If a football team were constructed out of the 11 highest paid players in the world, it would drastically fail to challenge for any elite-level honours.
That is not because there is a lack of talent. Every single one of those listed below, taken from the Forbes list of highest-paid athletes on the planet, are widely regarded to be household names.
However, it would be the most imbalanced dream team ever seen with no goalkeeper and not one defensive minded player – or even a midfield enforcer.
The moral of the story? If you want to earn the big bucks in football – you better master the centre forward’s role, or the trequartista.
11: Cesc Fabregas – Chelsea
Chelsea’s purchase of former Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas last summer was regarded to be a coup by Jose Mourinho, particularly as he could have faced stiff competition for the player’s signature had Arsenal entered the running.
The 28-year-old supplied 18 assists from 33 Premier League starts last term and was responsible for 2.8 key passes per game.
His total earnings (salary plus endorsements) for the calendar year last year almost reached £13m.
10: Luis Suarez – Barcelona
The Uruguayan is one of the most controversial players in modern football and, while he was a devastating goal machine for Liverpool, at Barcelona he has produced nearly as many assists (14 from 25 La Liga starts) as he has goals (16).
In 2014 he pocketed over £13.3m.
9: Sergio Aguero – Manchester City
The second highest paid player in England, Sergio Aguero is also one of the Premier League’s most feared players. At just 27-years-old, the Argentine still has his better years ahead of him and he netted 26 times from 30 starts in the Premier League last term.
In 2014 he almost earned £16m.
8: Radamel Falcao – AS Monaco
If Radamel Falcao were a songwriter, he’d be Paul Young. The Colombian is fast becoming a journeyman of the bigger clubs in European football, making his home wherever he leaves his hat.
One of the top Continental goal-scorers during his times at FC Porto and Atletico Madrid, Falcao has since deteriorated since joining Monaco and flopped at Manchester United.
Regardless, he still received £16.5m in pay.
7: Wayne Rooney – Manchester United
Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney turns 30 this year, but is still an effective player no matter where he is asked to perform on the field (under Louis van Gaal he competed as a left-sided forward, centre forward, attacking midfielder and even central midfielder).
He is also United’s handsomest paid player, earning £17.1m in 2014.
6: James Rodriguez – Real Madrid
The 2014 FIFA World Cup is not only remembered for the capitulation of Brazil, the majesty of Germany, the birth of Chile as a footballing force but also as the stage where James Rodriguez announced his superstar status.
Rodriguez, just 23, left Monaco to join Real Madrid and contributed 13 goals and 13 assists in his maiden La Liga campaign.
His annual earning power stands at an impressive £18.4m.
5: Neymar – Barcelona
Neymar has long been regarded to be the savior of Brazil, ever since his days with Santos – and it is a mark of the respect he has at Barcelona that he is the fifth highest paid footballer in the world and receives around £19.7m per year.
Gareth Bale (C)
4: Gareth Bale – Real Madrid
Gareth Bale has endured a tough season as he is yet to reach the heights expected of him as a Galactico.
The Welshman only scored 13 times from 30 starts and fast needs to remind the Bernabeu why he is worth the money he is paid (he did, after all, score the winning goal in the 2014 Copa del Rey Clasico, as well as in the 2014 Champions League final against local rivals Atletico Madrid).
Bale receives an annual sum that exceeds £22.25m.
3: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Paris Saint Germain
Veteran striker Ibrahimovic struck himself into the consensus Ligue 1 team of the year despite only playing 23 times. In that period, though, he still scored 19 goals.
Zlatan is one of the most charismatic and interesting figures in active football. He is also one of its most well paid athletes with an annual salary of £25m.
2: Lionel Messi – Barcelona
Despite Messi’s season and his long-running heroics for Barcelona, he is not the highest paid footballer on the planet – but he is streaks ahead of Ibrahimovic et al.
Last season, Messi scored 43 goals and 18 assists from 37 La Liga starts. This, on top of ten goals and five assists in 13 Champions League outings, will surely see him pick up this year’s Ballon d’Or prize.
Last year he put £47m in the bank.
1: Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid
Goal-hungry Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo, 30, may well end up being Real Madrid’s greatest ever goal-scorer.
He is already second on the all-time list, ahead of Alfredo di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Hugo Sanchez and is only ten goals shy of knocking Raul off his perch.
He is incredibly valuable to Real Madrid, as well as his sponsors and he earned approximately £50m last year.