Ronaldo, Salah, Kane: Comparing the Premier League's highest-paid XI to the best XI overall

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The Premier League has drawn the curtains on another heavy month of spending.

While Manchester United and Arsenal might have kept their wallets firmly shut, the likes of Everton, Aston Villa and Newcastle United loosened their pursestrings for the January transfer window.

As such, there are plenty of exciting new faces to welcome into one of sport’s most lucrative competitions as we look ahead to see how the 2021/22 season will conclude in the coming months.

Best-paid XI and best XI

However, two things that haven’t changed at all over the course of the January spending have been the configurations of the Premier League‘s best XI as well as its highest-paid line-up.

As you’ll be well aware, there’s not a 1:1 correlation of wages to quality in the beautiful game, so the highest-earning player isn’t necessarily the best footballer in the world and so on.

In fact, when we came to compare the top-earning XI in the Premier League to what your humble writer considers to be the best XI, period, there were actually very few similarities at all.

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Let's start easy: What was Tottenham's old ground called?

How different are they?

Cristiano Ronaldo, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kevin De Bruyne were anomalous in proving not only the finest players in their positions, but also the ones bagging the most money for their troubles.

So, how did we reach our comparison? Well, the highest-earning XI was compiled using spotrac data and the finest Premier League line-up ultimately came down to a matter of opinion.

However, it is worth bearing in mind that the best XI is based upon overall quality in recent years as opposed to simply current form in order to scale back on recency bias and reactionary picks.

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Comparing the two XIs

Got it? Right then, well, let’s see just how different the Premier League’s best and highest-paid XIs really are by checking out how they line up down below:

The best XI in the Premier League

GK: Alisson Becker (Liverpool)

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

CB: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

CB: Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

LB: Joao Cancelo (Manchester City)

CM: Rodri (Manchester City)

CM: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

CM: Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

FW: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

ST: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

FW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) 

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The highest-paid XI in the Premier League

GK: David de Gea (Manchester United) – £375,000-a-week

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) – £180,000-a-week

CB: Raphael Varane (Manchester United) – £340,000-a-week

CB: John Stones (Manchester City) – £250,000-a-week

LB: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea) – £190,000-a-week

CM: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea) – £290,000-a-week

CM: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) – £400,000-a-week

CM: Jack Grealish (Manchester City) – £300,000-a-week

FW: Jadon Sancho (Manchester United) – £350,000-a-week

ST: Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea) – £325,000-a-week

FW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) – £510,000-a-week*

*Estimated figure

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Breaking down the two line-ups

So, there you have it, there are no less than eight differences between the Premier League XI that we consider to be the best in the business and the footballers pocketing the most pound notes.

It’s been great to see De Gea rediscovering his best form at United this season, but it’s hard to look past Alisson for consistency and stability despite Edouard Mendy and Ederson’s best efforts.

Meanwhile, we think it’s pretty uncontroversial to say that Van Dijk and Dias, who have both picked up Ballon d’Or nominations in recent years, get the better of higher-earners Stones and Varane.

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Chilwell was superb before his major injury, sure, but Cancelo has been in a league of his own and Rodri has simply been more consistent than Kante despite the latter’s Champions League heroics.

Grealish is finding his feet at City, so still has a long wait to go before usurping Fernandes, while it’s the same story for Sancho at United as he finds himself lightyears behind Salah’s omnipotence.

As for the centre-forward position, none of the league’s best number nines are on fire right now, but Kane still has enough credit in the bank from his stunning 2020/21 season to keep Lukaku at bay.

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And while, yes, we’ve crowbarred Ronaldo into the best XI a little bit by making him a left forward, he still deserves a spot over Sadio Mane and Heung-min Son as one of the world’s best players.

So, sure, there are certainly many things that you could debate about our picks for the league’s top XI, but you’d be pretty hard-pressed to argue that the top-earning line-up couldn’t be improved upon.

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