Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s great rise in form during the 2006-2007 season, the player was rewarded with a contract extension that saw his wages increase to £120,000 a week. If fulfilled, this contract would see Ronaldo at the club until he was 27-years-old, hopefully after winning a bagful of trophies.
Last season, as he added another league title, as well as the European Cup, to his collection, Real Madrid made their intentions very clear. They wanted to prise Ronaldo away from United just a year after signing a new contract with us.
How were United going to fend Real Madrid off? Give Ronaldo a new contract? Risk pissing the player off by keeping him on the same wage? Chelsea have certainly taught us a lesson worth learning in regards to contracts, and David Gill has taken that on board.
At the beginning of the month, there was talk of United offering Ronaldo another new contract, to reduce the temptation that came with the £300,000 a week offer Real Madrid were reportedly offering. This ‘commitment contract’ would see Ronaldo earn £50 million over the next few years at United, keeping him at the club until he was 29-years-old.
Whilst of course every team would be eager to hold on to the best player in the World, it would leave United on shaky ground in regards to our other players. Wesley Sneijder, the Real Madrid star, raised similar concerns last week over what would happen if Ronaldo was to sign for his club on a ridiculous wage.
“It would be bad for the dressing room if he gets a much higher salary than the rest of the squad,” he said. “It’s not important to me, but I know that other team-mates would not like that at all. Here we have footballers like him, for example Robben or Robinho. It’s obvious that I want to play with Cristiano but you also have to maintain the equilibrium in the dressing room.”
If we look at an example a little closer to home, we can see what a destructive effect offering inflated wages to one or two players players can have on the rest of the team. Chelsea put themselves in a tricky situation when they bought ageing players, Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko, on £125,000 a week contracts.The other players in the squad, who have dedicated years worth of good performances to the club have got to take a step back and start to think about how much they should be paid in relation to these new signings.
Whilst Ballack’s form has improved greatly, at the end of his and Shevchenko’s first season at the club, they seemed to be massive flops, yet here they were, raking in the dough as the best paid players. John Terry and Frank Lampard, who had spent years at the club as possibly the two most influential players, were both earning considerably less than these new players.
Contract negoations broke down between Chelsea and Terry initially, with the player clearly frustrated at not being offered enough in relation to Ballack and Shevchenko. Finally, a year after talks were opened, Terry put pen to paper on a deal reportedly worth £130-£150,000 a week, making him the best paid player in Premier League history. Whilst Terry has been very important to Chelsea, it’s hard to say, with a straight face at least, that he deserves to be the highest paid player this country has ever seen. However, Chelsea had no choice but to offer him these wages, as there was no way they could justify Ballack and Shevchenko earning more than him.
The situation with Lampard is even more dark though, sadly for Chelsea fans. Here is a player who has spent 7 years at the club, and for the past 3 of these, has been saying he no intention other than signing a new contract at Chelsea. However, at a club flashing the cash around as overtly as Chelsea do, it’s hard not to become greedy. If reports are to be believed, Lampard is asking for astonishing five-year contract worth £150,000 a week, which would see him finish his playing days at Chelsea aged 35. The best Ryan Giggs has been offered by United, since he hit his 30s, was a two year extension at the price of a wage-cut. But Lampard certainly believes he’s worth more than what he’s being offered. Why?
When Shevchenko was 30-years-old, he was contributing next to nothing for Chelsea, yet was earning £125,000 a week. In Lampard’s last season for Chelsea, he finished their highest scorer and was one assist short of being their best provider of goals too. Surely the difference between the two players could equal out at £25,000 a week? That’s what Frankie and his agent think anyway.
United’s wage structure has been fairly regular, despite the money the club brings in on a year basis. If we look back to 2006, our wage bill was the second highest in the league, spending just £2 million more a year than the third placed team, Arsenal (which, bear in mind, was before their wage structure breaking deal to keep Henry happy).
The only unresolved contract issue I can remember from United is David Beckham, when really, obscene money had to be offered to keep him. Eventually, club and player can work out what they’re worth, with any problems rarely dragging out for longer than a few months.
So, will United take a different approach to keep Ronaldo? Course not. When asked if Ronaldo would be offered a new contract, David Gill responded: “No. He only entered into the previous contract 18 months before and in terms of where he’s at in our wage hierarchy he’s doing pretty well.”
When asked if the player’s behaviour was partly to get a higher salary from United, Gill said: “Possibly, but not necessarily, and if the figures bandied around that Real Madrid are talking about are true, we wouldn’t go anywhere near that. That would be lunacy.” (Ronaldo has claimed his potential move to Real Madrid has nothing to do with the money though, and I am inclined to believe him.)
“The player is under contract so the strength and the rights are with Manchester United,” continued Gill. “I think we’ve been pretty clear all along that Ronaldo has got a contract until 2012, he’s a valuable member of the team and that’s the situation. Obviously there’s some issues there, but that’s for Alex and is why Alex had the meeting, to discuss things and put our point of view. I’m sure Cristiano put his point of view and hopefully we can move forward. All we were doing, effectively, is saying we clearly have a player who is one of the best in the world. He entered into a new contract, his third with us, only 18 months after his previous one. With that, we believe, go some responsibilities and obligations. There was an increased salary and we clearly feel there has to be some commitment and loyalty and he can’t just say, ‘I’ve entered into it, but I’ll leave a year down the line’, especially after the season we’ve just had. It’s a two-way street and contracts are entered into with a view to getting that kind of commitment.”
Perfect. For as long as United keep this hard stance, paying players fairly based on what they bring to the club, rather than for the names they hold in World football, we’ll avoid the mercenary arguments pretty well. There’s a reason why players like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville have never held the club to ransom over their contracts. It seems we got rid of Peter Kenyon before it was too late… sadly, for Chelsea fans, this is not the case for their club.