Players in rich pickings

They are all multi-billionaires and when you add signing on fees, which vary from contract to contract, then you have rich pickings that equate favourably with those of movie stars. Crack Zimbabwe striker Benjani Mwaruwari is the highest paid Southern African star in the English Premiership after inking a lucrative three-year deal with Portsmouth. But the other four players ‘ Democratic Republic of Congo hotshot Lomano LuaLua, the South African duo of Shaun Bartlett and Quintone Fortune and Collins Mbesuma of Zambia ‘ also get handsome rewards for working in the best Premiership in the world. According to a recent survey by British newspaper The Independent and the Professional Footballers’ Association, Premiership players earn an average ‘13,000 per week. That figure, though, rises by between 60 percent and 100 percent when performance-related bonuses are taken into account which brings the earnings to an average ’25 000 per week. High-profile players like Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney and Arsenal forward Thierry Henry will obviously earn far more than that with average pickings of about ‘100 000 per week. But when that is contracted into average earnings for all the Premiership players then that figure drops dramatically to about ’25 000 per week. Strikers have the highest average annual salary because of their high profile and the goals that they deliver, which puts players like Mwaruwari, Bartlett and LuaLua at an advantage when it comes to remuneration. On average the strikers have a basic pay of about ‘806,000 per year in the Premiership. Midfielders like Fortune, who has spent seven years at Manchester United, are the second highest earners in the Premiership, taking home an average ‘754,000 per year in basic pay. Defenders earn ‘653,000 on average and Premiership goalkeepers make ‘533,000. But the basic pay is not the whole story. You also have to take into consideration players’ bonuses which vary according to contracts and could easily double the basic pay. Such earnings will include appearance fees of about ‘5,000 per game, on average, even if the player only comes into the game in injury time. Mwaruwari has played in all Portsmouth matches since joining the club from French side AJ Auxerre. LuaLua has also played in all Pompey games since returning from the Nations Cup finals in Egypt where he captained the Democratic Republic of Congo to a quarter-final place at the tournament. Fortune, whose career has been plagued by injuries, is not getting much in terms of appearance fees as he has been sidelined for a long period at Manchester United. His countryman Bartlett is also not getting much at Carlton as he is not guaranteed a place in the team on a regular basis. Mbesuma, who has struggled with fitness concerns and failed to make an impact since moving to Portsmouth from Kaizer Chiefs, has only played three matches in the Premiership. Signing-on fees are often huge amounts with payments usually spread over the term of a player’s contract. Mwaruwari’s signing-on fee was about ‘2 million pounds after Pompey paid ‘4.1 million pounds to take him from AJ Auxerre – the biggest transfer fee that Portsmouth have paid in their history. The crack Zimbabwe forward is on a three-year deal at Pompey and that means his signing on fee will be paid over that period. This means he can get an average of ’60 000 per month in signing-on fees for the duration of the contract. In an economy that rarely struggles with inflationary pressures, such earnings spread over three years will not make much of a difference in the players’ purses. Premiership players can also get a share of a win bonus following each victory, an incentive that rises with each challenge that comes along. That means Portsmouth, for instance, will boost their bonuses to try and inspire their players in their battle against relegation. Clubs are guaranteed rich pickings for just staying in the Premiership. Pompey have been involved in a serious relegation dogfight since the turn of the year. If you think that is the end of the earnings story then you are wrong. There is more. The Premiership players also stand to earn an end-of-season performance bonus that is often tied to whether a team keeps its Premiership status or it qualifies for the Champions League or the Uefa Cup. For instance, Middlesborough players got more financial rewards after booking their place in the Uefa Cup at the end of last season. Wages are also determined according to age with the highest earners always in the age group between 27 and 30, on average. That means players like Mwaruwari (27), are in the right age group that dominates the highest earners within the Premiership. The Zimbabwean star has invested heavily in property in South Africa and in his hometown Bulawayo and has also acquired a huge fleet of vehicles. His parents told the local media two months ago that their lives have changed dramatically since their son started to get rich pickings from his time in Europe. Mwaruwari is set to spend three years at Portsmouth although that will largely depend on whether Pompey stays in the Premiership. While Mwaruwari can hope for more time in the English top-flight, which translates to more financial rewards, the same cannot be said about Fortune. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson confirmed recently that Fortune’s contract, which expires next month, will not be renewed. The midfielder has spent seven years at Old Trafford but his career has been hampered by recurrent injuries and he has not played for United this season. Fortune will be released on a free transfer and already there is speculation linking him with a return to Spain. He joined Manchester United after a stint with Atletico Madrid – the poorer cousins of Spanish giants Real Madrid. “We have a lot of good young players in his position, so we are not going to be renewing his contract,” confirmed Ferguson. “He has been a great servant and played some terrific games for us and I think next season he will get a good club. “I explained the situation to him the best I could, which was not easy because he is such a great lad.” Fortune was one of the high-profile South African stars who joined the Premiership in the furore that followed Bafana Bafana’s triumph in the Nations Cup finals on home soil in 1996. Lucas Radebe was the other ‘ joining Yorkshire giants Leeds United and spending 10 years at the club where he rose to become team captain. Radebe, one of the most respected African players of his generation, was honoured with a testimonial at Elland Road after a decade of service. His central defensive partner at Bafana Bafana, Mark Fish, also joined the trek to the English Premiership where he played for Charlton Athletic. Southern African players have generally favoured a move to the English Premiership because of the language given that all countries in this region speak English. Former Warriors’ skipper Peter Ndlovu blazed a trail for black Southern African players when he joined Coventry City when they were still in the Premiership in 1991. He enjoyed a hugely successful stay at the Highfield-based club and was, at one time, compared with the late Irish legendary forward George Best. But the first real star from this region to make a mark in the top-flight of English football was goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar who joined Liverpool from Canadian side Vancouver Whitecaps in 1979. Grobbelaar, known as the Jungleman, then became part of the greatest Liverpool sides of all-time ‘ winning just about everything on offer. But the Jungleman played in an English Premiership that had not yet been blessed with all the riches that have changed the fortunes of its football stars today. PREMIERSHIP WAGES BY AGE 17-18: ‘24,500 19-20: ‘95,000 21-22: ‘390,000 23-24: ‘582,500 25-26: ‘653,000 27-28: ‘899,500 29-30: ‘806,000 31-32: ‘586,000 33+: ‘660,500 l Average: ‘676,000* (*Average figure takes into account players aged over 20)

April 2006
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