UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals: Picking the Highest Earning XI from Last 8
The UEFA Champions is the most prestigious club competition in the world, and therefore it features the most expensive football players in the world.
With the amount of money on the line for clubs in the competition, the biggest clubs are willing to spend a lot of money on the top players in the world in the hopes that these players can bring them success in the competition.
While there are some surprising teams who are among the last eight teams left in the tournament, it is not much of a surprise that most of these players are employed by the same few teams with the most money.
This is not a list of who has the highest transfer value, since that is a very subjective number and is really dictated simply by how much a club is willing to pay for a certain players.
Furthermore, some players have risen from their own team's academies, making any transfer value for them unknown.
In addition, players who signed contracts two or three years ago may not be making as much money as less talented players who just signed new contracts this season.
This is also not a list of who is the best starting XI, or who is playing the best, or even which XI players would form the best team.
This is the starting XI of players who make the most money in wages, the most expensive team money can buy.
This is not just the best XI players, but rather XI players who can be on the pitch at the same time. I chose to use a 4-3-3 formation for this team.
The wage figures may not be accurate to the dollar, as no two sites report the same figures, and several players from Spain don't have their wages reported at all.
But without further ado, here is not just the most expensive starting XI, but rather, the most expensive match day squad from the last eight teams in the UEFA Champions League.
The Bench: (1/2)
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Fernando Torres (£9.1 million a year: Chelsea)
Despite Torres' massive £50 million transfer fee when he moved to Chelsea, his wages fall just short of putting him in the starting XI.
This could be a good sign for this team, as Torres has struggled mightily since moving to Stamford Bridge and has yet to score a goal.
Being on the bench is not foreign to Torres, as he spent most of Spain's World Cup campaign on the bench recovering from an injury.
Samuel Eto'o (£9.1 million: Inter Milan)
Despite his age, the UEFA Champions League's most prolific scorer is continuing to rake in more money than almost every other footballer in the world.
Eto'o earned his money by scoring 18 Champions League goals in 41 appearances for Barcelona.
After becoming just the second player ever to score a goal in two different Champions League Finals in 2009, Eto'o moved to Italy to sign a big-money contract with Inter.
That money has been well spent by the Italian club, as Eto'o helped Inter win the Champions League in his first season with the club, becoming the fourth player to ever win the Champions League two years in a row with different teams.
Xabi Alonso (£4.5 million: Real Madrid)
In the world of professional football, the money goes to the players who are scoring the goals.
After the strikers, only the attacking midfielders make money that could even be compared to the amount strikers make.
That explains the drop-off in salary between the strikers and Xabi Alonso, who plays one of the most important positions on the field.
Alonso's ability to hold the ball and start attacks was a major reason why Real Madrid lured him away from Liverpool and made him one of the highest paid holding midfielders around.
Wesley Sneijder (£5 million: Inter Milan)
After making a quick rise through the Ajax youth academy, Sneijder moved on to Real Madrid.
After Real Madrid went on a massive shopping spree in the summer of 2009, Inter Milan saw an opening and signed the Dutch midfielder.
Sneijder's ability to use both feet, score from distance and launch deadly free kicks helped him land one of the more lucrative contracts for a midfielder.
Sneijder was a great investment for Inter, as he was a major reason that they were able to win the Champions League in 2010.
The Bench: (2/2)
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Carles Puyol (£4.3 million: Barcelona)
Puyol is considered by many to be one of the best center backs in the world.
He has been Barcelona's captain since 2004, leading them to La Liga titles in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010. He has also led them to two Champions League titles.
He captained the Barcelona team that won an unprecedented six major trophies in the year 2009.
While he isn't the captain of the Spanish national team, he has been a major reason behind Spain winning Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
There are very few negative things to say about Puyol other than he had poor timing when he signed his latest contract.
Puyol signed a contract extension with Barcelona back in 2009, and if he had waited just one more year before signing a new one, he would be making a lot more money then he is now.
Nemanja Vidic (£4.68 million: Manchester United)
For as much money as Rio Ferdinand makes, Nemanja Vidic has proven not only to be Manchester United's best defender, but possibly their most important player.
Vidic provides an incredible presence on the United defense. When United set a record for consecutive clean sheets back in 2009, Vidic was the only player who was consistently in the lineup.
His ability to defend against anyone and score on set pieces made extending his contract at Old Trafford a priority last summer.
Victor Valdes (£5.2 million: Barcelona)
Victor Valdes has been reining in the trophies recently for Barcelona.
He is the most successful goalkeeper in Barcelona history, winning four La Liga titles, two Champions League titles and a Copa Del Ray title.
In addition, he led Barcelona to the Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and UEFA Club World Cup titles in the year 2009.
It is no surprise that Barcelona has made him the joint-highest paid goalkeeper in the world. Unfortunately though, that is still not enough to put him in the starting XI of this team.
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (£5.2 Million: Real Madrid)
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Casillas and Valdes both play for the two biggest clubs in Spain, are the same age and both earn the same amount of money.
So if the two of them were to play for the same team, who would be the No. 1 choice? Luckily, we have the Spanish national team to decide that for us.
Valdes has made just three appearances for the Spanish national team, which comes nowhere near the 119 caps of Casillas.
In addition, Valdes didn't even earn his first cap until 10 years after Casillas earned his. Valdes was included in Spain's squad for the 2010 World Cup.
Like his fellow countrymen, Casillas has also won four La Liga titles and two Champions League titles.
Casillas also won two Intercontinental Cups, before the tournament was rebranded as the FIFA Club World Cup.
Casillas is the second-most capped goalkeeper in Spanish national team history, and he is just seven caps behind Andoni Zubizaretta for the most all time.
He is also the most capped goalkeeper of all time in the UEFA Champions League.
Casillas serves as the captain for both Real Madrid and the Spanish national team.
As captain of Spain, he led the country to their first European championship in 44 years when Spain won Euro 2008. He followed that up by leading the country to their first-ever World Cup win in 2010.
With all the club and international success Casillas has had, he is earning every Euro that Real Madrid is giving him.
If that isn't enough to put him into the staring XI, how many other players have done this in a postgame interview following the World Cup final?
Just like the Spanish national team, Casillas edges out Valdes in the staring XI for this team.
Left Back: Ashley Cole (£4.8 Million: Chelsea)
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Considered one of if not the best left back in the world, Ashley Cole made a £25 million move from Arsenal to Chelsea at the start of the Roman Abromovich era.
Cole's great speed and ability allow him to neutralize even the best right wingers in the world, often taking away one of Chelsea's opponents' best attacking options.
But Cole's value is not just in his defending. Cole is one of the best defenders in the world on the ball, as he flies up the left wing to help start the Chelsea attack.
Cole's terrific attacking ability makes him a nightmare for opposing managers. In five seasons at Chelsea, Cole has scored six goals and set up countless others.
Cole has also been an almost permanent fixture for the English national team since 2001. Cole's 88 international caps are the most by a black English player in English football history.
While Cole flies up the wing and helps to make the English attack even more potent, he has played in more international matches without scoring a goal than any other player in English history.
Even if he isn't scoring goals, Cole is providing incredible value to both England and Chelsea. With the skills that Cole brings to the table and a rich Russian owner, he deserves to be the highest paid left back in the world.
Center Back: John Terry (£6.5 Million: Chelsea)
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Say what you want about John Terry's antics on the field—or even off the field for that matter—but there is one thing that is certain: John Terry can defend better then almost anyone in the world.
Terry became Chelsea's captain when Jose Mourinho took over the club at the start of the 2004-05 campaign. Terry immediately led Chelsea to back-to-back Premier League titles.
In 2004-05, Terry led Chelsea to the best defensive record in Premier League history.
Terry also led Chelsea to FA Cup triumphs in 2007, 2009 and 2010. His name will live forever in Wembley Stadium history, as he was the first captain to ever lift the FA Cup trophy in the new Wembley Stadium.
As if that wasn't enough, he also became the first player to score an international goal at the new Wembley, when he scored in a 1-1 draw against Brazil.
Not only is Terry a fantastic defender, but he is a major scoring threat on set pieces as well. He has scored six goals in 58 appearances for England.
Last season, he scored a crucial goal at Stamford Bridge to defeat Manchester United 1-0.
Terry's heading ability had nothing to do with how many people Didier Drogba fouled on the play while in an offside position on the goal.
The win was crucial, as Chelsea beat United by a single point to win the 2010 Premier League title.
In 2007, English manager Steve McLaren named Terry the English captain.
He remained the captain until new manager Fabio Capello stripped him of the title in 2010 following off-the-field issues, but he was reinstated as captain in 2011 following an injury to Rio Ferdinand.
While Terry will always be remembered for slipping and missing his penalty during the 2008 Champions League Final, he still makes more money than everyone else because he is that important to every team he plays for.
Center Back: Rio Ferdinand (£5.6 Million: Manchester United)
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We will have to go to the bench for a substitution on this one, but that doesn't change the fact that Ferdinand is the second-highest paid defender in the world behind John Terry.
Ferdinand has spent the better part of the last three years battling injuries, and is currently battling a back injury that may keep him out the rest of the season.
Ferdinand moved to Manchester United from Leeds United in 2002 for a fee of around £30 million, making him the most expensive defender in Premier League history.
His United career got off to a rocky start when he was suspended eight months for missing a drug test.
When Ferdinand finally did settle in to Old Trafford, he quickly became one of the best defenders around.
Over time, Ferdinand began being considered one of the best central defenders in the world, and he was becoming a leader around Old Trafford.
Due to injuries to club captain Gary Neville, Ferdinand often split wearing the United armband with Ryan Giggs, helping to lead United to Premier League titles in 2007, 2008, and 2009.
Ferdinand captained United in the 2008 Champions League Final, where United defeated Chelsea on penalties.
In total, he has won the Premier League title four times, a Champions League title, two league cups and a FIFA Club World Cup.
Ferdinand has made 88 appearances for the English national team, scoring three times. In 2010, manager Fabio Capello named Ferdinand the new English captain after taking the armband away from John Terry.
However, Ferdinand got injured in training prior to the World Cup, forcing him to give up the armband to Steven Gerrard.
In 2011, Capello took the armband away from Ferdinand, giving it back to Terry in a move that sparked a lot of controversy.
When Ferdinand was at his peak, he was perhaps the best central defender in the world. Now, however, he often forces his partner Nemanja Vidic to cover for his mistakes or loss of ability.
When he is healthy he is still very good, but he spends too much time on the training table to justify making the kind of money he is making.
Right Back: Dani Alves (£6.1 Million: Barcelona)
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Dani Alves is easily one of the top two right backs in the world.
The other one is Alves' fellow countryman Maicon, making sure the two of them are always competeing for the starting right back spot on the Brazilian national team.
While many people believe Maicon to be the best right back in the world, the details of his contract are nowhere to be found. Even so, it is hard to believe that he would be making more then Alves.
During his six years at FC Sevilla, Alves helped the club to two UEFA Cups and a Copa Del Ray. Barcelona bought Alves for about £30 million, making him one of the most expensive defenders in the world.
Like Ashley Cole, Alves' value comes from his ability to fly up the wing and join the attack. Alves is arguably better then Cole in this regard, as he has scored 11 goals in his first three seasons at Barcelona.
Alves has helped Barcelona win La Liga titles in each of his first two seasons with the club, and has helped them to the top of the table in La Liga this season.
He missed the 2009 Champions League final due to a yellow card suspension.
Alves has made 46 appearances over the last five years for the Brazilian national team, scoring five goals.
As Alves continues to frustrate left wingers and excite fans with his great runs, Barcelona just sits back and smiles at their good investment.
Midfield: Kaka (£6.5 Million: Real Madrid)
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Funny how Kaka can crack the staring XI of this list while he can barely crack the starting XI at his own club.
While Kaka is constantly being outshined by Mesuit Ozil at Real Madrid, Kaka's paychecks sure give him something to brag about (Ozil makes just £3.9 a year).
Kaka was the first player signed during Real Madrid's summer signing spree in 2009. Kaka was lured away from AC Milan with a €68.5 million deal.
At the time, Kaka was well worth the money, coming off of a season where he scored 19 goals in just 36 appearances for AC Milan.
He was also just two years removed from leading AC Milan to a Champions League title and he was still capable of breathtaking moments like this.
Kaka helped Milan to the Serie A title just once in 2004 during his time at the San Siro, while also leading them to Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup titles in 2007, claiming the Ballon d'Or trophy as the world's best player that year.
As a member of the Brazilian national team, Kaka has scored 27 international goals and played a part in helping Brazil win the 2002 World Cup.
In the summer of 2009, there was no doubt that Kaka was one of the most talented players in the world, just two years removed from a season where he won both the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards.
At the time, the signing was a great move for Real Madrid, and very few people questioned the move.
However, Kaka has struggled to make an impact in his two seasons at the Bernabau, scoring just 11 goals in 44 appearances.
While for a normal midfielder those would be great numbers, the expectations for Kaka are a bit higher.
As he struggles to even get into matches at Madrid, there is no doubt that in hindsight, he is being a tad bit overpaid.
Midfield: Xavi: (€7.5 Million: Barcelona)
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In most cases, the midfielders who make the most money are the midfielders who score the most goals.
Xavi seems to be the exception to this rule. While he may not be the most prolific goalscorer, no one can argue how important he is to his team.
While Xavi doesn't score many goals, that doesn't mean he can't score them. Not only does Xavi have the ability to attack and score goals, but when he does score, they are usually at crucial times.
Xavi's true value comes from his ability to play as a holding midfielder. Xavi's ability to hold the ball and his superb passing skills are a major reason why Barcelona are able to keep possession of the ball for the majority of the time in all their matches.
During the 2009-10 season, Xavi was called the best midfielder in modern football as well as one of the greatest central midfielders of all time by Spanish journalists.
He has helped Barcelona to five League titles, two Champions League titles, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
He played an influencial role in Spain's Euro2008 championship, as well as their 2010 World Cup victory.
In the 2010 World Cup, Xavi's 669 pass attempts were 104 more then the next player on the list. This just shows how great Xavi's passing ability is, and how much Spain relied on him to distribute the ball and get attacks started.
Xavi has already taken home a plethora of individual honors, being named the World Soccer Player of the year in 2009, the man of the match in the 2009 UEFA Champions League final, La Liga Spanish Player of the Year in 2005, and the UEFA Champions League midfielder of the year in 2008-09.
These are just some of the individual accolades he has received. He also finished third for the Ballon d'Or in both 2009 and 2010.
There is no doubt that Xavi is the engine behind both the Barcelona and Spanish attacks, and it is not a coincidence that both teams have dominated in recent years with Xavi in the center of their formations.
As he continues to be one of the most dynamic players in the game, he continues to get paid like one.
Midfield: Frank Lampard (£6.6 Million: Chelsea)
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It is no surprise that Chelsea seem to have a bunch of players on this list.
Russian owner Roman Abromovich wants success in the Champions League and he is clearly willing to pay top dollar (or pound) to try to achieve that success.
While Frank Lampard's Champions League resume may not be the greatest one out there (he has led Chelsea to just one Champions League final, though he did score in the final), Lampard has earned his paycheck with his great play in the Premier League.
The free kick specialist and passing maestro has totaled 111 goals and 84 assists in nine Premier League seasons for Chelsea.
He has won three Premier League titles and three FA Cups with Chelsea. In 2008 he was named the UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year.
Unfortunately for Lampard, things aren't so great for him outside of the Premier League.
He has made 81 appearances for the English National team, but he has had a rocky relationship with the English fans, culminating in Lampard getting booed when he came on as a substitute in a Euro2008 qualifying match.
Many fans even thought that Lampard should have been benched due to poor performances for England.
While Lampard has scored 21 goals for England, that number is slightly inflated because he has been England's penalty taker for years.
Lampard also drew the ire of the fans when he went over two years without scoring an international goal despite being England's penalty taker.
He broke the streak when he scored in a 4-0 win over Slovakia in March of 2009.
While Lampard did score on a penalty in England's recent win over Wales, the player admitted that he thought he was going to be dropped from the starting XI, and no longer thinks he is an automatic choice for Fabio Capello.
Lampard's Champions League record is simply average as well. In 82 Champions League appearances with Chelsea he has scored just 21 goals and picked up just 11 assists.
Compare those numbers to his 2009-10 Premier League campaign, where he scored 22 goals and picked up 17 assists, in just 36 appearances.
While Frank Lampard is definitely one of, if not the best attacking midfielder in the Premier League, if I were going to pay top dollar for a midfielder, I would want him to be a consistent performer in every competition, something that Lampard has failed to do.
Forward: Lionel Messi (€9.5 Million: Barcelona)
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Who is the best football player in the world?
Two years ago if you asked that question you would spark a debate as to whether the best player was Lionel Messi of Barcelona, or Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United.
If you ask that question today, you will get one simple answer: Messi.
Ignore the fact that Messi has struggled playing for the Argentinian national team.
Pegged as the next Maradona, he has failed to bring Argentina the glory they have hoped for, and he has scored just 16 times in 54 national team appearances. A pretty low return for someone with Messi's standards.
He did however lead Argentina to a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics. But Argentina is starting to reform their team, build around Messi, and play a formation similar to the one Messi plays in at Barcelona.
At Barcelona, boy has that formation worked. Credit it to the formation, the freedom Messi is given to roam around the field or the quality of the players around him, at Barcelona Messi is showing the world how talented he is.
This season alone Messi has already scored 45 goals in just 42 appearances.
Think he's the only one scoring? Think again. Messi's playmaking abilities have also helped him pick up 21 assists.
For those keeping track, that makes Messi resonsible for 66 Barcelona goals in 42 appearances this season.
Over his entire career Messi has already scored 173 goals and assisted on 70 others in just 256 appearances in a Barcelona shirt.
He has won the Ballon d'Or in 2009 and 2010, picking up the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2009 as well.
While he may suffer a little bit from Sidney Crosby syndrome, (yelling at the referee everytime someone touches him or takes the ball away from him), there is no doubt he is the most talented player in the world.
I saw him play live at the USA vs. Argentina match recently and he is worth every dollar I spent on a ticket. Seeing Messi play live is an absolute must for every football fan in the world.
Like his club teammate Carlos Puyol, the only reason Messi isn't the highest paid player is because other players have signed contracts since he signed his.
With the way Messi is producing right now, Barcelona are going to have to give him more then €9.5 million a year when his next contract comes around.
Forward: Wayne Rooney (£10.4 Million: Manchester United)
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The negotiations for Wayne Rooney's latest contract got so messy that several reports came out saying Rooney would be leaving Manchester United as early as January 2011.
Even worse, he would be joining former Red Devil Carlos Tevez at United's hated rival Manchester City.
Amid all the reports and both sides fighting in the media, the situation ended with Rooney putting pen to paper on a new contract that doubled his wages at Manchester United.
During the time of the negotiations, Rooney just couldn't keep his name out of the British tabloids. Rooney was going through personal troubles off the field, and on the field it wasn't getting much better.
He had not scored a goal, for club or country, since United's Champions League quarterfinal match against Bayern Munich on March 30th.
Meanwhile Sir Alex Ferguson had suggested that Rooney was still not over an ankle injury that he picked up in that Champions League match, while Rooney suggested that those claims were rubbish.
The war of words simply escalated the contract dispute, fueling the rumors that Rooney would leave.
When all was said and done, Rooney signed a new contract and went off to Oregon to rehab his ankle, which happened to be injured just as Fergie had said.
While things have gotten better since Rooney returned for United, he has yet to regain the form that saw him score 34 goals in all competitions last season.
However, he has modified his game this season, becoming more of a playmaker and creator, which has helped him pick up 11 assists this season, the second most on the team.
Furthermore, he is a large reason why Dimitar Bertatov is enjoying his most successful season in a United shirt, scoring 20 goals this season.
While Rooney has only been able to find the back of the net seven times this season, he has still proven over his entire United career that he is their most important player. (I wrote about this a few weeks ago in an article that can be found here).
Rooney is the engine that makes United run, and if it costs £10.4 million a year to make that engine run, then that is how much United will have to pay.
Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo (€11 Million: Real Madrid)
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Several factors led to Cristiano Ronaldo becoming the highest paid football player in the world.
It starts with Ronaldo bursting onto the scene and dazzling the world with his fancy tricks and great footwork at Manchester United.
Pretty soon Ronaldo began growing from a winger with great tricks into an incredible goal scorer.
After Ronaldo scored 12 goals in all competitions during the 2005-06 season, he nearly doubled his goal total the following year, scoring 23 goals and assisting on 19 others, helping United win their first Premier League title in three years.
Unfortunately, United's Champions League campaign crashed out when they were beaten by Kaka and AC Milan in the semifinals. Ronaldo would then finish as the runner up to Kaka for the 2007 Ballon d'Or.
The following season was when Cristiano Ronaldo put himself in the argument for the best player in the world.
Ronaldo scored 42 goals in all competitions, leading United to a second straight Premier League title, and this time, United would win the Champions League as well.
In additon to club success, Ronaldo won Ballon d'Or and the FIFA Player of the Year awards in 2008.
The groundwork for a mega contract with Real Madrid was then laid shortly after the Champions League final, when Ronaldo announced his intentions to move to Real Madrid.
Ronaldo was convinced to stay at United for one more season, where he would try to lead United to becoming just the second team to ever win back-to-back Champions League titles.
Ronaldo scored 26 goals in all competitions and United won a third straight Premier League title, but their bid for back-to-back Champions League titles came up short when they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League final.
After seeing rivals Barcelona win back-to-back La Liga titles, and now winning the treble as well in 2009, Real Madrid was anxious to return to the summit of Spanish football.
With a new president, Real Madrid went on a major summer spending spree, looking to sign all of the available top players.
After signing Kaka, they turned their attention to Ronaldo, coming off three straight Premier League titles and a desire to move to Real Madrid.
Real Madrid and Manchester United agreed to a record £80 million fee for Ronaldo.
With the Ronaldo vs. Messi debate still going strong, Real Madrid was eager to claim that they had the best player in the world.
Their first move was to make him the highest paid player in the world. Ronaldo signed a six year contract that pays him €11 million a year.
Individually Ronaldo has proven to be worth the money at Real Madrid, where he has scored 70 goals in 77 appearances.
However, that has not been enough for Madrid to catch Barcelona at the top of La Liga, or to bring any trophies to the Bernabau just yet.