The highest-paid Premier League player for every season since 1992
The Premier League is now filled with players who earn astronomical salaries. Year upon year, wages for top players seem to skyrocket. By how much? We’ve identified the highest-paid Premier League player for every season since 1992 to find out.
Not many teams competing in the English top-flight are operating on a shoestring budget. Rewarding individuals with lucrative earnings helps attract Europe’s finest to ply their trades in the Premier League.
Even fairly run-of-the-mill players are now pocketing upwards of £100,000 per week. Figures have shot up since the Premier League’s formation in 1992. The numbers are in a different stratosphere from what the average person earns in their working lives.
If recent reports are to be believed, the anticipated arrival of Erling Haaland at Manchester City ahead of the 2022-23 season could see already staggering numbers reach new heights once more – the 21-year-old is expected to receive £500,000 per week.
We’ve taken a look at the players who have raked in the most cash in every Premier League season to date and assessed whether they justified their tag as the highest-paid footballer in the division. All the figures quoted are per week.
John Barnes – £10,000 – 1992-94
It’s believed that the former England international was earning £10,000 per week from the moment he joined Liverpool from Watford in 1987 – five years before the Premier League was formed.
Remembered as one of the Reds’ greatest-ever players for his goalscoring and assist-making prowess during a 10-year Anfield stay, it’s fair to say Barnes was worthy of his hefty salary.
He won five major trophies at the Premier League titans in addition to a Player of the Year award in 1988.
Eric Cantona – £18,000 – 1994-95
At the start of the 1994-95 season, Barnes remained the highest-earning player in the Premier League, but that soon changed later that term when Cantona was rewarded with a new deal at Manchester United following his consistently brilliant performances.
Cantona is one of the all-time great United players, so it came as no surprise when he signed fresh terms after starring in a serial trophy-winning Sir Alex Ferguson side.
“If ever there was one player, anywhere in the word, that was made for Manchester United, it was Cantona,” Ferguson said.
“He swaggered in, stuck his chest out, raised his head and surveyed everything as though he were asking: ‘I’m Cantona. How big are you? Are you big enough for me?’”
His record of a goal every other game and an assist in every three was backed up the unrivalled presence and class Cantona possessed in a red shirt.
Dennis Bergkamp – £25,000 – 1995-96
Arsenal coughed up a club-record transfer fee of £7.5million to bring Bergkamp to Highbury after his unsuccessful two-season stay at an all-conquering Inter Milan side.
Although they may well have initially doubted their decision to outlay such steep figures on the former Netherlands international – he didn’t hit the ground running.
But his talent came to the fore when Arsene Wenger was appointed as manager. Bergkamp went on to win three league titles and four FA Cups in a memorable 11-year stay.
The fact that the 52-year-old has been immortalised with a statue outside the Emirates says it all.
2️⃣6️⃣ years ago today, Dennis Bergkamp joined @Arsenal ✨
𝙏𝙃𝘼𝙏 iconic goal vs Newcastle just gets better from every angle 😍 pic.twitter.com/N3271LwhnG
— Premier League (@premierleague) June 20, 2021
Fabrizio Ravanelli – £42,000 – 1996-97
The striker spent one season at Middlesbrough following his £7million arrival from Juventus. It proved quite the coup for Bryan Robson’s team; Ravanelli scored 31 goals for the club in 48 appearances before leaving for Marseille.
Despite his knack for finding the target, he wasn’t a cherished member of the dressing room by all of his team-mates.
“Half of the squad hated him and the other half loved him,” former Middlesbrough midfielder Craig Hignett told FourFourTwo.
“He worked hard and he was one of the best finishers I’d seen, but as a man he rubbed people up the wrong way. He was selfish in everything he did.”
Alan Shearer – £34,000 – 1997-99
The former England international became the Premier League’s highest-paid player once Ravanelli departed for France in the summer of 1997.
Shearer was banging in the goals for his hometown club Newcastle United in the two-season stint where he was the man with this pressurised tag on his head.
The Premier League’s all-time leading scorer perhaps also warranted being the division’s top earner in the years prior for Blackburn Rovers where he won the Golden Boot in three consecutive seasons (1994-95, 1995-96 and 1996-97).
Roy Keane – £52,000 – 1999-01
The iconic midfielder was the Premier League’s first player to surpass the £50,000 per-week mark before the millennium.
Following Manchester United’s treble-winning campaign in 1999, the captain was tied down to this new deal which just highlighted his importance to the club’s success.
Roy Keane – £90,000 – 2001-03
Just two seasons after penning fresh terms, Keane was rewarded with a £38,000 per-week increase to ensure he would go on to remain as the Premier League’s highest-paid player for four years.
“Roy [Keane] is an unbelievable player whose leadership, passion and drive epitomise the best qualities of Manchester United,” Ferguson said on his contract renewal. “I am really pleased to have Roy on board for another four years.”
The threat of Keane linking up with his boyhood heroes Celtic prompted United into extending his deal.
But in the season that followed the 50-year-old pledging his future – 2001-02 – the Red Devils failed to win silverware for the first time in four years.
This proved to be the final deal Keane signed at Old Trafford before a breakdown in his relationship with Ferguson saw him leave by mutual consent in 2005.
Hernan Crespo – £94,000 – 2003-04
Roman Abramovich arrived at Chelsea with the promise of parachuting the Blues into becoming serious title contenders in double-quick time.
Crespo was one of the first marquee signings brought in to help the club reach these dizzy heights.
The capture of the former Argentina international for £16.8million from Inter Milan seemed like one that couldn’t fail. But the striker struggled to justify his transfer fee and salary during his four-year Stamford Bridge stay.
He does have one Premier League crown to his name though, which is one more than you or I. And he scored a few cracking goals while he was here.
Frank Lampard – £98,000 – 2004-05
Lampard’s rise to becoming one of the Premier League’s brightest stars saw Chelsea sign him up to a deal worth just shy of £100,000 in 2004.
It wasn’t a bad idea to throw this cash in the current Everton manager’s direction. He scored for fun to help Jose Mourinho’s men on their way to the league title in 2004-05.
Just imagine the figures Lampard would be in line to earn in today’s game… wow!
Steven Gerrard – £100,000 – 2005-06
Gerrard inspired a fairly average Liverpool side to Champions League glory in May 2005; his goal started arguably the competition’s most remarkable comeback victory in the showpiece final with AC Milan.
Chelsea were keen on acquiring the Reds’ legendary midfielder, so they had to quickly stop a deal between the two rivals from happening. It’s a good job they did.
Andriy Shevchenko – £118,000 – 2006-07
In a similar fashion to Crespo, the striker arrived at Chelsea with plenty of expectation on his shoulders. But he played in the Premier League for only two seasons before returning to AC Milan on loan.
It didn’t go to plan for the Ukrainian legend.
John Terry – £135,000 – 2007-08
There are a lot of Chelsea players on this list, and here’s another. By this point, Terry had firmly established himself as one of the Premier League’s best defenders, so this massive salary had been earned.
“I would have to say John Terry is the toughest defender I’ve played against,” Wayne Rooney said in 2018. “He reads the game really well, he’s physical and he’s tough to play against so you know you’re always in for a tough game when you play against him.”
Ending his 19-year Stamford Bridge stay with five Premier League titles under his belt, the ex-England captain is viewed as one of Chelsea’s all-time greats.
Robinho – £160,000 – 2008-09
Man City’s signing of Robinho from Spanish giants Real Madrid, marked the starting point where the club’s Saudi owners – they joined in September 2008 – planted their flag in the ground as the new big-hitters on the block.
The Brazilian didn’t flourish in Manchester despite a high-flying start to life under Mark Hughes’ stewardship; he was later sold to AC Milan in 2010.
But as we’ve seen since Robinho’s signing, City aren’t shy of splashing the cash, and we may see this approach taken by City once again this summer with Haaland.
Carlos Tevez – £250,000 – 2009-13
The transfer of the former Argentina international from city rivals Manchester United to Man City saw the Premier league’s highest-paid player figure reach uncharted territory.
It proved to be money well spent as Tevez was a key part of the City team that won their first Premier League title in the 2010-11 season.
But the relationship between the striker and his manager Roberto Mancini took a turn for the worse in the latter stages of his stay. He refused to come off the bench during a Champions League tie against Bayern Munich in 2011.
“He [Tevez] was disappointed that he didn’t play but we play with 11 players. To do that is just impossible,” Mancini said post-match.
“Tonight, in this game, we had a problem. Before we never had a problem – we started the season very well – all the players played but I can’t accept that one player refuses to go in.
“I cannot accept this.”
Wayne Rooney – £300,000 – 2013-17
Manchester United’s all-time leading goalscorer didn’t enjoy his best years at Old Trafford following the signing of this mega-contract in 2013. He failed to win a league title with the club after this point.
— UnitedReds (@UnitedRedscom) April 14, 2022
Alexis Sanchez – £350,000 – 2017-19
Playing the piano on his signing announcement video was probably the best thing Sanchez did in a Manchester United shirt. For how good he is on the keys, it certainly wasn’t worth that amount of money.
David de Gea – £375,000 – 2019-20
The Spain international goalkeeper has been one of the few consistent performers for United since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
He did suffer a blip in form in the final stages of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time at the helm, but he looks back to his best in 2021-22, even if you do have to question whether any goalkeeper is worth this sort of money.
Gareth Bale – £560,000 – 2020-21
It’s thought that Real Madrid covered a fair portion of Bale’s jaw-dropping salary when the out-of-favour forward made what promised to be a fairytale return to Tottenham Hotspur on loan for the 2020-21 season (£560,000 reflects his total earnings weekly from Spurs and Madrid combined).
Under Mourinho, the Wales international struggled for regular first-team minutes and only showed glimpses of his undoubted first-class quality.
Bale’s Madrid contract is up for expiry in the summer, and if reports are to be believed, a third spell at Spurs may be in the pipeline for next season – maybe Antonio Conte would be able to get the best out of the 32-year-old.
Cristiano Ronaldo – £480,000 – 2021-22
Man United’s hierarchy probably didn’t think twice about making Ronaldo the Premier League’s top earner to bring him back to Old Trafford last summer from Juventus.
But his signing was supposed to inspire the Red Devils to a title charge, and that hasn’t materialised. Instead, United are scrambling to finish in the top four following a turbulent campaign.
He is the club’s top scorer in 2021-22, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
A special moment from a special player 🎯🔥
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 16, 2022