Neville and GiggsGary Neville and Ryan Giggs have both surprisingly spoken out about the controversial issue of football players earning every penny of their astronomically large salaries.

When the starting salary for a nurse is £20k a year, a teacher is £21k a year and a police officer is £22k a year, it’s hard to argue that John Terry deserves £160k a week! To think that Terry earns eight times more in a week that a nurse would earn in a year is mind-boggling.

“Others earn billions selling rights and 75,000 come to watch us every week,” Neville argued. “There’s a product there that people love. Fans are crucial but without the player you have nothing.”

Ryan Giggs has supported his team-mates claim, citing the increase in money in the game as justification.

“There is plenty of money in the game but the majority of the players deserve it,” he said. “There are a number of players that perhaps 20 years ago would not have got paid the money that they’re getting now but that is the way that football is. The average player is getting a lot of money – if that is right, I don’t know. But good luck to them – the money is in the game, why not earn it while they have got the chance? But 20 years ago that wouldn’t have happened. Then it was probably only the top, top players, the elite players who would be earning good money.”

Does he have a point? When United won the Premiership in 1993 we earned £815,210 in prize money, which is just £54k more than what West Brom were awarded for finishing bottom of the table last season and £700k less than Boro earned last season for finishing second from bottom.

There is also the point that maybe some players are more deserving of their wages than others. I’ll take the most obvious and most easily proved example: Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo earned roughly £6m-£6.5m from Manchester United in wages during the 2007-2008 season. During this time he was the Premiership top scorer, with 31 of our 80 league goals (which works out at almost 40%) as we went on to win the Premiership title. The prize money alone was £15m, which doesn’t take in to consideration the revenue from ticket sales and television rights.

In the Champions League he was again the top scorer, scoring 8 of our 20 goals (again, around 40%), including our only goal in the final. Winning that evening reportedly earned us £85m.

Ronaldo didn’t single-handedly win us those trophies, regardless of what was written in the press after his departure, but of course he made a significant contribution. To have a big part to play in the success of the club also means he had a big part to play in how much money we earned. Our turnover grew by 21% on the back of that season compared to the one before, with the club bringing in a massive £257.1m.

I can only imagine just how much revenue was generated simply because we had Ronaldo at the club, with day-trippers paying to watch the game simply to see him, fans buying shirts with his name and number on the back, as well as all that other gimicky crap you can buy from the megastore.

So, is the £6m we gave Ronaldo in 07-08 a good return for the £257.1m of revenue the club earned?

I’m playing devil’s advocate here a bit because obviously it’s sick that people who kick a football around a pitch earn more in a week than people who save lives on a daily basis earn over a period of years, but some players do earn their clubs vast amounts of money and probably do deserve their salaries. Better that the money go to the players we pay to watch than line the pockets of the owners, right?