Fair to say the relationship between football and finance has never been more uncomfortable. Or should that be more comfortable? Too damn cosy, in fact.
While even many of the more lavishly paid individuals are happy to agree there’s too much money in the game, most are more than happy to grab it. And why not?
It’s there for the taking. To refuse is against human nature. And so more money breeds greed. Not much you can do about it without capping the well.
But football is a sport worth playing for its own sake. Those paid for doing it are lucky – to an incredible degree is some cases.
Where human weakness really crosses the line (corruption apart) is when some – and you can find many examples – put earning way above playing.
Almost any manager below the Premier League will bemoan the number of players who’d rather sit on another club’s sidelines picking up a fat salary than go out on loan.
Why put the effort in if the pay’s the same? Or less?!
But there are exceptions and they are worth highlighting. So this column happily commends the example of Billy Sharp at Sheffield United, who tells me he took a pay cut of roughly 50% to leave Leeds for a third spell at Bramall Lane last year.
It’s a similar story to the circumstances surrounding John Brayford’s move from Cardiff; the fact that he is now on loan with Burton is beside the point, it’s about the principle of playing.
Ok, Sharp is a Blade, which counts for a lot. But it tots up in other ways, too. “I didn’t think about my wallet,” says captain Billy, now 30, with a midweek brace for seven goals this season. “I had a year left at Leeds. I could have stayed there and been on double the money I am now.
“I could have tried to fight for my place, but it was Sheffield United ...”
Around £500,000 changed hands, taking Sharp’s total transfer value well beyond £5m. Whatever the wages, they were still high for League One and a major commitment by United.
Sharp offers the same in return after “letting my heart take over my head.” And it wasn’t the first time.
He reveals: “I dropped my wages massively from Southampton to Leeds and I dropped from Leeds to Sheffield United a lot. I think it’s the first time in my career where I don’t think anybody knows what I’m on – I’m quite happy with that!”
Billy has slipped below the radar in the media’s preoccupation with exorbitant salaries.
He adds: “Footballers do get paid an awful lot of money.
“I’m at a stage now where I’m not earning as much as I have done in the last ten years. But I’m enjoying my football and that’s all that matters to me.”
With a contractual option for a further season at the end of the second year of his two-year deal, he hopes “to play for United for another two, three or four years” and aims to play generally “for as long as I can.”