The highest-paid XI in European football in 2023-24: James, De Bruyne, Kane…
It used to be the case that almost all of football’s top-paid superstars played their football in Europe – but that’s changed significantly in 2023.
The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema and Neymar are out earning more than some of Europe’s biggest names while plying their trades in MLS and Saudi Arabia.
But Europe’s most glamorous clubs aren’t short of a bob or two and are still able to play some eye-watering wages. We’ve put together a full XI of Europe’s highest-paid players alongside how much they’re estimated to take home per year – the figures come from FBref via Capology.
GK: Manuel Neuer – €21million
David de Gea held the title of the world’s most well-remunerated last season but has lost that title after his mega contract with Manchester United expired at the end of last season.
Bayern Munich stalwart Neuer is now the top-paid ‘keeper in Europe, having signed his last extension back in 2022.
Given he’s been at Bayern for all 11 of their successive Bundesliga titles, including two trebles, it’s probably fair enough he’s been backed by the club.
They’re probably within their rights to be a bit miffed that he hasn’t kicked a ball in 2023 after breaking his leg while skiing on holiday, though.
RB: Reece James – €15.2million
Todd Boehly’s Blues have tended to sell their most highly-valued homegrown stars in recent years, raising almost £200million in recent years to help with any FFP headaches.
But one Cobham academy graduate they’ve put their faith in is James, who signed a bumper six-year contract extension last September and has since been named club captain.
🗣️ “Obviously, I’m super happy to take on the role and responsibility. I know I’ve got huge shoes to fill. We’ve had huge captains here in the past, John Terry being one.”
Reece James on being named the new captain of Chelsea Football Club. ©
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) August 10, 2023
CB: Raphael Varane – €20.6million
Given Varane had a World Cup and four Champions League titles under his belt by the time he rocked up at Manchester United in 2021, his representatives were in a very strong position to command lofty wages.
And sure enough, the Red Devils pay Varane handsomely. The 30-year-old is the highest-paid defender in the Premier League and only second to the bloke who replaced him at Real Madrid in all of Europe.
CB: David Alaba – €22.5million
As with Varane, it wouldn’t have required a master negotiator to discuss Alaba’s wages with Real Madrid.
The Austrian had been a standout player as they won the treble in his final season with Bayern Munich and arrived in the Spanish capital as a free agent.
Alaba proved his worth as Los Blancos won both La Liga and the Champions League in his debut season. Year two was comparatively disappointing, but he completed the set with the Copa del Rey. Not bad going.
LB: Lucas Hernandez – €19million
One of three summer signings to feature in this XI, Hernandez joined PSG for a €40million fee earlier this summer.
The French World Cup winner signed a five-year in Paris and will bolster Luis Enrique’s backline following the departure of Sergio Ramos.
DM: Frenkie de Jong – €37.5million
Barcelona have made efforts to reduce their wage bill in the past couple of years, with long-serving high-earns like Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba departing.
But De Jong’s immense €37million-per-year pay packet remains a reminder of the flagrantly reckless spending under former president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Unless he moves to Saudi Arabia, this current deal will almost certainly be the highest-paying of his career.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne – €24.3million
Manchester City’s talismanic Belgian playmaker is the Premier League’s top-paid player.
He’s also one of very few footballers without an agent. Who needs representation when you’re that good at football?
CM: Toni Kroos – €24.3million
Whilst only 33, Kroos has often teased retiring in the near future. The German midfielder has stated he wants to retire at a high level and doesn’t want it to fizzle out on the bench somewhere.
His current contract expires next summer and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him hang up his boots, given Madrid have sorted their midfield for the next generation with Jude Bellingham, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni.
Kroos just gets into this XI ahead of his long-serving Los Blancos team-mate Luka Modric, who earns a fraction less after signing a one-year extension at the Bernabeu back in June.
Just don’t expect to see him move to Saudi Arabia any time soon.
Toni Kroos has his say on Gabri Veiga's potential move to Al Ahli 💬 pic.twitter.com/8ot7Cl4zg8
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) August 24, 2023
FWR: Ousmane Dembele – €36.3million
Having left Barcelona to turn out alongside best mate Mbappe, Dembele isn’t quite picking up what Neymar did – but he’s not far off.
Not bad going for a player that we’re still waiting to explode into life on a consistent basis.
ST: Harry Kane – €25million
Edging out Erling Haaland to lead the line in this team of lavishly assembled megastars is England’s captain.
The 30-year-old is Bayern Munich’s record signing at €100million and instantly becomes the top-paid player in Bundesliga history.
To think people doubt Charlie Kane’s powers of negotiation.
FWL: Kylian Mbappe – €72million
Arguably the best player in the world right now, Mbappe reportedly earns almost twice as much as any other player in Europe’s five major leagues.
He turned down the offer to take home considerably more in Saudi Arabia, while you imagine he’d have to take a pay cut were he to move anywhere else in Europe. Not even Real Madrid pay out those kind of wages.