European Football's 50 Biggest Wage Salaries of Last Year: Are They Worth It?
With the current year not even half-way through, it's a little early to declare who has the highest salary of 2012.
Here, we'll look back at 2011's highest paid footballers to see whether they were worth their monthly salary.
Please note this does not take into account any endorsements or sponsorship deals and is purely based on club wages alone.
If a player has since moved club's and is earning higher money, I will try to include that information.
This list covers European football only and all figures were taken from Futebol Finance's release, sourced via The Offside.
50: Lassana Diarra
Lassana Diarra of Real Madrid starts us off at number 50—although he is tied with eight other players.
The French international hasn't played as much in 2012 as he did in 2011, suggesting his time in Spain could be on the wane.
Diarra earned €5 million in wages during 2011.
49: Luca Toni
Luca Toni was also earning €5 million for his time at Juventus in 2011 where he managed just a paltry two goals for the club during his 12 month stint.
48: Carles Puyol
Carles Puyol has been the backbone of one of the greatest club sides ever seen and it surprises me a little that his earnings are €5 million for the 2011 year.
Surely he's worth more.
47: Sergio Aguero
Last year, Sergio Aguero was earning €5 million a year with Atletico Madrid. Now a superstar at Manchester City, the Argentinian has increased his wages to approximately €12.7 million a year.
Atletico clearly knew how to bargain.
Ronaldinho is currently plying his trade at Brazilian side Flamengo where he has revived his international career.
The quick-footed Brazilian earned €5 million last year.
45: Michael Ballack
Injury-hampered Michael Ballack's 2011, but he still managed to bring home a good chunk of wages with his €5 million a year deal with Bayer Leverkusen.
44: Sami Khedira
Sami Khedira has formed a relatively successful career at Real Madrid so far, managing to stay out of the limelight for most of his two seasons.
He too, secured a €5 million annual wage in 2011.
43: Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil is often criticized for his inconsistency, but Real Madrid thought him consistent enough to be paid €5 million in 2011—a fee that matches his international colleague Sami Khedira's wage.
Ozil completes the last of the €5 million club for 2011.
42: Joe Cole
When Liverpool signed Joe Cole on a free transfer, perhaps they should have considered his wage demands first.
Cole took home €5.4 million from Liverpool despite not being fit for large portions of the campaign.
Not quite free.
41: Aleksander Kolarov
For a left back that doesn't play every week for Manchester City, Aleksandar Kolarov will probably be rather pleased with his €5.5 million wage packet.
40: Arjen Robben
Arjen Robben is one of the best wingers around, so it's surprising to see him earn just €5.5 million in 2011.
The Dutchman perhaps needs a better agent.
Due a pay rise.
39: Gareth Barry
Signing for Manchester City has certainly increased Gareth Barry's bank account balance.
The former Aston Villa man bagged €5.5 million in 2011.
More than Ozil equals too much.
38: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bastian Schweinsteiger matches his Bayern Munich colleague Arjen Robben's wage of 2011 by taking home €5.5 million.
At least the club is consistent with it's pricing.
37: Kevin Kuranyi
Former German international Kevin Kuranyi walked out on his nation and sticks to playing club football for Dinamo Moscow.
He has hardly been prolific for the Russian side with 19 goals in 53 league appearances, suggesting his €5.5 million wages in 2011 was way too much.
Overrated and overpaid.
36: Patrick Vieira
Retiree Patrick Vieira took a nice little nest egg with him when he left Manchester City's playing staff in 2011.
€5.5 million was his pay packet for the year of 2011.
Too much for the games he played.
35: Francesco Totti
What does a career with one club get you? 499 league appearances, 213 league goals and €5.5 million a year.
Loyalty should be rewarded better.
34: Frederic Kanoute
Former West Ham favourite Frederic Kanoute has enjoyed a successful if not rather quiet career at Sevilla since 2005.
2011 brought him good money with a wage of €6 million.
Fair considering his record.
33: Andrea Pirlo
Andrea Pirlo switched mighty AC Milan for mighty Juventus, but not before taking home €6 million from the Rossoneri in 2011.
Speculation suggests his wages have been reduced at Juventus, but there is no hard evidence to be sourced at present.
Shrewd and worthy.
32: Victor Valdez
Keeping goal for the best club team in the world comes at a price.
That price, to Barcelona, is €6 million.
Safe hands and a steady price.
31: Gianluigi Buffon
Perhaps €6 million is a price that all top goalkeepers are earning these days.
Gianluigi Buffon collected the same amount from Juventus last year.
30: Petr Cech
As if by magic, Petr Cech pops up to confirm my theory.
I wonder if Chelsea deducts the cost of his headwear when paying his €6 million wages?
Resurgent player who is paid about the right amount in comparison to his peers.
29: Cesc Fabregas
Arsenal saved a whole chunk of change when Cesc Fabregas finally departed for Barcelona.
The Gooners were paying the Spaniard €6 million in wages back then.
Worth every penny.
28: Gonzalo Higuain
Gonzalo Higuain marks the beginning of a three player price match for Real Madrid.
The Argentinian hitman earned €6 million in 2011.
Good value for his talent.
27: Karim Benzema
Perhaps Real Madrid didn't want to upset Gonzalo Higuain by offering Kareem Benzema more money to play the same position.
Benzema can boast the same 2011 wage packet with €6 million.
26: Iker Casillas
Another top goalkeeper, another €6 million figure.
They're all at it.
Keeping with tradition.
25: Didier Drogba
Should Didier Drogba earn more than Gonzalo Higuain and Kareem Benzema? He did in 2011 with a €6.2 million wage from Chelsea.
24: Glen Johnson
Glen Johnson should be happy with what he's earning.
Given some of the top quality players earning significantly less than him, Johnson is probably smiling about his €6.5 million pay.
WAY too much.
23: Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole has held the left back position at Chelsea for quite some time now, so he's probably justified his €6.5 million wages...somehow.
22: Kolo Toure
Kolo Toure didn't earn as much as his brother last year, but his €6.5 million wage is not to be sneezed at
Too much for a player not always first choice.
21: Mario Balotelli
Super Mario Balotelli has a super pay packet to match his nickname.
The Italian took home the same as Kolo Toure with €6.5 million.
Expensive bit part player, but potential to be great.
20: Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand is one of only two Manchester United players to feature in the top 50 wage earners of 2011.
The England international took €6.5 million home in 2011.
Cost per performance is way too high considering his injuries over the last few years.
19: Edin Dzeko
One proof that Manchester City pays their players far too much is Edin Dzeko.
After a miserable first season in England, Dzeko went home and cried into his €6.5 million pile of money.
18: Daniel Alves
Finally a jump to €7 million and it's Barcelona's Daniel Alves who starts the trend.
As dangerous in attack as he is comfortable in defence.
17: David Villa
David Villa is the second of a trio of Barcelona players who earned €7 million in 2011.
The Spanish striker is still hoping to make Euro 2012.
More than fair.
16: Andreas Iniesta
Andreas Iniesta joins David Villa and Daniel Alves in the €7 million club.
I wonder if they share the same tax accountant?
15: Xavi Hernandez
A difference in class deserves a difference in pay, even if it is just €500,000.
Xavi took home €7.5 million in 2011, the second best paid player at Barcelona.
14: Steven Gerrard
Commitment to a single club earns you more money, but being a superb footballer helps also.
Steven Gerrard had his commitment repaid with €7.5 million in wages for 2011.
He does a lot of the work himself, so earns his money.
13: Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard joins fellow midfielders Steven Gerrard and Xavi in the €7.5 million bracket.
Lampard was the first midfielder to strike 100 goals in the Premier League.
Record holder at a price you can argue.
12: John Terry
Frank Lampard has his pay matched by Chelsea colleague John Terry.
The former England captain is financially well off with €7.5 million in wages.
On the wane and so should his wages be.
11: Franck Ribery
With colleague Arjen Robben earning just €5.5 million in 2011, Franck Ribery obviously had the better agent.
Ribery is reported to have taken home €8 million in 2011.
Ribery isn't that much better than Robben—if at all—so his wages are priced a little high for a player who can be frustratingly inconsistent.
10. Samuel Eto'o
Eto'o's wages in 2011 were a modest €8 million, but he is now reported to be the best paid footballer in the world with his new club Anzhi Makhachkala.
The Russian outfit is believed to be paying the Cameroonian in the region of €20 million per year after taxes.
Ridiculous money for a player with a few years left. Silly money.
9. Carlos Tevez
€8 million was the fee Carlos Tevez earned in 2011.
When he plays football he's worth it, when he plays golf in Argentina, he's not.
Pay as you play might be a better deal.
8. Emmanuel Adebayor
Emmanuel Adebayor chimed in at €8.5 million during his loan stint at Real Madrid.
How much Real were paying versus parent club Manchester City is unclear, but the fee was too high either way.
7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Ask Zlatan Ibrahimovic if he was worth his €9 million wage and he'd tell you he was worth every penny.
Currently the top goalscorer in Serie A, his form suggests he can still produce magic, and magic costs money.
Zlatan probably helps recoup a lot of the clubs money through shirt sales.
6. Ricardo Kaka
Once regarded as the best midfielder in the world, Kaka can surely justify his €9 million wages.
Works a lot harder than Zlatan, that's for sure.
5. Wayne Rooney
Arguably England's best player, Wayne Rooney is also England's highest earner on €9.5 million.
Rooney has been carrying United through their midfield transitional period of the last few years and has scored plenty of goals to justify his wages.
4. Yaya Toure
€10 million is where true player value begins to start getting grey.
As talented as Yaya Toure is, can he influence the result of enough games to represent €10 million a year in wages?
Not sure about that one. Brilliant motor.
3. Fernando Torres
Fernando Torres at Liverpool was surely worth €10 million in wages. Fernando Torres at Chelsea is seemingly a different story.
Scoring 25 goals a season would suggest it's money well spent.
He's still young, so time will tell.
2. Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi is probably the best player on the planet, and the €10.5 million wages he earned in 2011 was vastly short of the value he gave the club.
Winning La Liga and the Champions League in 2011 has justified his wages easily.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo was the biggest earner of 2011 after taking home €12 million in wages.
Ronaldo is close to being as good as Lionel Messi—and is actually more accomplished in some areas—but he certainly didn't play better in 2011 to the tune of earning €1.5 million more.
Still worth it though.
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