Wenger tells his rich players: Forget the money! Enjoy the experience

Arsenal manager on the growing sums being paid for and to professional footballers.

While the salaries of players at Arsenal may pale compared to the seemingly exorbitant wages paid to professionals at, say, Chelsea or Manchester City, the club still provide handsome pay-packets to their more accomplished personnel.

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Figures available for 2012 approximate that 61% of turnover was put toward player wages, with £143.4m set aside for that financial year (behind the £162m Manchester United spend on wages, £176m at Chelsea and £202m at Manchester City).

Since then, though, contract extensions and wage increases have been agreed with Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Kieron Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Carl Jenkinson.

And, with the club-record purchase of Mesut Ozil, came a staggering reported salary of £140,000 per week, overshadowing the £100,000 per week paid to Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott's £90,000 per week earnings and the £80,000 a week that Per Mertesacker enjoys.

It is a far cry from the late 19th century when players (illegally pre-1885) were receiving minor payment as well as bonuses such as fish, or beer. Prior to football's professionalisation, only expenses accrued by the player were to be paid, but, in 1901, £4 a week salaries were allowed, expanding in 1922 to £8 a week, to £12 a week in 1947.

The legislation enforcing a maximum allowance was binned at the start of the 1960s, then Jonny Haynes swiftly became the first British player to receive £100 a week.

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Fifty years later and we're talking about hundreds of thousands of nickers exchanging hands from club to player. But Wenger, while acknowledging that times now are a complete contrast to what they were half a century ago, also imparts a slight bit of wisdom to his rich playing staff.

'Sometimes you see that professional football has moved a little bit away from very, very important values that have existed at the start of the game,' he said during an interview with AP.

'The values that are important in the game today are the same. It is a respect for others. It is learning to lose. It is learning to cope with pressure. It is learning to cope with a team sport. So that is exactly the same. Of course the environment is completely different. Why? Because of professionalism and the money.

'I always say to the players, 'Forget the money,' What is important is how well you play together, what you share together is much more important. The money is only a consequence of your experience. The real experience is the game.

'And I see that with many players who have stopped their careers. It's not the money they miss — because they have money. It's that kind of experience. To share the values of our sport, to share the values of being together. And achieving something together,' he concluded.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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