Could Manchester United’s determination to cut costs be reflected in the latest European football salary league? The annual list published by France Football magazine, with an expert extension by Futebol Finance this week, shows that the club has just four players in the top 50 best paid players on the continent. Down two from a year ago.
Even though United, the self-proclaimed best supported club in the world, is aiming for a third straight Champions League final, the latest analysis offers further backing to the belief that the club is on a cost cutting exercise. United’s four – Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Dimitar Berbatov and Ryan Giggs – were supplemented by Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez in last year’s list.
By this time next season it is likely that the four will become three, with Ryan Giggs’ final year as a pro unlikely to net the Welshman the £82,500 per week that his current deal comes in at.
Moreover, with the club’s transfer policy set squarely on bringing younger players into the squad, who will retain a re-sale value through a four-year contract, it is highly unlikely that United will recruit any further superstar players with commensurate salaries in 2010.
Indeed, supporters can forget reports that United will buy £40 million-rated David Villa this summer, who at 27, is outside the current transfer policy. Meanwhile, long-term Sir Alex Ferguson target Karim Benzema earns £2.25 million more than Wayne Rooney per season at Real Madrid. The Frenchman is hardly likely to move for a pay-cut.
Talking of which, Ferguson is just the 7th best paid coach in European football. Not that the former shop steward will struggle to get by on ‘just’ £5.7 million per year, including endorsements.
This list is of course dominated by free-spending Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea, although Barcelona heads the table with eight players in the top 50 best paid in Europe. While Lionel Messi is the world’s highest earning player, including endorsements, former United winger Ronaldo has the largest basic salary package at Real Madrid on €13 million per season.
Madrid will almost certainly add Franc Ribéry to their roster in the summer, while Valencia’s David Villa will surely leave for one of the continent’s biggest. Neither will head to United.
Perhaps it is not surprising that United has fallen down the spending league, after all the club now generates less revenue than both Real Madrid and Barcelona, according to the annual Deloitte & Touche revenue rankings. While the club has recently announced regional sponsorship deals in Turkey, South Africa and Asia, United cannot match the Spanish giants’ television revenue with Premier League rights collectively sold.
Football at the highest level is, of course, very much about finances and while the club’s transfer policy appears prudent in the current economic climate, it is uncompetitive over the long-term. Just ask Arsène Wenger if he agrees with this statement.
However, as United’s debt repayments inevitably continue to pinch on the club’s ability to spend on transfer fees and wages, the risk of the the Reds falling behind leading rivals both domestically and on the continent is very real.
The question remains: if United is unwilling or unable to match rivals’ spending, can Ferguson’s side continue to compete at the highest level? After all messrs. Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Edwin van der Sar will need replacing, if not summer 2010, then the year after.
Top 50 Highest Earning Players By Club