Igor Denisov, the Russian captain is training with the youth team at Zenit St. Petersburg after a fall out with the club. His crime was to challenge the wages given to new signings, Hulk and Axel Witsel. His argument is not around the quality of the players (both are internationalists for Brazil and Belgium respectively, and have been tracked over the past few years by a variety of europe’s top clubs) but the difference in wages given to these two versus their new colleagues (reportedly 3 times the top players wages or $100k per week). Denisov, one of Russia’s star players and reportedly on $35k per week, may have a point in regards to Witsel. The former Standard Leige and Benfica player, famously banned for 8 matches for shattering the leg of Anderlect’s Polish defender Marcin Wasilewski in a league match in 2009, had only been at Benfica less than a year before his $40m transfer to Zenit. It’s unknown exactly how much he was paid at the Portuguese club, but it will not have been close to the money he is now making in Russia.
Inflated wages are not new in football, with several clubs having to fork out bigger salaries to land the world’s best players – Samuel Eto’o, the Cameroon striker signed on Anzhi Makhachkala in the Russian league for a reported $350k per week, Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid – $230k per week, Sergio Aguero of Man City – $250k, with more players negotiating wage increases on a daily basis. But where does it stop? $400k? $750k? $1m? UEFA has recently introduced Financial Fair Play rules, limiting clubs from spending beyond their means with punishments handed down if these rules are broken, but there has been no talk of setting a wage cap. Individual leagues have tried this with some success – the MLS operates on a team salary cap with the limit set at $2,810,000 per team, not counting the extra salary of designated players (better known as the Beckham rule after David Beckham signed his agreement with LA Galaxy back in 2007). England had a cap until 1961 when it was abolished after Jimmy Hill, chairman of the PFA threatened strike action. With the top 5 clubs in England now paying north of $177m per year in player wages, fans being unable to pay inflated ticket prices and television subscription costs rising, perhaps now is the time to revisit a wage cap and end the madness?