European Football's 10 Biggest Earners: Are They Worth It?
Football players are some of the most well-paid employees in sports, but are the top earners always deserving of their compensation?
That's what we'll try and figure out today by looking at European football's 10 biggest earners.
In this age, footballers earn more than just a regular salary. While it's certainly great to be able to look at just the salary, we'll judge these players on all their earnings.
Some are catapulted to great heights because of the magnificent brands they've created for themselves, others have pretty high salaries carrying them into the top 10.
All the information is based on Forbes' recent rankings of the world's best-paid players, which looks at earnings from the 2012 calender year.
The players will be ranked as they are in Forbes, and we'll discuss whether or not they are worth it from those findings.
Here are European football's 10 biggest earners.
*Unless otherwise stated all information and statistics courtesy of Forbes.
1. David Beckham
Earnings: $50.6 million
Brand Beckham, as you would expect, was quite profitable in 2012. That came down mainly to his sponsorship deals with companies such as Adidas and H&M.
What's interesting is that only $6.5 million of that amount was earned in wages. Were this list based on salary alone, Beckham may not have gotten on.
That's understandable, given his age and the little he brings to the pitch nowadays. Still, he's worth it all in the end.
He is nowhere the player he once was, but he has shown since arriving in France that, at 38, he can still put in a decent shift or two at a respectable level.
Beckham has built the biggest brand of any footballer by far and can thank his looks and achievements for that.
His longevity and career moves, notably the move to the MLS, have all opened up different avenues for the Englishman.
He's played for two of the biggest clubs in the game, Manchester United and Real Madrid, and was successful at both.
He entered a league with the sole prospect of raising its profile, which he did, and he is currently doing the same for the Paris Saint-Germain project in France.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Earnings: $43.5 million
There no doubting that Cristiano Ronaldo is worth every penny that he earns.
His actions on the pitch speak for themselves, and as you'll see by looking on Forbes' list, he's involved in plenty of things off it.
His deal with Nike certainly stands out, but Ronaldo has six sponsorship deals in all.
He may not get a movie with his name in it like David Beckham did, but Ronaldo has also been able to gain profit from his achievements.
3. Lionel Messi
Earnings: $40.3 million
The best player in the world, and also the highest earner on-the-pitch, Lionel Messi comes in at No. 3 on Forbes' list.
It will be interesting to see what Messi's earnings look like after the 2013 calender year is over.
The Argentinian has joined both aforementioned players with his own signature sportswear line with Adidas and actually tops the list of sponsors with seven to his name.
Considering he's only 25, that list may grow.
Messi has yet to fully make his mark in the U.S. from a marketing standpoint, but that could all change in time.
4. Sergio Aguero
Earnings: $20.8 million
Is Sergio Aguero worth $20.8 million? A salary of $16.6 million makes that a no (via Forbes).
That sort of wage bill puts him much closer to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, and he shouldn't be.
Yes, the Argentinian forward is one of the best talents in world football, and he played a major role in bringing Manchester City a Premier League title as well as a few titles to Atletico Madrid.
Still, those above him, and some below him, have done so much more to prove their worth on the pitch.
The fact that his sponsorship deals are so meager in comparison to others means he has a long way to go.
There's still plenty of time for Aguero to really convince that he's worth this kind of outlay salary-wise.
5. Wayne Rooney
Earnings: $20.3 million
Wayne Rooney is one of the most interesting players in World football.
The English attacker is overrated and underrated in equal measure, despite what he's done through his career.
As pointed out in his Forbes' blurb, his troubles on the pitch and off have taken away some of his potential income.
Still, the five-time Premier League winner and English talisman is worth his earnings.
6. Yaya Toure
Earnings: $20.2 million
The fact that he's closing in on 30—and among a star-studded squad—doesn't mean Yaya Toure isn't deserving of his earnings.
Maybe it's strange to discount one Manchester City star and not the other, but Toure is more deserving than Sergio Aguero.
His career history speaks for itself, and his importance to Manchester City cannot be understated. His marketability for Puma on the African stage also weighs in big.
7. Fernando Torres
Earnings: $20.2 million
Is Fernando Torres worth his earnings? No.
Is his poor form since the 2010/11 season playing a part in that answer? Yes.
At this stage in his career, Torres is living off his name and past achievements. Mind you, those achievements weren't necessarily title-winning ones.
Sure, he's a two-time European champion and one-time World Cup winner, but only played a major role in one.
Maybe Torres will rise from the ashes like a Phoenix, but until then, sponsors and employers are overpaying.
8. Ricardo Kaka
Earnings: $19.3 million
As much as it sucks to say, Ricardo Kaka should not be getting the finances he does at this stage in his career.
The former World Player of the Year struggles for playing time at Real Madrid, though he does show flashes of his former self when on the pitch.
Kaka has never been extremely marketable, though his past achievements made him one of the major names on Adidas' football lineup.
At the age of 31, and soon likely to head out of the limelight of Madrid, Kaka isn't worth his earnings.
9. Didier Drogba
Earnings: $17.8 million
An African football icon? Check. Likely to bring more fans to the stand? Check. Not that Galatasaray really needed him for that though.
Still a good player at the age of 35? Check.
Didier Drogba is marketable, and thus profitable for both sponsors and his current side. He deserves his pay because of what he can still do for the Turkish club on and off the pitch.
10. Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard's club-legend status is what gets him the type of earnings he has.
At one time, he was one of the better midfielders in the game, but that time is long gone. Injuries and age have hindered the Liverpool star and made him less effective.
His achievements are nothing to scoff at, but not eye-watering either. Adidas has been his lone major sponsor, but he's no longer a prime candidate for a marketing campaign.