I have to say that I have been pretty amazed at the astronomical transfer fees that have been paid recently by English Premier League clubs and I’m probably even more astonished by the incredible wage packets that so many players today are taking home.
I don’t have too much of a problem with the truly great players being paid such huge salaries. After all players such as Lionel Messi and Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo are exceptional and they are quite capable of producing game-winning moves and making their clubs outstandingly successful rather than just successful. Also they bring the added bonus of attracting massive crowds to every game in which they are featured.
Then, of course, there is the additional revenue for their clubs through the world wide sale of replica club shirts bearing their name. I should think that alone goes a long way to paying their wages!
The fact is that if you are one of the very best in the world at your job, you are almost certainly very well paid. For example the top singers and entertainers are paid massively, which is fair enough bearing in mind the pleasure their work brings to millions of people. Also if their music doesn’t sell and their movies don’t pull in the crowds, the big money soon comes to an end. The same applies to most sports. If you are a remarkably good car driver then, like the Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel, etc, you are paid in tens of millions. The same applies in golf and tennis but the one point I would make is that they are solo sports and so if they don’t win and attract the crowds the gravy train soon dries up. But footballer is a team game and we have seen instances where individuals on massive salaries lose form, get dropped and make little contribution to the team effort and spend more time sitting in the stands or on the subs bench than actually earning their money where it counts….on the pitch. However, their long term contracts ensure they are still paid their giant weekly wedge!
If it isn’t the mega stars, I suppose the thing which surprises me most of all are the astonishing wages paid to the more run-of-the-mill players who may well be in a club’s first team squad but who cannot be considered in the charismatic, match-winning superstar bracket. In the days before the advent of the Premier League they would have been considered to be “journeyman” players…… very capable, reliable support to the team’s top rated stars. In fact in most cases they still fulfil that role today except even “ordinary players are being paid £30,000 to £40,000 a week – that is up to over £2 million a year! You need to be a pretty big captain of industry to command that sort of salary.
The fact is that as more money comes into football, so about the same amount goes straight out of the game….into the pockets of players and their agents. The “new” money isn’t being put into better facilities for fans or to enable clubs to offer less expensive match tickets.
When the most recent Premier League deal for television rights, both in the UK and around the world, was announced I hoped that with all that extra money coming in perhaps the exorbitant admission prices would be reduced.
Ticket prices are really high and nowadays. If a father takes his son along to Premier League game he either needs to be pretty wealthy, to have saved up for a few weeks or take out a second mortgage. It’s not just the ticket price which, at clubs such as Arsenal and Chelsea, can be as high as nearly 90 pound each, but then there’s a hefty car park charge, an expensive programme (or Match Day Magazine as they call them now) plus probably a cup of tea and a snack or a traditional pie at half time. I’m not sure what that lot is likely to add up to but you can be sure it comes to well over £180 which makes it an expensive day out for father and son.
Perhaps the most staggering thing about the Premier League today is the astonishing transfer fees which, thanks largely to the input of TV money, clubs are paying. If all the media reports are to be believed the recent transfer of Romelu Lukaku from Everton is likely to cost Manchester United about £100 million if the various add-ons agreed come to fruition. Add this to United’s purchase of Paul Pogba last season from Juventus at a cost of £93 million and you get the impression that the lunatics are running the asylum!
Of course, Manchester United are not alone in this type of extravagance. Last year Juventus paid Napoli £75 million for Gonzalo Higuain and back in 2014 Real Madrid paid Monaco £63 million for James Rodriguez and Barcelona paid Liverpool ££75 million for Luis Suarez. Back in 2013 Real Madrid paid Spurs £86 million for Gareth Bale, and as far back as 2009 Milan sold Brazilian star Kaka to Real Madrid for £56 million. So, for the genuine, proven superstars the asking, and selling, price just keeps on rising.
As a sharp contrast and in an effort to put things into a bit of perspective, I remember when a team mate of mine at Southampton was transferred to Spurs for a then new British transfer record fee. Admittedly it’s going back a bit to January 1968, but when Martin Chivers left Saints the fee was £125,000…a figure looked upon as astonishing at that time and one which no club it seemed, and certainly not Southampton, could turn down, it was the biggest fee ever paid between English clubs.
In the 1963/6 season Martin was the Saints joint leading scorer with myself, both of us hitting 21 goals. I should point out that although Martin was a very successful, consistent goal scorer much of the pressure to keep hitting the back of the net had been taken off him a bit by the superb Ron Davies who had joined us from Norwich in readiness for our first season in the top division and who topped the First Division scoring for two seasons in succession. Also I should mention that Ted Bates, our wily manager, knew he had a promising youngster in the juniors who he could bring in who would comfortably fill the gap left by the departing Martin.
That youngster’s name was Mike Channon who made his debut at just 17 years and went on to score 185 goals for Saints and 21 for England.
I must end on a sad note. An old friend and team mate, Ken Wimshurst has just passed away at the age of 79. We had some great times together at Southampton where Ken, George O’Brien and I formed a right-sided attacking triangle which resulted in some great days and much success, enjoyed by players and fans alike. Whenever I’m asked to put together my best team from people I have played with at Southampton, Ken is always included. As a midfielder he wasn’t typical in that he wasn’t a fierce tackler but had the ability to jockey opponents into giving up possession, and he didn’t have electric pace. However, he rarely gave the ball up and he was a smooth, elegant excellent passer of the ball with tremendous vision. At one time he was strongly tipped to be picked for England. It must have been a tight call but sadly for Ken it never came. Ken was a superb footballer and a thoroughly decent person. I’m just one of many who mourn him.
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