Early Doors

Football’s worst-paid players

Early Doors

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Football has changed since Jimmy Hill campaigned successfully for the abolition of the maximum wage (£20 a week) in 1961.

Or at least, footballers' bank balances have. The average salary for a Premier League player has increased by a factor of around 1,000, making millionaires of even the most limited players (Early Doors is looking at you, Dean Whitehead).

In truth, ED doesn't have a problem with footballers earning a lot of money. Lots of people are prepared to pay handsomely to watch games, and ED would rather the cash went to the players than the suits.

Are £100,000-a-week wages any more obscene than a gaelic football match played in front of 80,000 at Croke Park, bringing in gate receipts of €2,500,000, for which the players are rewarded with four free tickets each? Not in ED's book.

Still, it is nice to see the occasional footballer rip up Pascal Chimbonda's "it's all about the money" script and give something back.

Like Oguchi Onyewu, who has signed a one-year contract extension with Milan during which time he will be paid nothing, so guilty is he at missing a full season through injury.

Roma's Damiano Tommasi did something similar in 2005. The crazy-haired midfielder showed his left-wing credentials (in politics, if not position) when he asked to be paid Italy's minimum wage of €1,500 per month. Tommasi had missed a year with a knee injury sustained in a friendly against (don't tell Arsene Wenger) Stoke City.

Another man of principle, Joseba Etxeberria, played the final season of a 15-year career at Athletic Bilbao for free. Club president Fernando Garcia Macua said: "From the club's standpoint there are not words enough to thank such a gesture." Well, how about some sort of financial reward?

Mido signed a deadline-day contract with West Ham in February, and it quickly emerged that the cash-strapped Hammers were paying the striker just £1,000 a week. He might have been the worst-paid senior player in the Premier League, but a return of no goals from nine appearances suggests the club still did not get value for their money.

Al-Saadi Gaddafi broke the mould early in the decade during a brief and ridiculous stint in Serie A. The son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was so bad he had to pay his clubs, not the other way round. He managed one Serie A appearance for Perugia, one for Udinese and one positive test for Nandrolone.

During Manchester United's latest contract dispute with Rio Ferdinand - who ended up trousering an estimated £110,000 a week - they used the best possible negotiating tactic. They got Paul Scholes in, put a contract in front of him, and roughly 37 seconds later the midfielder had signed a new deal. The contrast could hardly have been starker, and is one reason United love Scholes so much. Mind, his lack of negotiating ability has hardly cost him; his latest deal is believed to be worth about £4m a year.

Robbie Fowler was so excited on being offered the chance of a second stint at Liverpool, he completely forgot to ask about money. Fowler said he would have been happy to play for free, but ended up pocketing about 30 grand a week.

By popular agreement, Federico Macheda scored the goal that won Manchester United the 2008/09 Premier League against Aston Villa. Not that he was popping Cristal later that night; the Italian was on a youth contract worth a few hundred quid a week. Macheda has since turned 18, and signed a four-year-deal for 'proper' footballers' money.

And finally, let's hear it for England's pampered, over-paid prima donnas. The big-time Charlies flying the flag in South Africa have just announced they will donate their match fees to charity.

It's easy to sneer, but given the vast money-making machine built around England's World Cup campaign, it is actually thoroughly decent of them to play for free.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I remember an incident from his Berlin days. Kevin score his first Bundesliga goals one week before the game against Bayern. In the game Ballack stepped on his foot. When Kevin asked, 'What are you doing?', Ballack said to him, 'Shut up! Just because you scored against Frankfurt, don't think you're the greatest." Kevin Prince Boateng's dad on the previous with Michael Ballack.

FOREIGN VIEW: It's official. The rest of the football world might as well give up now. Barcelona are on the verge of signing Cesc Fabregas and David Villa. Nice.

COMING UP: League One play-off second leg action. Millwall v Huddersfield at 19:45 UK time.

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