Are Messi and Ronaldo worth their wages?

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Lionel Messi, Steven Gerrard and Cristiano Ronaldo are among the world's best players, and their pay reflects their position within the sport but how does it compare to high achievers in other industries?

It may be debatable whether footballers justify these wages - everybody is entitled to their opinion - but are they worth it relative to the world's highest earners, namely the CEOs of worldwide companies?

Compared to the big-hitters of the boardroom, footballers are paid with small change. Of course, the sport's top stars, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney are all handsomely rewarded for their brief sojourns onto the field of the play, but compared to the CEOs of Apple, Walt Disney and Nike, Messi and co don't do as well as you think.

In a straight comparison, the boardroom rules the boot room. Taking basic pay as the yard stick - and discounting stock options - CEOs of vast multinational corporations in some cases take home hundreds of thousands more per week than football's biggest names.

And if stock options are not included on the corporate pay-slip, it's only fair to discount player sponsorship deals as well. Therefore this comparison simply includes CEO basic pay plus bonuses and footballers' weekly wages.

Disgraced Barclays boss Bob Diamond waived his £20m payout after he was forced to swallow the LIBOR scandal, but his £2m annual salary, combined with bonuses, saw the American banker pocket £17m, or £326,000 per week as an equivalent.

The chief of Walt Disney, Robert A Iger, received £25.36m last year, or £487,000 per week. Rupert Murdoch of News Corp has reportedly broken through the £300,000 a week barrier, while Gregory Case, chief executive of Aon - Manchester United's shirt sponsor - received £214,615 last year - almost £150,000 a week more than the average United player.

On the football pitch, Wayne Rooney, who proudly runs around with Case's logo across his chest, takes home a reported £150,000 a week on his latest five-year United contract.

Other Premier League stars take home a similar amount, Chelsea trio Fernando Torres, John Terry and Frank Lampard all negotiated similar deals, while Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is thought to earn around £140,000 a week.

The two La Liga titans, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both reportedly earn around £190,000 per week - a similar amount to Apple CEO Tim Cook, and slightly more than McDonalds boss James Skinner and Nike supremo Mark G Parker - both close to £150,000 a week.

Football clubs may boast the popularity - and companies regularly piggyback as sponsors to get close to the fans - but the big bucks remain in the boardroom.

Messi and Ronaldo's respective Spanish clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona, also lead the way in terms of average player salaries. The recent Global Sports Salaries Survey 2012 found that Barcelona pay their average first team player £101,160 per week, the highest of any sports team in the world.

With Andres Iniesta, Xavi, David Villa, Carles Puyol, not to mention Leo Messi, all on the payroll its perhaps not surprising that the average wage tops the £100k mark. For the past few years they have been by far the world's best team, and keeping such a talented team together takes money as well as management.

Unsurprisingly Real Madrid lie second with the average first-teamer earning £90,859, while Manchester City lead the Premier League clubs with £86,280.

Chelsea round out the top four, with the average Stamford Bridge player taking home £79,197. Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all make the top 20 highest paying sports teams - United's stars earning £64,344, Arsenal's £61,532 and Liverpool's £60,954.

With an average weekly wage of £60,000, the Premier League stars are certainly well-rewarded, but compared to the companies who plaster their names on their shirts, the likes of Lampard and Gerrard earn much less.

The world's best players may command ever higher salaries, and with the influx of money from Russia and the Middle East, Premier League clubs can increasingly afford them.

But in comparison with other global brands, Premier League clubs have relatively small balance sheets. Their profits - if any - pale in comparison to the likes of Apple and McDonalds, two of the biggest companies in the world.

And as a result, the CEOs in charge of these companies earn the highest salaries in the world, often running into the tens of millions of pound each year.

And while the world's best footballer earns a huge amount, Messi's total is still less than half the pay received by those in the boardrooms of the world's biggest companies.

The old cliche that football is big business doesn't really ring true when you compare the figures.

Still, £60,000 a week isn't bad if you can get it, it's just not in the same league as the bosses of the real big businesses.

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