There has never been a better time to be involved in world football. Media rights deals for competitions such as the English Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and the Champions League include massive contracts that are worth hundreds of millions, and even billions in some instances, of dollars. That is just one reason why the biggest soccer stars in the world are earning more money as of the summer of 2018 than many could have imagined roughly a decade ago. Even Major League Soccer, the North American top-flight, is able to pay top-tier stars more money than what clubs offered to players at the beginning of the decade. Unless the figurative bubble bursts, salaries for soccer stars are only going to rise in the foreseeable future.
At the opposite end of such discussions are those footballers who are underpaid when you consider what they offer their employers and what they could potentially be paid were they to organize move to one of several other clubs. Much has been made about the Tottenham Hotspur wage structure since the team became mainstays of European competitions. The team’s overall record during that period and also its standing in worldwide has resulted in a handful of the team’s players being underpaid for their value. Will Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy make massive changes to his structure, or are Spurs destined to lose their best players to giants of world football despite the fact that the club is about to open a new stadium?
20 Overpaid: Wayne Rooney
Long gone are the days of striker Wayne Rooney being an elite footballer, prolific goal-scorer and somebody worthy of being featured on the covers of FIFA video games. Nevertheless, Rooney continues to earn the big bucks because of past achievements and because he is still a name. In early June, Sports Illustrated explained that Rooney could earn a salary of £3.7m to make an expected move to MLS side DC United this summer. Rooney will turn 33 years old in October, and he could still have something left in the tank. Still, it isn’t a stretch to suggest DC and MLS could better spend that money on a younger talent who will do more than sell some shirts and tickets.
19 Underpaid: Bradley Wright-Phillips
If Wayne Rooney is overpaid for multiple reasons, New York Red Bulls front man Bradley Wright-Phillips may be the most underpaid player in all of MLS. Wright-Phillips, unquestionably one of the greatest scorers in the history of the league, is earning $1,635,000.00 according to the MLS Players Union, which is an incredible value knowing all that he has contributed to the club since becoming a full-time starter back in 2014. Even though Wright-Phillips turns 34 years old in March 2019, he is showing no signs of slowing down or losing his focus. He is, to date, the best player to ever feature for the Red Bulls/MetroStars.
18 Overpaid: Toni Kroos
No disrespect meant to Toni Kroos, who made headlines with his amazing free-kick stunner in the World Cup and who has made hoisting the Champions League trophy as a member of Real Madrid a yearly tradition. According to Total Sportek, Kroos is on a deal that pays him £200,000, which makes him one of the highest-paid players in the team. Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos are all more important than Kroos, who is world-class but also somebody the club could easily replace if he were to sign for a Premier League outfit in the summer of 2018. Selling Kroos could be the start of Real building for the future and improving upon the squad that rules the Champions League.
17 Underpaid: Christian Pulisic
We may be on the verge of learning how important money is to Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic, the 19-year-old American who earns $23,000 per week as reported by Forbes contributor Bobby McMahon. Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham are just three of the big-name clubs that have reportedly shown interest in acquiring his services over the past couple of seasons, and one of those clubs may attempt to land him during the summer transfer window. Then again, Pulisic may decide that he still needs to develop and that he is happy with his situation before the start of the 2018-19 campaign. Either way, expect Pulisic to earn a raise in pay soon.
16 Overpaid: Bastian Schweinsteiger
For reasons that make absolutely zero sense to anybody who follows the league or the sport, in general, MLS side Chicago Fire are reportedly paying Bastian Schweinsteiger roughly $6.1 million per season. Schweinsteiger isn’t a big-name star like a Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or David Beckham. He’s no longer in his prime. The Fire are average, at best, when compared with the other top sides in the Eastern Conference. Eventually, MLS and its clubs are going to learn that continuing to embrace a “retirement league” mentality is not worth it in the long run. Winning trophies and titles, not selling merchandise, should be the goal of every team in the competition.
15 Underpaid: Christian Eriksen
Tottenham supporters around the world cringe whenever playmaker Christian Eriksen is linked with joining Barcelona. Eriksen is reportedly on a deal that carries a base salary of £3,900,000, and Spurs could look to raise that amount before the club opens its shiny new stadium later this year. Even if Tottenham and Eriksen come to terms on some agreement, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are just three of the sides that could afford to pay the Danish star more than Spurs give him. The 26-year-old still has time to cash-in on a massive deal, but those within his camp may try to convince him now is the time to make that business decision.
14 Overpaid: Gareth Bale
Welsh wonder Gareth Bale reminded everybody what he could do when he scored arguably the greatest Champions League Final goal in history this past May. As amazing as that tally was, there are reasons why Bale will be expected to take a drop in pay from the reported £350,000 per week he is earning if he is going to engineer a move away from Real Madrid this summer. Bale’s injury woes are well-documented. The speedy attacker turns 29 years old in the summer, and there are worries about how many more miles he can put on his legs before he completely breaks down. A healthy Bale is among the world’s best. Will we ever see that version of the player again?
13 Underpaid: Mohamed Salah
Earlier this year, it was reported that Mohamad Salah, who became a revelation while with Liverpool, was making £90,000. The only reason Salah is not the top underpaid soccer star in the world is that he now needs to show that he isn’t a “one-season wonder.” The belief, as of the typing of this sentence, is that Salah will put pen to paper on a contract extension with Liverpool before the start of the 2018-19 season. Depending on what else happens during the transfer window, however, Real Madrid may make a move for him and offer him money and opportunities he would not receive were he to remain with the Premier League outfit.
12 Overpaid: Neymar
Injuries happen, and they are unfortunate. When Neymar left Barcelona to sign for Paris Saint-Germain last summer, he received a salary reported to be worth £537,000 per week, after taxes, to guide the club to Champions League glory and past opponents such as Juventus, Barcelona, Manchester City and Real Madrid. That didn’t happen during Neymar’s first stint with the club, and it has been rumored that he could look to make an exit from Ligue 1 to return to La Liga via a move to none other than Real. Neymar would probably have to accept a cut in pay in order to feature for the current holders of the Champions League trophy. He can certainly afford to do so.
11 Underpaid: Harry Kane
Ahead of the 2018 World Cup, Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane signed an extension with Spurs that could bump his pay to “£200,000 a week including bonuses” according to Matt Law of the Telegraph. Even after that wage increase, the 24-year-old who has been the best goal-scorer in the Premier League throughout the past several seasons remains a bargain for Spurs. Kane’s salary would skyrocket were he to sign for Real Madrid later this year, as he’s shown he can get the job done in domestic play, the Champions League and on the international stage. He is the world’s top striker as of July 2018, and he is world football’s most underpaid star.
10 Overpaid: Kyle Walker
Nobody can deny that Tottenham missed having right back Kyle Walker in the side in 2017-18. That doesn’t mean he is not overpaid after joining Manchester City, the reigning Premier League champions, ahead of last season. Per Sam Morshead of the Daily Mail, Walker is earning £130,000 per week, quite a bit of money for a back with plenty of pace but one who has a history of committing costly miscues and regrettable errors. Recently, former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger referred to Walker as the weak link of England’s World Cup squad and “not a real defender.” Fans of club and country will be hoping that Walker limits giving away silly penalties moving forward.
9 Underpaid: Paulo Dybala
Whether or not Argentina forward Paulo Dybala is going to emerge as a household name has yet to be determined. “The Jewel” has been worth every penny of the reported €5.5 million in salary paid to him by Juventus, and the 24-year-old may not yet have found his best form at the club and international levels. It’s no surprise that Dybala has been linked with clubs such as Real Madrid and Manchester United. After all, there aren’t many teams in the world that could afford to pay him. Dybala may be persuaded to leave Juventus if he feels that he needs to do so in order to win the Champions League.
8 Overpaid: Ousmane Dembele
All should remember that Ousmane Dembele turned 21 years old only this past May, meaning he should still receive plenty of opportunities to become a game-changing entity while with Barcelona. For now, though, it’s right to call his base wage of €12m per year “ridiculous”. Dembele has the potential to become one of the faces of the game, but he remains a project who, truth be told, isn’t yet ready to feature for the Spanish giants in the biggest matches of any campaign. He could have a rough road ahead of him if the start of the 2018-19 La Liga season does not go according to his plans.
7 Underpaid: Thomas Muller
In June, The Ringer dared to ask why Thomas Muller, who is reportedly on €150,000 a week while with Bayern Munich, isn’t a bigger star. The 28-year-old is a proven product, and he has shown he is willing to adapt and do whatever necessary to contribute for his club and national team sides. Take conversations about Muller being dropped during the World Cup out of the equation. If he is serious about accepting a new challenge at this point of his career, a team such as Manchester United would likely happily take him and also raise his pay ahead of the upcoming campaign.
6 Overpaid: Yaya Toure
It’s understood that Manchester City players love Yaya Toure, the 35-year-old who was once the heart of the team’s midfield. Memories of Toure’s prime faded some time ago, and not even his biggest fans could realistically claim that he is worth the reported £220,000 per week paid to him during the final season of his City tenure. Toure’s name still has value, and it is believed that he is not yet prepared to call time on his career. He could become somewhat of a villain in the eyes of City supporters if there is anything behind those rumors that have linked him with Manchester United. Arsenal, Liverpool and West Ham are other potential destinations.
5 Underpaid: Ruben Loftus-Cheek
The future is bright for 22 year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the Chelsea midfielder who has proven he deserved to be called into the England team at the World Cup. Chelsea sent Loftus-Cheek, who is in the middle of a deal that pays him “upwards of £60,000-a-week” per Matt Law of the Telegraph, on loan to Crystal Palace for the 2017-18 season, and he impressed to the point that Palace apparently want him back for another campaign. Loftus-Cheek may have other plans if he feels that he deserves an opportunity to fight for a spot in the Chelsea team or force a permanent move if he believes he’ll never get a real chance to shine at Stamford Bridge.
4 Overpaid: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
According to Jonathan Blumberg of CNBC, striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic took a 95 percent pay cut to make the move from Manchester United to LA Galaxy earlier this year. That’s nice and all, but $1.4 million per year is still a lot of money for a a guy who will turn 37 years old later this year, who hasn’t proven he can survive playing through the hot summer months without sustaining multiple injuries and who has not yet propelled the Galaxy up the Western Conference standings. Ibrahimovic is a star in stature who gets himself over in interviews and via brilliant social media campaigns. What he is able to offer to the Galaxy when it matters most is not yet known.
3 Underpaid: Dele Alli
We’ve arrived to the point of the piece where we discuss Tottenham stars who are underpaid and who could force transfers to clubs that could be willing to double their current wages. Dele Alli, the 21-year-old who is vital to Spurs and England, is reportedly willing to sign a contract worth £100,000 a week according to Miguel Delaney of the Independent. Even if that is the case, it’s no secret that a club such as Real Madrid would offer the young man who has been featured in multiple worldwide advertising campaigns more money. Alli obviously won’t be hurting for cash anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t vastly underpaid.
2 Overpaid: Oscar
Nobody can blame attacking midfielder Oscar for following the money and taking a reported £400,000 per week to feature for Chinese club Shanghai SIPG. The silly cash Chinese clubs have offered to players such as Oscar, Carlos Tevez and others has done little, if anything, to grow the Chinese Super League on the worldwide stage. It wouldn’t be all that surprising if nobody reading this sentence has actually seen Oscar play for Shanghai. Oscar has not entirely lived up to the high expectations had for him after he put pen to paper on a historic contract. Those of us who don’t follow the Chinese Super League wouldn’t know.
1 Underpaid: Marcus Rashford
In February 2018, Aaron Flanagan of the Mirror wrote that Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford earns over £2million per year when you include his sponsorship deals. That’s a nice bit of cash, no question, but the £55,000-a-week paid to him by United makes him underpaid compared to others in the Premier League. While the 20-year-old is still developing as he attempts to cement his status in the club side, he would be handed a raise if a team such as Newcastle United moved in for him and also promised him a place in the starting XI. If rumors of United extending his current contract are correct, Rashford will soon receive a raise in pay to stay put.