The fleet-footed stars of the Barclays Premier League have become as famous for their wonder goals as their massive salaries in recent years. Transfer records continue to be broken, and players' wages are still on the rise. But just how much do the top players earn in contrast with average consumers in Britain?
How high are their wages?
The High Pay Centre, an independent think-tank, estimate that the national average annual salary in Britain currently sits at around £26,500. In an interview with the BBC, Matthew Buck, the director of player management at the Professional Footballers' Association, revealed that the average earnings of Premier League players ranges between £25,000 and £30,000 a week - giving them the average annual salary in the UK in just seven days.
The tip of the sterling iceberg features massive salaries that reach as high as £300,000 a week. The arrival of Sheikh Mansour in 2008 at Manchester City triggered a wave of spending on footballing talent in an attempt to build a superstar team and propel the club to the top of the table. Manchester City now boasts some of Britain's highest paid players, with the likes of Vincent Company and Sergio Aguero said to be raking in a mammoth £200,000 a week. Of course, these are the most extreme examples, but the average Premier League player can still pull in around £300,000 a year.
How do clubs afford it?
Football clubs across the UK and Europe are making money hand over fist. In the 2012/13 financial year, Manchester City alone generated £271 million in revenue, despite not winning a single trophy. Real Madrid topped the money league with £444 million, while trophyless Arsenal racked up an impressive £240 million. The vast majority of this cash comes from broadcasting and commercial revenue - that's Sky Sports, shirt sales and sponsorships.
What's the true view?
The respectable average salary of £26,500 a year suddenly seems dwarfed by these astronomical earnings. However, it's important to remember that football is a fickle sport, with once well-paid players quickly finding themselves injured or out of favour. The Professional Footballers' Association states that the average age of retirement for footballers in the UK is 35, and the average career spans just eight years.
The average consumer may earn much less than the average Premier League footballer, but they are faced with more long-term financial security and far better job prospects. Footballers, especially those in the lower leagues and towards the bottom end of the table, often find it difficult to make the transition from top earner to job seeker, with second careers often paying far less. Players such as John Barnes and Lee Hendrie are evidence of the perilous path facing recently retired footballers, as both men have been declared bankrupt after retirement, despite earning a pretty penny over the course of their careers.
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