Hleb didn’t get a superstar salary at Arsenal because he’s not a superstar

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Now, grating as it is to have to analyse serial benchwarmer Alex Hleb’s comments about Arsenal needing to pay more to keep hold of their stars, I’m going to as it does baffle me slightly.

We’ve long been told that Arsenal operate a wage ceiling, but does that really impoverish these young men by comparison to their peers? True, we don’t have many players in the £120k a week bracket (for which I’m rather grateful – but that’s another matter), but didn’t Henry pocket about that much? I believe he did.

And let’s take Adebayor as another example. He was on a low-ish salary (if tens of thousands of pounds a week can be considered low-ish), had an excellent season and promptly earned himself a new contract in the region of £80k a week. Now, can a player who is not yet in his prime, has had only 2 or 3 seasons of Champions League football and has a patchy knowledge of the offside law honestly expect to earn any more, elsewhere? He might think he can secure a £120k a week contract but I imagine he would be disappointed by the reality.

Then there’s the income: In the 2007/8 season, according to Deloitte, we were the sixth wealthiest club in Europe, earning far more than Liverpool, a club where you never hear these rumours of miserly contracts.

Sure, the flats at Highbury might be holding us back a bit, but the annual repayments for the stadium of about £19m do not bankrupt us; they represent just a third of what Man Utd pay in interest alone.

So no, I suspect, if anything, it is not that Arsenal players earn too little. It is that they earn too much.

As for Alex Hleb, well he was a consummate dribbler and an intelligent ball holder, but he scored very few goals and ran into cul-de-sacs with teeth-gnashing regularity. If he left because he could not earn what he wanted to earn, then it’s because he did not deserve to earn more. Arsenal did the right thing there.

As Barcelona have discovered.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.