FIREing with Footballers

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Footballer Aubameyang sitting on top of his chrome wrapped Lamborghini.

Footballers often make the headlines particularly where their finances are concerned or how they’re splashing their mega bucks.

The amounts top players earn are beyond eye-watering to 99.99% of us, but despite the furore around how much footballers earn, only 3 feature in the top 10 highest earners in sport, and only 2 out of the top 10 over the last decade.

Boxing, Basketball and Golf get half the backlash footballers receive, but receive just as astronomical amounts of cash, be it through earnings, winnings or sponsorship deals.

That’s not to say they do or don’t deserve it. Football teams are private companies nowadays and can pay their players whatever they like – but the biggest companies pay their top staff incredible amounts too. At least if a footballer cocks up, it just results in a few grown man children crying down the phone to TalkSport radio rather than banking CEOs making thousands of low paid staff redundant.

Furthermore, some of these guys are as good a marketing investment as they are actual footballers, and will bring in umpteen times what the clubs are paying them in sponsorship interest and merchandise sales alone.

Mesut Özil is one of the most followed footballers on Instagram, if not the world, and barely ever plays for Arsenal anymore. Yet one post of him in the new Arsenal shirt has more eyeballs on it than any 6 figure marketing campaign from the club’s marketing team would ever reach.

Not all footballers are bad with their money either.

Ex Arsenal and AC Milan midfielder, Mathieu Flamini now co-owns a biochemical company looking to find sustainable alternatives to oil based products where his stake in the company could reportedly make him worth more than both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Hector Bellerin interviewed for Wealthsimple a few years back and gave a fascinating insight into his more money conscious life as footballer despite being at the very top of his game with the salary to boot – something us mere mortals rarely get a glimpse into.

I find footballers and their money fascinating, being so far removed from anything I, or anyone else I know, has experienced.

So I wanted to look at how quickly a top flight player could achieve financial independence on their current contracts. After all, some footballers are quite open about their indifference, and sometimes actual dislike, for the beautiful game, and are only in it for the money.

The Benchmark

To do this, we first need to set a benchmark (football pun fully intended) for what financial independence means. What amount does someone need to reach to be considered financially independent?

This differs person to person and there isn’t one set amount, so we won’t take these amounts as gospel, they’re just for the sake of this little football flavoured money exercise.

We’ll use the median income (pre tax) in 2019. That was roughly £25,000. This is how much our footballers will aim to withdraw from their cash pot each year. We’ll say this is kept in cash too to make it a little easier.

The average, healthy footballer will retire around the age of 35 (ish). 50 years of retirement takes them to 85, so we’ll say they need a pot big enough to withdraw from for 50 years that nets them £25k per year.

That means our target savings pot is £1,250,000.

The Players

I’ll be using the player’s base salaries and not including endorsements or bonuses etc. If I did that some of these guys will reach that £1.25mil mark in about 3 minutes.

Cristiano Ronaldo – 8/9 days

One of the greatest players to ever grace the game, this guy is the highest paid player barring Lionel Messi (Messi has a reportedly higher base salary while Ronaldo rakes in considerably more through sponsorship deals).

Being the main guy in 3 of the world’s most successful football teams over the last 15 years, and winning every domestic accolade you could possibly achieve, means he’s reaching our target amount in just 8/9 days. Even for those in the FI community on whacking great salaries, this is just an unimaginable amount of money.

Gareth Bale – 2 weeks and ~half a day

Despite moving to a notoriously ‘stingier’ club (in regards to how much they pay in wages), Bale is still earning £220k a week at Spurs.

However, being on loan, Real Madrid are still forking out a whopping £380k a week on top of this allowing the Welshman to hit our target in a smidge over 2 weeks.

Mohammed Salah – 6/7 weeks

Salah’s career looked like it would turn out to be a lot less lucrative than it has been before making a name for himself at Roma just 5 years ago.

He’s now an integral part of Liverpool’s front 3 and has been rewarded as such with enough cash to hit the target in just over 6 weeks.

Harry Kane – 6/7 weeks

England’s number 9. Deserves to have won at least something in his career, but being at Spurs doesn’t help that ambition.

Nonetheless, being their top striker and indispensable comes at a pretty penny. Like Salah, Kane also reaches out target in just a month and a half. Not bad for being the only guy on this list to have never won a trophy.

Raheem Sterling – 4 weeks and ~a day

I still consider Sterling to be one of England’s rising stars, but this guy has been at the top of his game for over 8 years now.

He’s still only 25 but certainly won’t be struggling to buy his first house, like the majority of millennials, being the highest paid English international; no need for a LISA for this guy.

Fair play though, he’s a quality player and seems like a decent guy for someone who’s been in the limelight for so long at such a young age.

Paul Pogba – 4 and a half weeks

Love him or hate him he’s a World Cup winner. Pogba shot to notoriety at Italian giants Juventus before making a big money move to United.

The big transfer came with a big wage meaning Pogba will be reaching the £1.25m in a little over a month. Knowing his larger than life character, how much of that he’d actually save is anyone’s guess.

But what about the lower leagues?

I wanted to include some players from lower leagues to make a comparison with the more household names above, but these are rarely revealed to the wider public.

A leak earlier this year detailed the average wage of each of the 3 leagues below the Premier League so I’ll use that and see where we end up.

Average Championship player – 43 weeks

It might be England’s second tier domestic league, but it’s widely considered to be one of the most competitive in the world. With 46 league games, and even more if a team reaches the playoffs, who goes up at the end of the season is somewhat of a lottery – not least some stamina, focus and a squad size bigger than the population of some countries.

The playoffs are also thought to offer the richest prize in football, and with that opportunity comes the need to pay some top players to help your club achieve that feat.

So despite being in the shadow of its far richer counterpart, the average Championship player can earn our target amount in just under 10 months. I can’t imagine Ligue 2 or Serie B are offering the same wages and further shows the pulling power of the English game.

Average League One player – Over 5 years

A footballer’s career is short lived. But even in the lower leagues players are earning well above those in more traditional vocations.

Despite some of stadiums in this league barely resembling more than your local community centre field (Plymouth *cough*), their footballers can still be earning a decent amount. The average player will take home enough to reach our goal in just over 5 years and set themselves up for a decent life after they’ve retired if they don’t blow it all first.

Average League Two player – 10 years

We’re getting slightly closer now to wages that might replicate the higher earners within the FIRE community, but it still took us until the 4th tier of English football to do so.

The best of League 2 can still see themselves earning over 6 figures but the reality are more likely to be earning much less.

Nevertheless, they still won’t be destitute, and, as long as they can stay fit and in form, can earn the target amount in 10 years.

*

Remember these are just base salaries and don’t include sponsorships, gifts or bonuses and also assume that player stays in that league for their entire career.

It also assumes they’re one of the ‘average’ players. Being either side of that average will reduce or increase that amount of time quite drastically.

I’m also not taking into account that they’ll actually have to be spending some of this money to survive. They’ll be earning this money, but will obviously not be able to save it all. But even so shows what an opportunity it is to set themselves up for a comfortable financial life after they’ve hung up their boots.

So what’s the point of all this?

Well I suppose there isn’t much really in relation to most people who’ll read this. There’s a lot of assumptions and the amounts are so far removed from anything most of us will ever know, some might ask what relevance this has to FIRE. But I find it quite interesting and it’s my blog so ‘nurh nee nurh nurh‘.

Seriously though I suppose that’s just the point.

It’s so far removed from the ‘real’ world, what would be the point in getting angry or trying to compare yourself to these people and their astronomical earnings?

There isn’t any. Keeping up with the Joneses is a very real problem in an instant and digital world that is constantly trying to show you what others have and you don’t. And that what they have is something you have to obtain, even if that means being a detriment to your finances.

This isn’t just with footballers either. Reality ‘stars’ (give me a break), top actors and actresses, musicians and artists are just some of the highest earning public figures that love to flaunt their wealth.

But all you can do is focus on you and your goals and block our the noise of those around you that may try and divert you from your well structured and thought out path.

6 thoughts on “FIREing with Footballers

  1. Love this! I know they’re all overpaid primadonnas, but I do sometimes feel for footballers – in what other job or career does your salary get published and talked about in such a way by everyone?

    Interesting how you mention ‘no LISA’ for Sterling when it would probably be prudent for these players to be at least maxing out their ISA (and their pension) allocations each year to shelter some of their income from the taxman. £20k is nothing to them right now but unless they have viable sources of income lined up when they hang up their football boots, every penny will count in the future.

    Sadly, there are many stories of ex-footballers who end up bankrupt once their careers are over – continued lifestyle inflation, ploughing money into risky ventures but no prudent savings or investments for the future – not all can be like David Beckham.

    You might be interested in this: https://www.sportszion.com/10-footballers-who-went-from-riches-to-rags/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah it’s a strange one how public their finances are. How accurate they are is one thing, but even if the reports are 10-20% either way off the mark it’s still little bit of a breach of privacy in my book.

      That’s very true about the LISA, I’d love to get an insight into exactly how these guys (or let’s be honest their management team) manage their money each month. ISA would be a good shout but you’d think at that wage level there are probably even more tax efficient ways that we’re not privy to (Lewis Hamilton and his ‘companies’ based in Guernsey come to mind – I think it’s Guernsey at least).

      There are quite a number, Emanuel Eboue (another Arsenal player) has quite an awful story about how he was bankrupted and left homeless by a wife living back in the Ivory Coast where he’s from.

      I love articles like that! Although I feel this wasn’t written by a football fan because that’s not Brad Friedel (I don’t think he’s ever had hair) and that’s not Lee Hendrie haha.

      Like

  2. Sooo, I was also thinking what the point of looking at this- until I read your conclusion. I have a question for you though- £25k might be the average, or enough, for most. But, these footballers, running cars that cost that in running costs (and more) in a year, I wonder what their FIRE number really is? £10million? Would £250k a year really be enough?

    Like

    1. Yeah that’s true. I took £25k for the sake of the post, but I would assume their individual FIRE numbers would be incredibly high, especially if they wish to maintain their lifestyle or had saved a load of it (which I highly doubt).

      Like

  3. The salaries of ‘footballers’ are beyond comprehension for most. Crazy to think half of these people earn more than money than my whole extended family lifetime in a few years.

    I think there is something wrong with this. Although some of the ‘players’ are involved in chartable enterprises, it would be great to see more publicity around those who are trying to help the world and its people. I hope there is plenty of them.

    Like

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