Are footballers more over pampered than they are overpaid?

Mario Balotelli, Manchester City

Very often we see the terms ‘overpaid’ and ‘over pampered’ conjoined as a pair when it comes to the denotation of a professional footballer, but very rarely do we see them used in their own right.

Of course, the cultural implications of Premier League wages have been cause for eternal scrutiny and public ridicule and in light of our British Olympians’ far less financially rewarded success this summer, footballers have found themselves taking more pelters than ever before.

But while no one disputes that a footballer’s financial rewards are hideously out of proportion to their role in society, is that really what puts such a bee in people’s proverbial bonnets?  Or is it their seeming complete disconnection with the perceived realities of life that really catalyses our emotions? Indeed, while one may lead to another, is it the overpayment or the over pampering of Premier League footballers that bestows them such a negative reputation?

For the vast majority of us, it is the simple concept of a footballer’s pay packet that offers an insurmountable hurdle in defining a fair assessment of character. As clichéd as it may seem, the face that a professional sportsman can earn in a week what many of us will struggle to earn in several years, is as disproportionate as it is absurd.

Of course, they are the entertainers, the men who make up the fabric of a national game that offers something along the lines of escapism for us, every time they step out on the pitch. But as prominent as they are in our national culture and as much of our time they take up either talking in the pub or watching on the weekend, there is no way on earth you can realistically justify such an absurd wage.

So when they do have the slimmest of opportunities to suggest that their talents might be worthy of earning a six-figure sum per week, the failure to say put the ball in the back of the net from 12 yards, seems really quite hard to fathom.

But as absurd as it may seem, making comparisons between Premier League footballers and Olympic heroes, offers something of a distorted argument. Fans resent the concept of such wages and the greed of agents and the behavior of certain players (Mr. Stretford & Mr. Rooney, please take a bow) does nothing to help such a negative perception. But as Olympians dedicate their lives to winning a gold medal, it’s hard to buy into this theory that our footballer’s spent their youths honing their craft just to afford a luscious sports car.

Indeed, you could probably throw us a list of fledgling Premier League talents that argue to the contrary, but the point is that the unethical amounts of money that are floating around in football aren’t necessarily their fault. Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie weren’t the ones sitting down in the boardroom negotiating Manchester United’s recent record breaking sponsorship deal with Chevrolet, as neither Carlos Tevez nor Mario Balotelli played any part in securing the Premier League’s latest multi-billion pound television rights deal. The unworldly amounts of money footballers make for their talents hurts, but it is perhaps the theory of the over pampered player, that is more difficult to digest.

Infamously, Manchester United full-back Patrice Evra once gave The Mirror a fleeting insight into the life inside the Premier League bubble. The Frenchman was extremely vocal in his praise for the club’s ‘player liaison manager’, Barry Moorhouse.

“This club is a big family because everybody works together.

“You can ask Barry anything. When you have a problem with your car, the Jacuzzi or the light, he is there.

“When you see people like this you want to make them happy and win,” Evra revealed.

It’s difficult to really distinguish between the problem points of “Jacuzzi” or a “light” as to where that statement really veers into the realms of the utterly absurd, but as personal insights go, Patrice Evra’s will probably take some beating. The notion that a footballer can earn £100,000 a week is one thing, But it is perhaps the process of needing a contracted club assistant to change their lightbulbs, which really induces a feeling of sneering disbelief.

They say that all problems are relative, but Evra’s soundbite seems to give an adequate suggestion as to quite how startlingly out of touch with reality, some of our footballers have become.

Because although since the advent of the Premier League at the start of the nineties, wages have inflated beyond the measure of good taste, things haven’t always been like this. Footballers used to earn more modest amounts, but the modern player has always commanded a pay packet that has exceeded the sort of money that most of us will go on to earn.

Johnny Haynes’ £100-a-week wages seems like peanuts today, but in 1961 it certainly wasn’t. George Best’s £1000-a-week pay packet in 1968 was equally groundbreaking. But you’d have backed those two to change a light bulb and a have a bit of common ground with the average supporter.

The difference is, footballers never used to live in this 21st century bubble or maintain a persona that consisted of PR representatives and carefully worded statements. No one is saying that if a professional footballer harnessed less of a plastic demeanor and was able to change a tyre on their own car, their ludicrous pay packet could be justified.

Yet there is a horrible irony in the way the politicians who are elected to represent the majority of us, they always seem to come from the elite minority. And in a similar way, those who play our national game, a game that has always been deemed to be one that belongs to the working man, are as far removed from every day life as you could possibly imagine. Of course, a lot of Premier League footballers come from very humble beginnings themselves, but even youth players earn enough money to ensure that financial strife doesn’t exist in their lives for too long.

Perhaps being overpaid is an eternal catalyst for the notion of being over pampered. You’d be foolish to think otherwise. But although it may be a viewpoint blinded by the lights of nostalgia, it’s the abject lack of relatability that we see in our Premier League footballers, that stings as much as their burgeoning bank balance. The trappings of financial reward have always resided in football. Player liaison managers most certainly haven’t.

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Do you feel disillusioned with the abject lack of relatability with modern day footballers? Clamour for a bit of George Best or do you reckon you’d have a bit more in common with Patrice Evra? Let me know on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and vent your frustrations with the modern game. 

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