The struggling stars like Sanchez and Bale trapped on inflated contracts
Some of the biggest moves in this summer's transfer market are taking a long time to come to fruition, and part of the reason for that is the size of the contracts involved. Which players are the most overpaid? Which player's deal is the hardest to move? Here are 10 of the most bloated contracts -- some even unmovable -- in terms of weekly wages in football today.
10.) Diego Costa
The "angriest man in football" has never come across as someone afraid to assert his worth. Or at least what he thinks he's worth. Still, eyebrows were apparently raised last season when Costa -- who had scored just three league goals at that point since returning to Atletico Madrid from Chelsea -- asked for a pay raise. That raise was not granted, and you can see why: He's already on something like £140,000-a-week, which for an aging striker who can't stay fit and isn't scoring goals... is quite a lot. Surprisingly, he was this summer linked with a move back to the Premier League with Everton.
In some respects, you can't blame a player for taking the money when a team from the Chinese Super League comes calling. Footballers' careers are short and it's hard to turn that sort of money down. The problem comes when you elect to return to a higher standard of football -- which, when you move there in the prime of your career, is an urge that will come to many. Take Oscar, for example: he moved to Shanghai SIPG nearly three years ago, but he's still just 27. Yet if he wants to come back to Europe, or South America, who's going to match wages said to be around the £400,000-a-week mark?
8.) Danny Drinkwater
Such is the financial insanity of football. Danny Drinkwater's wages of £100,000-a-week actually aren't too exorbitant in relative terms. The problem comes in what sort of value he might have provided for that money, the answer to which is: not much. None at all, really, when you consider that since his £35 million transfer from Leicester City in January 2018, Drinkwater has made just 12 league appearances for the Blues, last season only playing a total of 30 minutes, which came in the Community Shield. In that sense, Drinkwater's contract definitely qualifies as "bloated."
Everyone was so optimistic about Philippe Coutinho's move to Barcelona in January 2018, the hope being that he could be a replacement for Andres Iniesta. That has... not entirely gone to plan, and the word on the street is that Barca got buyer's remorse pretty quickly, and they would now very much like to rid themselves of Coutinho and his around £240,000-a-week wages. There are certainly bigger contracts in football, but this ranks up there with the worst of them on the expectations vs. delivery scale.
6.) Gonzalo Higuain
You have to feel pretty sorry for Gonzalo Higuain, really. It must be quite a blow to have been rejected by three teams in one season. First, Juventus, his parent club, loaned him out to Milan, who quickly decided he wasn't worth their time and shifted him on to Chelsea, who after a few months also declared they were not keen to retain the Argentine. Of course, sympathy might fade a little after a glance at his pay cheque; Higuain is apparently taking home something close to £300,000-a-week, a wage packet that -- along with his lack of goals -- isn't likely to have potential suitors queuing around the block.
5.) Paul Pogba
When the apocalypse comes, after some nuclear war has wiped out humanity as we know it and the world is rubble and ashes, whatever primitive lifeforms remain will still be arguing over whether Paul Pogba is a social media obsessed chancer or an unappreciated genius. At the time of writing, it seems that Pogba's relationship with Manchester United is only heading one way, and that it would be for the best if he left. But to where? Who will take on his wages, reported to be £290,000-a-week? Whether you think he's great or terrible, everyone can agree he's not a sure thing, and even in today's money-drenched game, if you're paying that sort of dough, you want a sure thing.
4.) Gareth Bale
The man who scored in two Champions League finals has plenty of cause to be annoyed by his treatment at Real Madrid. He seemingly can do no right, with rumours of his lack of integration in the dressing room and Spain in general apparently overshadowing all the good he has done at the Bernabeu. That said, perhaps the vast six-year, £350,000-a-week contract he signed in 2016 doesn't help his popularity, and is the biggest reason he's still at Real, a club seemingly keen to move him and his contract from the moment he signed it. The trouble is, who will take a player on such extraordinary money with a long and well-documented injury history? The answer at the moment seems to be: nobody.
You could say that on the list of problems with Neymar, the size of his contract is actually pretty far down. Not turning up for training and a laissez-faire attitude toward teamwork in general are probably bigger issues, but you can be pretty sure that plenty more teams would be queueing up to take him off PSG's hands if his remuneration were a little more reasonable. With a deal worth a reported £775,000-a-week, with which most clubs could pay a decent whole team, Barcelona seem the only club keen to liberate him from his Parisian prison, a prison that is presumably constructed entirely from stacks of cash.
2.) Mesut Ozil
Though they did escape falling into an Alexis Sanchez-shaped hole (see below), Arsenal did trip straight into another one. In fact, after they tripped, they dug a little more and covered themselves with dirt all the way to their noses in giving Mesut Ozil a contract worth around £350,000-a-week in 2018. The error was compounded by the subsequent dithering that saw Aaron Ramsey depart for nothing, Juventus giddily taking advantage while Arsenal were left with a player draining money from their coffers while offering little on the pitch. Fenerbahce were the latest club to reportedly investigate signing Ozil, before looking at the number of zeros on his pay slip and breaking into a cold sweat. Probably.
1.) Alexis Sanchez
Arsenal have received plenty of entirely justified criticism for their handling of contracts and transfer business in the last couple of years, but they certainly dodged a bullet when it came to Alexis Sanchez. Manchester United took a hefty punt on the Chile international, a punt that has sailed high and wide into the crowd, with Sanchez not nearly justifying his basic wage of £350,000-a-week, nevermind a reported appearance bonus of £70,000 and various other juicy clauses. In the real world, you wonder what performances would justify that sort of money, but even in the oddness of football, it's a colossally bloated and, by the looks of things this summer, an entirely unmovable contract.