My jaw hits the floor whenever I hear about how much some footballers in Europe get paid to wear tight shorts and run around a field kicking a round leathery thing. According to Forbes, the two highest-paid footballers in Europe are Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Portugal), with earnings of US$82 million a year, and Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina), who makes just US$77 million.
Sadly, it seems China is following suit, turning on the cash tap in a bid to lure world-class players, recent transfers being part of Beijing’s ambition to become a football powerhouse and to shake off the loser image it’s earned courtesy of corruption and match-fixing scandals.
Last year, Guangzhou Evergrande signed Colombian player Jackson Martínez from Atlético Madrid for €42 million (HK$359 million) while Jiangsu Suning paid Chelsea £20 million for Brazilian player Ramires. Argentinean superstar Carlos Tevez signed with Shanghai Shenhua for a reported annual salary of US$41 million.
This kind of money is disgusting when you think of how much better it could be used. “Disgusting maybe, but those sums would not be on offer if there wasn’t such public interest,” chimes my editor.
Yes, thanks for reminding me of the glorious spectacle. How I love watching footage such as the beautiful performance by Leicester City fans in Madrid ahead of their team’s recent Champions League match – drunken, shirtless hooligans moving menacingly through the streets hurling beer bottles and insults.
If only there were a way of injecting the cash into the arts, health and education, or using it to support society’s true heroes: our doctors and nurses, and the firefighters and policemen who risk their lives to save others. Now that would be fair game.
Don’t get me wrong, I like sports, especially when they form part of early education, teaching kids about how to be a team player, not to mention the health and fitness benefits. But I’m raising a red card to big-ticket soccer.