On the one hand their value increased from their enhanced status at the peak of their profession; on the other hand they were also paid a match fee (with a potential bonus) by their football federation.
Now federations are waking up to the realisation that extra responsibility should come with double pay. So are some players – but not all.
The Italian players who finished runners-up to Spain at Euro 2012 have told the federation that their progress bonuses should be donated to hardship funds created to help victims of the earthquakes and tremors in Emilia Romagna in May which left 15 people dead and around 15,000 homeless.
Such philanthropy did not occur to the French players but it may now forced upon them in the wake of the disciplinary inquiry into the ill-mannered escapades of certain among them.
Manchester City’s Samir Nasri, Jérémy Ménez, Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa and Yann Mvila have been ordered to forfeit their bonuses by the federation for their rebellious behaviour in Poland and Ukraine. Their team-mates, whether guilty or innocent, will have their due bonuses cut by 25pc.
The federation will split the savings. Some 60pc will be devolved to amateur football support projects while the remainder will go to charities chosen by the French ‘Fondation du football.’ Further, a task force led by Nantes president Jacques Rousselot will study a new system for player bonuses.
Nasri has also been suspended for three national team matches for his bringing the game into disrepute through his public disputations with journalists. This will not, of course, worry Manchester City; quite the reverse.
Ménez has been suspended for one international for squabbling with keeper/captain Hugo Lloris and showing dissent to the referee in the 2-0 defeat by Spain; Ben Arfa has been cautioned about his future behaviour for arguing with then national coach Laurent Blanc at half-time during the 2-0 defeat by Sweden; and Mvila has also been ticked off for having sat down on the bench – after being substituted – without shaking hands with then coach Laurent Blanc and his substitute Olivier Giroud.
If President Francois Hollande’s new Sports Minister, Valérie Fourneyron, had her way then none of the players would receive a bonus at all, let alone a reduced one. She suggested the French team might improve its image if the players followed the Italian example and donated their bonuses to a worthy cause.
The idea appealed to UEFA president Michel Platini.
“I like the proposal,” he said, “when you consider what the players are paid the bonuses are comparatively irrelevant. If I were 20 or 30 years younger I think I could accept that.”