There’s crazy money in sport ––– we all know it. And it’s never been fresher on the mind: January’s football transfer window saw £136 million spent in transfer fees on just four players, Chelsea’s Fernando Torres, Liverpool’s Andy Carroll, Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko and Aston Villa’s Darren Bent.
But as stunning as those transfer fees are, the real crazy money is in the salaries top sportspeople get paid.
After all, the first big news story of the football season came from the transfer that wasn’t. Having threatened to leave Manchester United, Wayne Rooney’s new contract sees him pocketing £26,000 – the nation’s average annual salary – every day.
Outrageous? Of course. But even those massive earnings pale into insignificance when you compare him to some of sport’s most extravagantly compensated individuals. Rooney might be rich but at least he’s helping to win championships – which is by no means the case for all the stars below. Without further ado, here’s our list of the most ludicrously overpaid sports stars on the global scene.
Fernando Alonso (Motorsport)
Formula 1’s highest earning driver is pocketing an annual £23million retainer from Ferrari – and that’s just his fee for driving. He can (and doubtless does) earn a lot more in top in the form of personal sponsors and team bonuses. Is this fair reward for a driver who risks his life at the highest speeds at the very pinnacle of his sport? Well, first you might weigh up that it’s almost double the fee of the second highest earner, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. But then consider who actually raced to the title this year: Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, whose pay packet is a relatively paltry £2million. Does Alonso look a touch overpaid in comparison?
David Beckham (Football)
East London’s most famous footballing son walked into an astonishing £162million contract when he moved to LA Galaxy in 2007. He might have been approaching the twilight of his career in 2007, but that didn’t stop the Americans using a colossal amount of cash to lure him away from arguably Europe’s most prestigious (and wealthy) club, Real Madrid. Sure, Galaxy have enjoyed modest successes with Beckham in midfield, but he doesn’t even play for them all year round – signing, for example, to play for AC Milan during the mid-season break last year. It’s a ludicrously high salary even if you are an international ‘sex symbol’!
Maria Sharapova (Tennis)
Speaking of which…why is Maria Sharapova (current world ranking: 13) getting paid so much more than the current world number 1, Caroline Wozniacki? Ah, yes: that familiar factor in the world of female sports stars: marketability based on looks. Sharapova made history in 2010 by signing the most lucrative sporting contract ever by a female: she will take home around £45 million for wearing Nike apparel. That’s just one of her endorsements; she also has deals with Tropicana and Gatorade. Oh, and doesn’t she earn some money from tennis as well? Yes… although that’s an interesting point: all this reward overlooks the fact that she hasn’t won a Grand Slam title since 2008. Maybe we should compare her earnings to other models rather than sports stars?
Tiger Woods (Golf)
Despite the recent turmoil in his personal life, Tiger Woods remains one of the most overpaid sports stars. The first athlete to earn over one billion dollars in his career, Tiger has ruthlessly exploited more than just his sporting ability: like many of the other players in this list, the real key to Woods’ wealth is that he’s a marketing machine. From the moment he turned professional, Woods was signing big money endorsements, starting with £40million contracts from Nike and Titleist before he’d won anything at all. Nowadays Nike alone pay him more than £21million a year – handsomely recouped at golf shop tills, no doubt – and that’s before you mention PepsiCo (he launched Gatorade’s ‘Tiger’ drink), Tag Heuer, Buick, Gillette, and at least half a dozen others. However, the picture gets a little murkier following Woods’ recent sordid escapades in the tabloids. Some sponsors have publicly dropped him, others are prevaricating, which means that Woods might have to go back to earning good old fashioned prize money instead.
Alex Rodriguez (Baseball)
Finally, if you thought soccer money was crazy, consider American sport. As characterised in Jerry Maguire, the US sport scene still throws up stories of wild excesses and relentless money-grabbing.
First, take a look at baseball. 8 of the top 10 most lucrative sporting deals in history have been between baseball players and their clubs. Top dog in this league table of notorious money magnets is Alex Rodríguez: A-Rod to his fans, and ‘Darling’, we presume, to girlfriend Cameron Diaz. His 10 year contract with the New York Yankees is worth £180million, not including bonuses and off-field endorsements. Wait, who was the second highest paid player in baseball? Rodríguez again: this time the mere £162million contract with Texas Rangers that preceded his current deal.
Still, at least baseball guys play up to 160 games a season. To really put things into context we should look at what players earn per competitive encounter – and for this we ought to glance at American football. With only 16 games in the regular season, the per-game figures for these guys are staggering. How about Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback for the (recently defeated in Superbowl 40) Pittsburgh Steelers? His £66 million, 7-year contract will see him earn close to £500,000 every game.
So how does all this make you feel, when you consider the effort you put yourself through every day to earn a living?
A little… undervalued, perhaps?
Garry Hudson writes about all things debt and financial related and currently works for Baines and Ernst
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