Follow the fate of clubs that have recently reduced their payroll: AC Milan, Arsenal, Barca…


AC Milan’s Paulo Maldini got plenty of fans talking on social media this week following the club’s reduced wage bill.

Maldini, who retired from football in 2009, has since swapped his boots and shin guards for a suit and tie as he works as AC Milan’s technical director.

The 53-year-old was promoted to the role in 2019, and he has since made numerous changes to the way I Rossoneri runs his business.

His main achievement was to reduce the club’s huge wage bill, which – despite its worrying appearance – failed to reap any rewards when it came to matters on the pitch.

During the 2018/19 campaign, the club recorded an annual wage bill of £118.6m. Interestingly, only six players from this side are still in the squad today, among them Alessio Romagnoli, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Franck Kessie.

The figures for the 2021/22 season certainly make for sounder reading, with the club spending £68.1m on their wage bill. Interestingly, the pay cut had a positive impact on the results as the team topped Serie A.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Romagnoli and Alessandro Florenzi are the first three winners. However, with all three of the contracts expiring at the end of this season, that wage bill could drop further.

But before that happens, let’s take a closer look at how other clubs have dealt with spiraling wage bills.


Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Arsene Wenger was infamous for running a tight ship and always looking after Arsenal’s finances. However, the Frenchman went a little crazy in his final season, with the annual wage bill reaching £158.2m.

The 2017/18 season was a transition season for the club. Many familiar faces have left the Emirates, with many new ones added.

The likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrived in north London, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez were among the departures.

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil on the bench

The three new signings, alongside Mesut Ozil, made up four of the club’s top five earners this campaign, with the German bank topping £18million in annual earnings alone.

Despite having the second-highest wage bill in the Premier League, the Gunners only managed a sixth-place finish, while the only silverware they picked up was the Community Shield.

Unai Emery replaced Wenger but didn’t make many significant changes as the wage bill stood at £135.3m. The following season that figure fell to £118.5million, with Mikel Arteta taking charge towards the end of the campaign.

Extension of Mikel Arteta contract

Fast forward to the current season, and the wage bill stands at a much more manageable £87.3m. The departures of Ozil, Aubameyang and even Willian – who was earning £7.2million a year – proved major factors in the reduction.

More importantly, Arsenal appear to be more competitive and are well on their way to winning a Champions League return, giving them another financial windfall.


Camp Nou Stadium

Barcelona’s financial problems have been well documented over the past couple of years – they’re also self-inflicted.

When a club spends nine-figure sums as pocket change, trouble is never too far away, and that has proven to be the case for the Catalan giants.

The wage bill at Camp Nou reached a staggering high of £202.4m in the 2017/18 season. A new contract for Lionel Messi in the following campaign took that number to £222.7m, with the Argentine’s share alone worth almost £60m.

Antoine Griezmann in action for Barcelona

Just when you thought it couldn’t be topped, a £230million summer spending spree did just that as the additions of Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong and others increased the wage bill. annual at £278.6 million.

Barcelona’s negligent financial management caught up with them as Covid-19 took hold. While the players initially accepted a 70 per cent pay cut, president Josep Maria Bartomeu failed to accept another once football resumed.

The players and the club fought over contracts in the following months, before Bartomeu finally quit in October 2020.

Lionel Messi cries during his farewell press conference at Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium

With bankruptcy a real possibility, the club turned to Joan Laporta who became president for the second time.

Financial problems forced a number of changes, including the shock departure of Lionel Messi. Then, in August 2021, Laporta revealed the true extent of the club’s financial black hole – debt worth over £1.15bn.

Barcelona have since reduced their wage bill to £168m. And, with Xavi Hernandez overseeing things on the pitch, things are much rosier.


Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy

Tottenham Hotspur are a club that have cut their wage bill considerably lately.

During the 2020/21 campaign, the London outfit spent £134.5m on annual salaries – just below Manchester City’s annual outlay.

Yet this season Spurs are not even among the top six spenders, having racked up a wage bill of just £75.5million – less than Everton and barely more than Crystal Palace, Leicester City and West Ham United .

So what has changed?

Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur

Gareth Bale, for his part, had a lot to do with it. The Real Madrid striker has enjoyed a loan spell at Spurs in 2020/21, with the north London club contributing £20million towards his salary.

On top of that, Spurs have parted ways with Dele Alli, Moussa Sissoko, Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela – players all towards the top of the club’s salary scale.

However, with Antonio Conte aiming for something a little more ambitious than a top four finish next season, the downward trend won’t last long.


Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus player

Another club that has limited its spending is Juventus.

After three costly years with Cristiano Ronaldo in the squad, the Old Lady has cut his wage bill considerably.

From a peak of £210.1m for the 2019/20 season, the amount of money spent on their wage bill has fallen to £135.3m for the 2021/2022 campaign.

Consequently, Juventus suffered a drop in performance on the pitch, with the team expected to finish fourth in Serie A.

However, considering they won the title 10 years later, it’s fair to say the club had to wait a fruitless year or two. And that way, while their trophy cabinet may be empty, at least their chests won’t be.

READ MORE: 10 Bundesliga players who failed in the Premier League… and 8 who were actually quite good


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