By Nick Harris
2 January 2011
Celtic got off to a flyer in 2011 today by beating Rangers 2-0 in the Ne’erday derby, but one sign of how dramatically Scottish football finances have continued to deteriorate in the past year is found in Celtic’s deal to sign Freddie Ljungberg until the end of the season.
Ljungberg, who did not play today because he has a virus, earned £16,000 per week in Major League Soccer in the USA, most recently with Chicago Fire, and Celtic put together a deal that effectively matches it to sign the Swede, 33, until the end of the season. That pay packet is understood to give Ljungberg the highest guaranteed basic wage per week in Scotland currently.
While £16,000 a week is no small change in most walks of life, it’s not huge in elite football, and it’s just a quarter of the highest weekly salary being paid in the SPL a year ago, to Robbie Keane, also at Celtic. Keane’s temporary contract at Parkhead was worth £65,000 per week.
According to sportingintelligence’s calculations for our inaugural review of global sports salaries, published earlier this year, the average first-team pay at Rangers in summer 2008 (the most recent data available when that report was compiled) was £17,121 per week, or £890,270 per year. The average first-team pay at Celtic was £16,309 a week, or £848,082 a year.
Those two clubs’ wage bills totally overshadowed those at every other SPL club to the extent that the SPL has the least equality in wage distribution of any major sports league in the world considered in our report. (The NFL was the fairest league).
Yet since summer 2008, wages in the SPL have gone down, including at the Old Firm, not just in relative terms but actual terms. This will be evident when our next report is published, showing 2009 numbers, and there are good grounds for believing the current season’s wages in the SPL are the lowest for several years in Scotland’s top division. Ljungberg’s £16,000 per week can therefore be seen as Celtic pushing the boat out – and as an example of how far down the pecking order the SPL has fallen in global football terms.
Official MLS Union wage data shows Ljungberg’s MLS contract was worth $1.3m in 2010, making him only the seventh best-paid player after David Beckham ($6.5m with LA Galaxy), Thierry Henry ($5.6m, NY Red Bulls), Rafael Marquez ($5.5m, NYRB), Landon Donovan ($2.1m, Galaxy), Juan Pablo Angel ($1.9m, NYRB), Nery Castillo ($1.79m, Chicago) and Julian de Guzman ($1.7m, Toronto).
So Celtic have hired a man only seventh in the MLS wage stakes to become Scotland’s best rewarded player, and at the same time have waved goodbye to plenty of others in the past year to clubs who can pay better money. In fact since last year’s New Year Old Firm match, 11 players involved in that game – eight from Celtic and three from Rangers – have left Scotland. They are:
Artur Boruc – left Celtic for Fiorentina (Serie A) in July 2010.
Gary Caldwell – left Celtic for Wigan (EPL) later in January 2010.
Danny Fox – left Celtic for Burnley (then EPL, now Championship) later in January 2010.
Barry Robson – left Celtic for Middlesbrough (Championship) later in January 2010.
Landry N’Guemo – returned to Nancy (France, Ligue 1) in summer 2010 after one-year loan because Celtic could not agree (afford) a transfer fee.
Aiden McGeady – left Celtic in August 2010 to sign for Spartak Moscow (Russian Premier League), for a fee of c.£12m, a no-brainer for a selling club as Celtic now are.
Marc-Antoine Fortune – left Celtic in August 2010 to sign for West Brom (EPL).
Scott McDonald – left Celtic later in January 2010 to join Middlesbrough (Championship).
Danny Wilson – left Rangers for Liverpool (EPL) in July 2010.
Nacho Novo – left Rangers in May 2010 for Sporting Gijon (La Liga).
Kris Boyd – left Rangers in July 2010 for Middlesbrough (Championship).