20 Players Playing Themselves into Giant Contracts
Whether it's securing a better deal with the club he currently plies his trade for or attracting the interest of another side, there is no better way for a footballer to earn himself a huge contract than to perform at a high level week-in and week-out.
A player can choose loyalty or decide to test himself elsewhere, but in order to convince the folk in high places to part with their money, he has to do his talking on the pitch.
The following 20 footballers have impressed enough in recent times to put themselves in the running for a large pay rise in the near future.
20. Ricardo Rodriguez
Both Patrice Evra and Ashley Cole's respective careers appear to be winding down, so quality left-sided full-backs are in high demand.
The 21-year-old Swiss international is certainly quality, but it is not clear whether his current club will want to let him go.
Whatever happens, the youngster could soon be collecting a much-improved pay packet.
19. Gabriel Paletta
He may not have made much of an impact last time he was in the Premier League, but Gabriel Paletta is now fulfilling the talent he showed as a youngster and is shining bright in Serie A for Parma.
The Argentina-born defender even received a call-up to the Italian national team recently, becoming the 42nd Oriundo (foreign-born Azzurri player) in the friendly match against Spain .
James Horncastle explains in The Mirror how the 28-year-old has revitalized his European career:
Made to feel at home at the Tardini, he has emerged as one of the leading centre-backs in Serie A over the last four years.
Both Milan clubs were interested in him during the winter and you can understand why.
Composed under pressure, Paletta never lets an opponent get to him.
He stays calm. Shows him away from goal or onto his wrong foot.
Like his idol Walter Samuel, he raises a wall in front of goal. Few have breached it of late.
If Parma intend to hang on to the reliable center-half, they might have to think about improving his wage package.
18. Gonzalo Castro
Having been at the club since the age of 11, Gonzalo Castro can expect his continued loyalty to Bayer Leverkusen to be rewarded next time he extends his stay with them.
The 26-year-old midfielder has played over 250 times for Leverkusen and appears to be hitting the peak form of his career.
His current contract expires in 2016, as reported by Sky Sports, and the club will be eager to convince him to stay.
If they can't improve his deal, the player might be tempted to try his luck elsewhere.
A host of English clubs are tracking Benfica starlet, Rodrigo, according to Ed Malyon of The Mirror.
The 23-year-old Brazilian-born striker could be set for a big-money move to the Premier League soon, with Liverpool the favorites to nab his signature.
Here's what Malyon had to say about him:
Manchester City and Manchester United have both watched Benfica in recent weeks, but similarly Italian giants Milan and billionaires Monaco are standing by.
The 23-year-old is capable of playing anywhere across the front three, but is most comfortable coming inside from the left or playing as the central forward.
His international record is outstanding! Despite never making the full Spain squad (hard to blame him with the current competition) he has netted 15 times in 16 under-21 games, playing in the final as the Spanish won the European u-21 championships in 2013.
16. Mauro Icardi
Though his profile has risen sharply due to off-field romances, Argentine young gun Mauro Icardi is just beginning to make a big impression on the pitch.
Icardi began an affair with the estranged wife of former friend Maxi Lopez which made headlines in Argentina and Italy, but as Paolo Bandini explained in The Guardian, the 21-year-old forward's considerable talent is starting to shine through at Internazionale:
Icardi... is a single-minded poacher, whose three goals so far this season have come at a rate of one for every 82.6 minutes that he spends on the pitch.
Every one of them has earned Inter points, with the previous two arriving in 1-1 draws against Cagliari and Juventus.
He is, in other words, the kind of player who helps you to win games when you did not necessarily deserve to do so.
If the youngster can keep his mind focused on football, he could be viewed as a long-term option at Inter as the likes of Rodrigo Palacio begin to fade.
15. Seamus Coleman
Sick of watching their best players sign for rival clubs, Everton are planning on tempting full-back Seamus Coleman to stay with a nice, fat new contract.
David Maddock of The Mirror reports:
Everton's Roberto Martinez is ready to offer Seamus Coleman a lucrative new long-term contract to keep him from the clutches of Europe’s top clubs.
The Republic of Ireland international has attracted strong interest from Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City.
But manager Martinez is determined to build the Toffees' future around the promising talent at the club, and he insisted he will offer new deals to all of his exciting young stars to ensure they stick around for the long term.
14. Raheem Sterling
Back in December 2012, an 18-year-old Raheem Sterling penned a five-year deal with Liverpool that would see him earn £30,000 a week.
The teenager's promise had already been identified, but it is only this season that he has really blossomed as a first-team player, and his stocks have risen considerably.
Sterling has been in excellent form for the high-flying Reds and stands a good chance of making England's squad for the World Cup.
With high-earning players such as Joe Cole and Stewart Downing jettisoned from Liverpool in 2013, Sterling can hold hopes of doubling his salary at the very least next time negotiations take place.
13. Alessio Cerci
In-demand Italian winger Alessio Cerci belongs to Torino right now, but it appears he is open to a move elsewhere should the right offer come.
The dynamic attacking player's contract ends in 2015, and he has turned down offers of renewal from the Turin club, according to Tuttosport (via Football Italia).
The Italian sports daily claims Milan, Juventus and Manchester United are all circling Cerci, who looks set for a significant payday.
12. Roberto Firmino
With his 19 goals and 14 assists in 29 matches for Hoffenheim this campaign, Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino has unsurprisingly attracted the interest of a number of major clubs.
According to Kit Holden of The Daily Mail, Manchester United, Liverpool, Everton, Inter and Schalke have all been watching the 22-year-old.
With so many potential suitors, the versatile frontman will surely be continuing his career in new surroundings sometime soon.
11. Angel Correa
Perhaps the brightest prospect in domestic Argentine football at present is San Lorenzo's explosive attacker, Angel Correa.
The 18-year-old possesses incredible dribbling skills, creativity and an eye for goal, and according to Ed Malyon of The Mirror, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona and Arsenal have all been keeping tabs on him.
10. William Carvalho
According to Sunday People, as relayed by Espn.co.uk, interest from Manchester United has seen William Carvalho's profile skyrocket in recent days, and his bank balance will surely be following suit.
David Moyes will be hoping the defensive midfielder can add some steel to United's core, and the English club is on the verge of signing the 21-year-old.
The Red Devils are set to trigger the Angola-born player's £37million release clause to pry him away from Sporting Lisbon.
9. Ciro Immobile
A product of the Juventus Primavera system, Ciro Immobile is one of Italian football's brightest rising stars.
The 24-year-old made his Serie A debut back in 2009, and after a series of loan spells and a stint at Genoa, is now really hitting his straps at Torino, where he has amassed 17 goals in 27 matches.
The very mobile Immobile has attracted the attention of German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund, according to Ben Gladwell of ESPN FC.
With Robert Lewandowski leaving for Bayern Munich at the end of the season, the Bundesliga side will need a new front man to bang in the goals and will have some spare cash to flash in order to get one.
8. Mattia Perin
Genoa's gifted young goalkeeper Mattia Perin probably won't be stopping goals for the club for too much longer.
The 21-year-old has shown all the attributes of a top-shelf keeper, and though he has a contract until 2017, his agent, Matteo Roggi, speaking to tuttomercatoweb.com (as reported by Declan Warrington in The Daily Mail), said there are a number of big clubs interested in signing him.
Arsenal, Barcelona and Milan were the names put forward back in March 2013 even before Perin's current run of brilliant form.
7. Daniel Sturridge
Luis Suarez is making some serious cash at Liverpool and justifiably so.
His partner up front for the Reds, Daniel Sturridge, has been terrific as well this season as the Merseysiders chase the Premier League title.
The England international sits second on the scorers' charts behind his Uruguayan teammate, and coach Brendan Rogers has hinted that he will soon be rewarded for his excellent form with an improved contract.
Rogers, quoted in the North Wales Daily Post, said:
Daniel has been outstanding since he came here and I am sure the owners may well look at that come the summer.
He has certainly shown consistently for over a year that he has the potential to be a world class striker.
But there will be no contracts talked about until the summer, our focus is on the club and not any individual, whether it is the player or the manager.
6. Sergio Aguero
Pure talent, vision, speed and goal-scoring ability; Sergio Aguero has all the attributes of the perfect striker.
No wonder he has been fantastic for Manchester City since joining them from Atletico Madrid in 2011.
There are not many clubs in world football at the moment with more pulling power than City, though Barcelona and Real Madrid both still have more allure.
And the two Spanish giants are ready to enter a bidding war for Aguero in the summer, according to Antony Kastrinakis of The Sun (subscription required), meaning the Argentine's already wonderful career could be about to take a new turn.
5. Ilkay Gundogan
You know you must be doing something right if Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Real Madrid are all interested in signing you up.
Borussia Dortmund's creative midfielder Ilkay Gundogan is in just such a situation, with Bayern entering the fray recently to receive his services, according to German magazine Focus (as reported by Kit Holden of The Daily Mail).
The Munich giants have plundered Dortmund's playing stocks many times in the past, so it would be no surprise if the elegant 23-year-old ends up in Bayern colors in the near future.
4. Toni Kroos
Set to be the subject of a tug-of-war between current club Bayern Munich and Manchester United in the summer, Toni Kroos is likely to emerge a winner no matter what the outcome.
The 24-year-old German international is out of contract at the end of the season, and according to David Hytner of The Guardian, both clubs are keen to secure his services.
Hytner explains the situation:
The Bayern Munich attacking midfielder... is locked in a contractual stand-off with his employer.
His deal, which earns him around £70,000 a week, expires in the summer of next year and the German international maintains that he will assess his options at the end of the season, when he stands to become one of the most sought-after players on the market.
The United manager, David Moyes, has put the 24-year-old at the top of his wish-list as he looks to strengthen after a terrible first season in charge at Old Trafford.
But Kroos, who is rated among the world's leading young players, can expect interest from every major club in the Premier League.
3. Diego Costa
He was highly rated before, but in the space of a few months, Diego Costa's reputation has grown considerably.
The Brazil-born striker has emerged as one world football's most potent attacking weapons this season, and Atletico Madrid will either have to break the bank to keep hold of him, or be forced to let him go.
Atleti are battling for the title with Real Madrid and Barcelona, but this could be their last chance at silverware for a while if they are, as usually happens, unable to hang on to their best players.
Dean Jones of The Mirror writes that Costa's current deal runs until 2018, but the Spanish club are eager to extend it further and increase the release clause, with Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea ready to swoop in with offers.
2. Eden Hazard
A pay rise for Chelsea's brilliant midfielder Eden Hazard is imminent.
The Belgian has been outstanding for the title-chasing Blues this season, so much so that he will be one of the favorites when the Player of the Year award is announced.
When a player shows so much talent, it's not long before one of the Spanish giants comes sniffing about, and Real Madrid are reportedly interesting in luring the 23-year-old to the Santiago Bernabeu.
According to John Payne of the Metro, even though Hazard has three years remaining on his current contract, Chelsea are about to up his pay to £200,000 per week to ensure he stays at the club.
Other footballers take note; if you want to make more money, just play like a superstar.
1. Paul Pogba
Mega-rich clubs Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are hoping to pry midfield sensation Paul Pogba away from Juventus in the next transfer window.
The Turin club would dearly love to hang on to one of their star men, however, and are close to nailing him down with a massive contract.
Only wrangling over the details of a release clause has prevented the Frenchman from re-signing with Juve, according to Libero, as reported by Football Italia.
If that detail can be sorted out, Pogba's wage would be increased to a hefty €3.5 million per season until 2017.