France’s economic problems are not reflected in the salaries of La Ligue’s players
French football may not be regarded as one of the financial powerhouses of the European game, but you really shouldn’t feel too sorry for the players plying their trade in Ligue 1 at the moment.
Take Moussa Sow, for example. The Rennes striker (three league goals in 20 matches so far this season and with just the barest handful of international selections for Senegal to his name) has opted to join Lille when he becomes a free agent in June.
His reported salary? £106,000 per month, together with a supposed signing-on fee of £1.75million.
With the ongoing talk of financial meltdown, particularly in the world of football, such sums may seem incredible to most of us, but it appears there’s no end to a top division footballer’s ability to command eye-popping salaries and benefits. At least not when the same club’s striker Jimmy Briand signs a three-year extension to his current Rennes deal that will net him £132,000 per month, plus a tidy £1.3m re-signing fee. And all of this in a league that has average gates of 19,723 this season, down from 20,482 during the last campaign.
Such astronomical sums seem even harder to understand when at the same time Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has announced half-yearly figures at his club that are down by 11.5 per cent on the previous year, while the directors at Nice have even gone as far as laying down an edict that players will have to buy their own boots in future as a cost-cutting measure.
But if all of this is totally baffling, one thing at least is certain. You can expect French football supporters to have little or no sympathy for players who they perceive in general to be under-performing and over-pampered. Two years ago fans of Paris Saint-Germain vented their frustrations over the useless performances of their team by vandalising defender Sylvain Armand’s Porsche at the club’s training ground. So no wonder PSG’s top brass were reportedly furious with the same player when he recently bought himself a new car of the same make despite PSG’s yet again lamentable league campaign.
Of course there can be no excuses for such thuggish behaviour. But as long as footballers’ salaries in France remain so inflated in a climate of recession only a fool would discount the idea of violence on the terraces increasing, born out of a very real sense of frustration in a country where direct action against perceived injustice is very much part of the people’s DNA.
Indeed, there have already been signs that hooliganism is on the rise again here, with one body – the fussily named Obervatory Of Football Security – reporting that violent incidents in and around Ligue 1 grounds are up by 36 per cent year on year. Such tensions were only heightened recently when the Parisian police department went public in claiming they had “very specific information” about planned violent activities by certain PSG fans against Marseille supporters heading into the capital city for the big match between the two clubs at the end of February.
Amid so much brouhaha it’s been easy to forget that there’s actually been some football going on. Little Montpellier finally had a spanner put in their league works when they were beaten 1-0 by lowly Saint-Etienne, thereby missing the opportunity to go level on points with leaders Bordeaux. The latter’s match with Auxerre from the same weekend was put back to allow Laurent Blanc’s side more time to prepare for their last 16 Champions League meeting with Olympiakos “in order to benefit French football”. It was a move that paid off handsomely when the Frenchmen pulled off a 1-0 away win against the Greeks in the first leg.
Blanc will have done nothing to harm his increasingly burgeoning managerial reputation with that win. And now it seems the only choices the Bordeaux manager will have to make in the near future will be whether to continue his adventure on the French west coast, take up the reigns of the national team after the World Cup or head off for a plum position at one of Europe’s major outfits.