As much as we’d like to imagine that professional athletes play out of love for the game, that’s not the case. Money, like it or not, makes the world go round. That’s especially true in Premier League soccer, where most clubs are simply capable of outspending their continental counterparts. If you want a player, enough cash will usually get the deal done.
With that in mind, let’s look at the top earners within the Premier League. For the sake of consistency and accessibility, we’re using annual salaries and converting the cash into a uniform currency (US dollars).
10. Kalidou Koulibaly, Chelsea – $18,093,913.50
The Senegalese defender arrived at Chelsea after the Blues lost two centerbacks, which could partially explain why he’s such a high earner. With that being said, though, he does arrive in London with quite the pedigree and shouldn’t be too exposed in Thomas Tuchel’s possession-based system.
At the same time, though, it’s probably not ideal to pay a 31-year-old defender with plenty of miles on his tires this large of a salary. Chelsea, however, won’t mind if he can help the club weather its ownership transition and remain in the Champions League.
9. Jack Grealish, Manchester City – $18,413,538.00
Jack Grealish was a big-money move from Aston Villa to Manchester City, and his salary reflects that reality. He’s yet to look his best in sky blue, but playing under Pep Guardiola does require some transition time. 2022, however, will be a “prove it” year for the attacker.
One thing that’s also worth noting is this sizable salary could cause a problem if Grealish wishes to leave Manchester. Very few clubs will be able to afford these wages, meaning he could be stuck on City’s bench (or giving up some cash) should things go south.
8. Raheem Sterling, Chelsea – $19,947,999.50
Similar to Koulibaly, Sterling arrived at Chelsea in a summer of transition. With Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner moving on, the former Manchester City man will have to play a key role in keeping the club’s offensive guns firing.
Through that lens, it will be interesting to see which version of Sterling shows up in London. If he’s the 2019-20 version of himself and nets another 31 goals across all competitions, he’ll be worth the money. Should a different version of the forward appear, however, things will probably be a bit less happy at Stamford Bridge.
7. Raphael Varane, Manchester United – $20,884,058.00
Manchester United has no problem paying top dollar for players, and that trend will become apparent very quickly within that list. Take, for example, Raphael Varane.
While the defender built up quite the resume with Real Madrid and France, things have been a bit tougher since coming to Old Trafford. Injuries kept him out of the lineup for portions of the season, and things were far from perfect when he was on the pitch.
Is the defender overpaid? Or is it naive to expect him to be a game-changer when he’s playing alongside Harry Maguire and sitting behind a nonexistent midfield? You can decide that for yourself, but, either way, things haven’t worked out as United planned.
6. Jadon Sancho, Manchester United and 5. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool – $21,501,935.00
On the subject of Manchester United overpaying and things not working out, there’s Jadon Sancho. The club chased the England winger, and when they finally sealed the deal, it didn’t seem like anyone had considered how they’d use him. He’s now entering his second season at Old Trafford and hoping that Erik ten Hag has a plan that includes some regular playing time and clear instructions.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Salah is a proven Premier League performer. There were rumors that he could leave Liverpool, but he signed an extension and pocketed this sizable salary. While you could have some reservations about the Egyptian’s age — he’s 30 and is under contract for two more seasons after the 2022-23 campaign — it would have been tough for Liverpool to replace both him and Sadio Mane at the same time.
4. David de Gea, Manchester United and 3. Erling Haaland, Manchester City – $23,044,183.50
Another entry and another overpaid Manchester United player. David de Gea is a solid shot-stopper — he used to be one of the best in the world — but he still earns an incredible amount for a goalkeeper. If you combine that paycheck with his inability to claim crosses and issues with the ball at his feet, it’s tough not to wonder where else United could be using allocating his salary.
On the other side of Manchester, Erling Haaland has plenty of potential. While you could take issue with the way City did their business, paying a lower transfer fee in exchange for some hefty agent fees and a sizable salary, it’s tough to quibble with the deal itself. The club needed a legitimate striker after a season of false 9s, and Haaland is already one of the best around.
2. Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City – $24,573,432.00
While Haaland may be Pep Guardiola’s shiny new toy, Kevin De Bruyne is one of the centerpieces of Manchester City’s current dynasty. The Belgian midfielder is a legitimate do-it-all player, and his salary reflects that reality.
And, consider this reality: KDB is now playing alongside an elite young striker. That should only help his assist numbers climb ever higher. That’s exciting or terrifying, depending on your rooting interests.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United – $31,661,922.00
Unsurprisingly, Cristiano Ronaldo’s salary towers over the competition. The Portuguese striker has one of modern football’s best resumes, and Manchester United is never afraid to overpay for a marquee signing. Those realities combined to pay out an eye-popping sum per season.
This issue, however, is that Ronaldo isn’t the same player who dominated the European stage. While he’s still a capable finisher, he lacks the pace he once had as a winger. That makes him unable to lead the press and largely relegates him to waiting for someone else to create a chance.
It’s certainly not an ideal situation for United — they’re paying a massive sum to a player who doesn’t really fit the system, and that same salary makes him almost impossible to move — but it’s entirely a problem of their own creation.
Salary information courtesy of Spotrac and converted as of 8/19/2022.
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