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Premier League

Giggs offers defence of elite wages

But United star says players must give back by lending support to charity projects

Ryan Giggs believes the majority of top-flight players deserve their massive wages. Such has been the explosion of cash into the Premier League over the past few years, that salaries in excess of £100,000 a week, if not exactly commonplace, are hardly unknown.

It is a far cry from the sums on offer when Giggs began his professional career at Manchester United nearly two decades ago, with many critics arguing the inflation has happened so quickly that there is now no connection at all between supporters and the men they support.

Yet Giggs, like long-time team-mate Gary Neville, does not feel the cash is excessive, given the contracts being paid to televise the Premier League, which bring in well over £1.5bn.

"There is plenty of money in the game but the majority of the players deserve it," Giggs told ITV's News at Ten. "There are a number of players that perhaps 20 years ago would not have got paid the money that they're getting now but that is the way that football is.

"The average player is getting a lot of money – if that is right, I don't know. But good luck to them – the money is in the game, why not earn it while they have got the chance? But 20 years ago that wouldn't have happened. Then it was probably only the top, top players, the elite players who would be earning good money."

It just emphasises the massive changes that have taken place during Giggs' stellar career, which has brought him 11 Premier League titles and two Champions League trophies.

"The game has gone massive," he said. "Footballers make the front pages and the back pages – it is big news, they are like pop stars. A lot of things are for the good. The fitness of players is better than it has ever been. The Premier League is the best league in the world."

Giggs is also keenly aware the profile of top football players allows them to make more significant contributions to wider-scale campaigns. That is why he has been spending time in Sierra Leone on a Unicef project aimed at tackling the spread of HIV in the region.

And Giggs realises, compared to the struggles faced by so many children in the war-ravaged African country, week-to-week combat in the Premier League is easy. "You see what true bravery is," he said. "You hear all the time that a footballer is brave going into a tackle. That's not bravery.

"What I've seen – a 21-year-old lad who was telling me that he is positive for HIV and what he wants to do about it, that he wants to educate other people, that he wants to help stop it happening – that is bravery."