While fans and supporters may not like to acknowledge the fact, the reality of the situation is that professional sports are big businesses these days. Leagues around the world such as the Premier League, La Liga and the National Football League make billions – billions – of dollars in revenue on media rights deals that show their programming in different countries around the planet, and owners of franchises and clubs rake in cash because of those contracts and also because of merchandise and ticket sales that pile up each and every season that is played. That money grows with each year.
It is only logical that athletes want their pieces of the pies for putting their bodies on the line during competitive contests. Without them, owners and those running organizations would not make the money that they make off of pro sports. It is understandable that fans out there believe that athletes sometimes ask for too much cash, but those people must remember that a career in pro sports can be over in an instant. One wrong step, one wrong collision or one wrong motion can mean the end of playing days for an athlete, and thus such individuals should do whatever possible to make the most money they can while they can.
With that said, there are cases of athletes seemingly or allegedly caring more about money than about winning titles and trophies for the teams that pay them. This includes a basketball icon who is in the twilight of his career, a man who would probably hang up the shoes for good if doing so would not cost him millions upon millions of dollars. Then, there is the athlete who is one of the best defensive players in the NFL and also somebody who would play for any club that would pay him. Last but not least is the superstar who is one of the most eccentric players in world football today, a striker who has the ability to smash home highlight reel goals seemingly at will.
16 Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar is a mercenary in every sense of the word as it pertains to professional sports. He got all that he wanted out of World Wrestling Entertainment and when he became financially secure enough to give that business up, he left to pursue a National Football League career. When that didn't work, Lesnar linked up with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He won the UFC World Heavyweight Championship, and he has since returned to the WWE to make, in his own words, “full-time pay” despite the fact that he only has to work so many dates per year. Good money if you can get it.
15 Alex Rodriguez
Say whatever you will about the man who is maybe the most controversial Major League Baseball player of his time. Alex Rodriguez has managed to make hundreds of millions of dollars, and he returned to the New York Yankees following a suspension that cost him the 2014 regular season for two reasons: To pursue statistical history and also to earn every last bit of his massive contract, a deal that guarantees Rodriguez extra cash if he hits certain career milestones. A-Rod is going to play until his body gives out on him and that day has yet to arrive.
14 Jay Cutler
The perception put out there by some critics is that Jay Cutler is a miserable quarterback who does not care all that much for winning games and pursuing Super Bowl glory. That may or may not be true, but the fact of the matter is that Cutler has earned a glorious living while playing in the National Football League. Those running the Chicago Bears thought it wise to present Cutler with a contract that was worth a guaranteed $54 million following the 2013 NFL regular season, and word is that the club is already regretting that decision. Best of luck unloading that contract, guys.
13 Jim Thome
Jim Thome could have been a lifer with the Cleveland Indians following the conclusion of the 2002 Major League Baseball regular season. The Tribe offered Thome what was essentially a deal that would have kept him with the team through the end of his playing days, and the man was such an icon in the city of Cleveland that the Indians offered to build a statue in his honor, a promise that the club kept years after Thome turned his back on the team and cashed in on a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. The majority of Indians fans have since forgiven Thome, who made a triumphant return to the Tribe back in 2011.
12 Robin van Persie
Robin van Persie was an Arsenal icon and a scoring machine, the top scorer in all of the Premier League for the 2011-12 season. Rather than remain with the Gunners and attempt to help the club return to glory and to winning title, van Persie broke Arsenal hearts by announcing that he would not be agreeing to a contract extension with the team. Van Persie eventually got his wish when Arsenal moved him to Manchester United, and he then poured salt into the open wound when he helped United with the Premier League title during his first season with the club. Ouch.
11 CM Punk
CM Punk can say whatever he wants about his physical fitness and how he was treated while working for World Wrestling Entertainment. Punk is known to be a wise businessman, and he did well to save up his money and then leave the company when he felt that he was no longer being paid a wage worthy of a main event talent. Punk then made himself some more cash when he signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a deal that is more a marketing ploy for all involved than it is a case of an athlete living out a dream. Don't hold your breaths waiting for Punk to win a UFC title, everybody.
10 Rafa Marquez
Rafa Marquez made his name playing for Barcelona, but it was with Major League Soccer side the New York Red Bulls that the Mexican international earned his reputation for being all about the money. Marquez is perceived by many to be the worst MLS designated player in the history of the North American top-flight, as his numerous injuries and what appeared to be a disinterest in helping the Red Bulls win games made him an enemy among New York and American soccer fans. Marquez has since made a return back to Europe, which is just fine for the Red Bulls faithful who put up with him for too long.
9 Benoit Assou-Ekotto
Not quite sure why Benoit Assou-Ekotto makes his way onto this list? You can just ask the 2010 version of the former Tottenham Hotspur player, who had the following to say about his profession: “All people, everyone, when they go to a job, it's for the money. So I don't understand why, when I said I play for the money, people were shocked. Oh, he's a mercenary. Every player is like that.” You have to give the guy credit for being honest at least, and any Spurs fan who watched him play in Lilywhite could attest to the fact that BAE was in it for the cash.
8 Latrell Sprewell
Latrell Sprewell made international headlines in 1997 when he infamously grabbed and choked then head coach P.J. Carlesimo during a practice when the two were working for the Golden State Warriors, but he makes this list because of comments that he made while playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Sprewell had the following to say about his commitment to the club back in 2004: "Why would I want to help them win a title? They're not doing anything for me. I've got a lot at risk here. I've got my family to feed." You can't help but get...choked up...by his passion for the game.
7 Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant has seen it all and done it all as a professional basketball player, and he has more than earned his money as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. With that said, age has caught up with the man who is arguably the greatest player of his generation, and he has little left to contribute to the Lakers. That did not stop Bryant from signing an extension with the club two years ago, one that will earn him a guaranteed $48.5 million and one that is handcuffing the Lakers from being big players in free agency. While the Clippers are the new basketball kings of Los Angeles, the Lakers have become merely an afterthought.
6 Frank Lampard
Lampard was a Chelsea legend, said by some to be the greatest footballer in the history of the club. He and Chelsea agreed to part ways following the 2013-14 Premier League season, and Lampard then signed a deal with Major League Soccer outfit New York City Football Club. To the surprise of nobody with knowledge of the situation, Lampard broke Chelsea hearts by agreeing to go on loan to Manchester City, a move that made it clear that Lampard had dollar signs in his eyes when he decided to retire as a MLS player.
5 Darrelle Revis
Darrelle Revis is maybe my favorite National Football League player in the game today, if only because he does not even pretend that he is not all about the cash. Revis happily put pen to paper on a monster contract with the horrible Tampa Bay Buccaneers before the 2013 NFL regular season, and he then left the club the following year to win a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots. After winning a championship and also earning a boatload of cash, Revis returned “home” to the New York Jets, where he will make a guaranteed $39 million on top of the money that he has already banked during his career.
4 Evander Holyfield
One cannot help but feel at least a little bad for Evander Holyfield these days. The former World Heavyweight Champion is now but a shadow of his former self, and he fought into his late 40s all because he was in so much debt. Holyfield has thankfully retired from fighting, fortunately before a disaster occurred inside of a ring. The hope is that he has seen the writing on the wall once and for all, as nobody needs to witness Holyfield in an encounter that could legitimately cost him everything that he has left.
3 Albert Haynesworth
Albert Haynesworth will likely forever go down as the worst free agency signing in the history of the National Football League. Haynesworth was an absolute disaster after joining the Washington Redskins in 2009 on a deal worth $100 million, as he was often out of shape and seemingly always disinterested in helping the team win games. Haynesworth has since, in interviews, claimed that he "lost his love" of the game of football while with the Redskins. I sure wish somebody would offer me $100 million to lose my love of writing.
1 Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a man who has never met a club that he didn't like so long as the money was right. Whether it as Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, Milan or Paris Saint-Germain, Ibrahimovic has been happy to take the pitch with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. He's also made international headlines with his play on the field and also with his life off of it. Recent rumors have linked Ibrahimovic, who allegedly owns a nice piece of property in Manhattan, with a switch to Major League Soccer, a move that would likely see him become the highest-paid player in the history of the North American top-flight.