Ballack and Henry cash in as wages hit new high

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The Independent Football

Thierry Henry's new Arsenal contract, a club record package understood to be worth £112,000 a week, is a significant milestone. It rubber-stamps a new benchmark for the world's élite players, established on Monday when Michael Ballack joined Chelsea for £121,000 a week. It also underscores English football's ability to find the cash to keep and attract the very best talent.

Six of the top seven highest-earning footballers in the world (by basic salary, not including endorsements) are now contracted to English clubs. Ballack and Henry, who fill the top two slots, are followed by Barcelona's Ronaldinho, Arsenal's Sol Campbell, Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand, Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Liverpool's Steven Gerrard.

The top-paid players in Europe's other major leagues include Real Madrid's galacticos, each on £84,600 per week. The best-paid player in Germany is Bayern Munich's Oliver Kahn, on £76,900, and the best-paid player in Italy is Roma's Francesco Totti, on £73,000. England's financial muscle should become more obvious in the next four years as the Premier League's new £1.7bn three-year television deal kicks in from 2007 onwards. The leading English clubs can expect about £20m more income per season each from that alone, much of which will go in wages.

When endorsements are added, Ronaldinho earns more than anyone, with £15.6m a year, followed by Beckham (£12.2m) and then Ronaldo (£11.8m). The leading players in Italy also see their salaries jump, as is the case with Totti, who earns a basic of £3.8m a year, rising to £5.7m with endorsements, most of which are club related and may be quoted as part of his basic.

American team sports have long led the way in basic pay but Ballack is now within £30,000 a week of the best-paid individual in NFL history, Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, who earns a basic £7.8m (£150,000 a week).

The best-paid basketball player is Miami Heat's Shaquille O'Neal, on £206,000 a week, while Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, on £263,000 a week, leads the way in baseball. The difference in those sports is the egalitarian principle of drafts, and limited numbers of star performers per team. You would expect a few at the very top to be earning more than the rest. It makes the rising wages of footballers even more remarkable.

But as one City analyst said yesterday, Arsenal still have a good deal. "Henry is worth a lot more per week," said the broker, who requested anonymity because of his ties to another Premiership club. "He is an asset who could have left for nothing next year. He is worth to Arsenal in wages what it would have cost to replace him."

Nice little earners The world's best-paid footballers

Player Club Weekly wages

Michael Ballack, Chelsea (£121,000)

Thierry Henry, Arsenal (£112,000)

Ronaldinho, Barcelona (£111,000)

Sol Campbell, Arsenal (£100,000)

Rio Ferdinand, Man Utd (£94,000)

Frank Lampard, Chelsea (£94,000)

Steven Gerrard, Liverpool (£87,500)

David Beckham, Real Madrid (£84,600)

Ronaldo, Real Madrid (£84,600)

Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid (£84,600)

Raul, Real Madrid (£84,600)

R van Nistelrooy, Man Utd (£84,600)

Oliver Kahn, B Munich (£76,900)

John Terry, Chelsea (£76,900)

Harry Kewell, Liverpool (£75,000)

Francesco Totti, Roma (£73,000)