week but was offered £55,000. When he found out about the lower offer he said, in his autobiography, it made him “tremble with anger”. He later accepted a move across London to arch rivals Chelsea for a weekly wage of £90,000 and to forever be remembered by Arsenal fans as a traitor. It is not unfair to suggest his move was motivated by money.

But the reason Cole, and others including Robinho, got into the game in the first place would not have been because of the money. The money comes with the game. If someone is doing their job well and enjoying it – why shouldn’t they accept an offer of more money? But in Robinho’s case he thought he was signing for Chelsea, a team who had rediscovered a title winning mentality. He had accepted the move to City because of the money.

Carlos Tevez earns £615,000 per week in China. The quality of football in the league is incredibly poor and offers little challenge to the superstars of world football. Tevez has moved around a number of clubs in transfers engineered by his profit fuelled third party owner and agent, Kia Joorabchian.

The Brazilian midfielder, Oscar, left Chelsea to earn £400,000 per week in China. This is a young man who has not entered the peak years of his career. Instead of aiming to become one of the brightest stars of world football he opted to play in a national league so noncompetitive that the poorest sides in the MLS would hand out drubbings every week.

Wayne Rooney, already earning £260,00 per week, has flirted with the idea of a big money move to China. But the difference between Rooney and Oscar is only one of them is approaching the twilight years of their career. Oscar’s desire for money and distinct lack of ambition is embarrassing and clearly a financial decision only.

When youngsters are playing in the playground, they are not thinking: “I want to be a footballer because they earn lots of money.” They want to be footballers because they love the game in the purest form. They love to play football. It is that simple. And with success comes the monetary reward.

Footballers earn obscene amounts of money in an increasingly commercialised game that continues to swell with further financial income. Money pours in from all directions. Sky pay over £3 billion a year to secure rights to televising games. Shirt sponsorships can reach massive sums, as Chevrolet pay Manchester United up to £53 million per year. Sales of kits have reached an all time high with Manchester United shifting an average of 1.75 million shirts every year between 2011 and 2016.

Fans continue to pay prices many seem as extortionate even in an age where the average Premier League season ticket costs £500 a year. Realistically, if ticket prices were too expensive then fans would not pay and clubs would have to reduce prices. But attendance is consistently high across the league. The average Premier League stadium is 95% full – with the average only pulled down by Hull City’s 80% and Sunderland’s 85%.

The players are the draw for fans. They are the main attraction of the spectacle of live football. The market dictates the value of elements within the game. Considering the commercial demand of football and the vast amounts of money pumped in, it would seem player salaries are proportional – and therefore reasonable.

In the movie industry, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson earned £64.5 million in 2016, making him the world’s highest paid actor. That is without any sponsorships, endorsements or other fees on top. In comparison, Cristiano Ronaldo earns £27 million a year from Real Madrid. His salary increases to £88 million after lucrative endorsements and sponsorship. When comparing the demands of a professional footballer to that of an actor it again seems reasonable to again suggest player wages are in proportion.

Ultimately, footballer’s wages are out of control due to the lucrative nature of the game. They are paid by club owners who can choose to pay players, or build new training complexes, or attach hotels to the side of the stadium. Such is the profitable demand of football they have the luxury of being able to afford all these options.