In 1957, taking in bonuses, wages and international match fees, a footballers income for the year would be £1,600 on average. Fast forward 55 years and compare it to the average in the Premier League in 2012, £75,000 a week is the rough average, with this average falling due to promoted teams in the league not being able to offer mammoth wages.
Reading statistics like that does make you think whether footballers in our generation are being ridiculously overpaid for their contribution to what is seen as a sport to many people, but with the astronomical rise of football, it is seen as more than a sport now, with top players being signed up for marketing purposes, with football clubs now confident that the heavy transfer fees they pay will be recovered through shirt sales and the image rights of a player. More and more clubs are looking to expand their fan base to appeal to a global market, and this does not come cheap, with the wage for an international star starting roughly above the average salary, around £80,000, and that’s if the club have discovered a talent before there is competition for a player.

The obvious counter arguement to people agreeing that footballers deserve their wages is ‘Being an athlete is a job. Naturally you would want the highest salary in any profession you are in.’ I would agree with this arguement to a certain extent, but do not agree that it could be applied in a footballing sense, as the issue of ‘loyalty’ would be raised. Francesco Totti, Del Piero, Paolo Maldini are perfect examples of players, who yes were on generous salaries (even though they are a snippet of todays player wages) can be labelled as players that deserve their income, purely for being ‘one club players’ which is a rare breed to find in the modern game. With Maldini retired, it is only a matter of time before Del Piero and Totti leave the game, and rather than looking for the highest pay packet when looking to renew their contracts, they constantly look for reassurances that they are guaranteed playing time to ensure they can entertain the fans of their respected clubs for as long as they can. Although these examples cannot give a clear justification for their wages, this gets us closer to a breed of players who may deserve a generous income, compared to another breed of footballers, who will hop from club to club in search of the greatest wage.

When the issue was raised to Manchester United great, Ryan Giggs, he firmly believed that footballers deserved the wages they earnt, and that they should look to make the most of their careers while the talent is still at their disposal. He also brought light to the fact that although footballers earnt big, it gave them the opportunity to distribute their earnings to those less fortunate, contributing to wider scale campaigns. Examples of these campaigns include the Didier Drogba foundation set up in his native Ivory Coast to offer the right of basic education and sport to the less fortunate in the country, whilst Michael Essien of Chelsea also donated a hefty percentage of his salary during the season he was injured to the construction of a new school in Ghana. Acts like these go a long way to respecting footballers, and the mentality towards footballer salaries are altered, as the general public know that money fans use for club tickets and merchandise are going towards a noble cause, rather than simply paying for footballer luxuries, such as the fancy cars and extravagant parties footballers are notoriously known to host.

If I was to be brutally honest, I believe the justification of football wages can solely be based on the success of the player and the club they represent. Although footballers are paid ridiculous bonuses for winning competitions (Yaya Toure receives a reported £825,000 if Manchester City qualify for the Champions League), the expectation is that they win the club trophies and bring success to the club, otherwise the manager or the transfer director would not have brought the player to the club. Prime examples of my belief are represented through Cristiano Ronaldo, and a few other footballers in world football. Besides the £80 million Real Madrid paid for the Portugese forward, his wages without images and sponsors are close to £200,000 a week, and in simple terms, is generally worth it as he blasted scoring records in the Spanish league, and helped Real Madrid overcome the might of Barcelona to give Madrid the La Liga title. If Ronaldo had signed for Real and not delivered in the Spanish League, questions would have been raised over his contribution to the team, and the huge wages he is offered would not have been justified. That is why in this current football market, using my logic to justify wages, it is difficult to determine whether players can live up to their price tag or wages until they are given time to represent the club, and only then can a judgement be passed on their contribution for their team. For players who are searching for a transfer or have already changed clubs, namely Robin Van Persie and Eden Hazard, it will be difficult to justify whether or not they are worth the money paid until they are given time at their new club.

What are your views on footballer wages? Should footballers be paid more or less than they are currently paid? Leave your comments below or share your views through my twitter page.

Dharmesh Tank