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Top 15 players who chooses money over their career 2024

Money or career? A decision every athlete has a to make once contracts are finalized in the professional sports world. 

Most fans believe the guys who compete in sports for a living are far overpaid, but those same dudes are the ones that give us a reason to grill up on the weekend and watch a show. The leagues they play for make billions of dollars so if anyone is getting overpaid it’s the guys in charge. 

From the Premier League to the Association to the NFL to The Show, teams are filled with one of two types of players. One that wants to cash in on the pay day and one that wants to win the championship. Sometimes you get a mix of both. The spectrum is broad, whether it’s an absolute grinder who leaves it all on the floor like a Kevin Garnett, to the man at No. 1 on our list who publicly states that he plays for the money. More often than not it’s pretty easy to know which type of person a player is.

Nonetheless, as immortal as they look, athletes are humans and have plenty of financial responsibility off the field to take care of, which makes sense as to why they want to maximize their brand. 

But at what point do we as a sports community draw the line between the ethics of winning and the cash cows of athletics? 

Find out how as we break down the top 15 athletes who are in it for the money.

1. IIaix Moriba

Having broken into the first-team only in January earlier this year, the 18-year-old midfielder had quickly become a trusted member of Ronald Koeman’s side, seeing more game-time than Miralem Pjanic towards the backend of the 2020/21 season.

Speaking of which, Barcelona let go of the aforementioned Moriba in the summer of 2021 when the midfielder demanded a ludicrous contract despite only being 18 years old. 

Barça were of course not ready to comply with his demands, and as a result, he ended up joining RB Leipzig that summer. His career has been largely chaotic since then. 

After an unsuccessful half a season at Leipzig, he joined Valencia on loan, and even failed to impress there. He failed to get game-time in Bundesliga and has now joined Getafe on loan until the end of the season.

Already on the fourth club of his career, Moriba is still only 21. This Getafe spell could be rectified even if he fails to perform, but he has definitely become the case study for La Masia players who choose money over patience at Barcelona.

He was one of the biggest flop for Rb Leipzig

2. Jack Rodwell

Jack Rodwell struggled at Man City after leaving Everton aged 21
Jack Rodwell struggled at Man City after leaving Everton aged 21 (Image: Paul Thomas/Getty Images)

Jack Rodwell is very relevant in this scenario, and the former Everton midfielder was also 21 when a bigger club came calling. Rodwell was thriving at Goodison Park when an offer from Manchester City came in, and he couldn’t refuse. 

Rodwell was placed on significantly higher wages at City, but the move was a disaster as he only made 16 Premier League appearances in the two seasons that followed before he was sold to Sunderland. Rodwell became an enemy later on into his Sunderland career too, as he refused to lower his wages once the Black Cats were relegated.

The midfielder is now playing in Australia, and is still chasing finances as after a solid year at Western Sydney Wanderers he has joined rivals Sydney FC. Rodwell has adapted to life in the A-League, and scored three goals in 14 appearances from midfield.

3. Wilfried Zaha

Wilfried Zaha cost United almost £85,000 per minute he played
Wilfried Zaha cost United almost £85,000 per minute he played (Image: GETTY)

Wilfried Zaha is a unique inclusion on this list, as he has still enjoyed a fantastic career despite not making it at the very top level. The Ivorian is already a Crystal Palace legend, but it seems as though the forward can’t handle playing away from South London.

Zaha has always been Palace’s standout player ever since breaking into their side back in 2010. And Zaha has been linked with a move away from Palace almost every summer due to his performances, although clubs have held back after his failed move to United.

The forward joined United in 2013, but only made two appearances before being loaned back to Palace not once, but twice, and he later rejoined his former side on a permanent deal once more. Zaha has remained at Palace ever since, but his big-money move set him back a good two years before finding his feet once more.

4. Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho has flopped at Man Utd
Jadon Sancho has flopped at Man Utd (Image: Getty Images)

The jury is still out on Jadon Sancho, but his two major career moves have completely contradicted one another. Sancho was a fantastic talent within the City youth academy, but stunned fans as he forced a move away from England at the age of just 17.

Sancho wanted minutes, and broke away from the security of City to join Borussia Dortmund, and the gamble paid off as he quickly became one of the most desired talents across Europe. United came calling, and Sancho returned to England in a £73m move, although it’s been a disaster thus far.

There is still lots of time for Sancho to put things right, but he looks like a completely different player to the one that lit up the Bundesliga. Sancho is one of the many United deals that hasn’t worked out, as poor recruitment continues to haunt the club.

5. Winston Bogarde

Winston is a retired Dutch player who featured for the Netherlands, Ajax, Barcelona, and Chelsea.

The defender was part of the exciting Ajax team of the mid-1990s that featured in and won the UEFA Champions League. 

During his time at Stamford Bridge, Bogarde earned the reputation of loving money about his playing career.

He didn’t feature in a single league match despite signing for the Blues on a 4-year contract.

Even though successive managers didn’t want to work with him, he decided to stay put and honour his contract because of the huge amount of money he was getting as wages. 

He would eventually leave on the expiration of his contract. His example is usually foremost among footballers who chose money over passion.

6. Radamel Falcao


The Colombian football legend began to make waves during his time at FC Porto. Under Andre Villas-Boas, Falcao’s goals helped Porto clinch the Europa League trophy.

He secured a move to Atlético Madrid and continued his goalscoring exploits, winning another Europa League there.

In time, many top European clubs started coming for his signature. However, Russian oligarch and billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev injected a lot of money into Ligue 1 club AS Monaco. That gave the modest French club the spending power to sign many players.

Falcao signed for Monaco for a fee of around €60 million and took home €14 million as his net annual salary. 

Although he went on to have a stellar career at Monaco, his reasons for moving to the French club seemed to be because of the financial incentive.

7. Oscar

Oscar football players who chose money

Oscar was an attacking midfielder who was on the books of Chelsea between 2012 to 2017.

During his time at Stamford Bridge, he won the English Premier League and UEFA Europa League. 

In 2017 The former Brazil international made an Asian record transfer of £67 million to Chinese Team Shanghai Port despite having more years of top football left in him. 

It was reported that his weekly salary would be as much as £400,000.

8. Emmanuel Adebayor

Emmanuel Adebayor

The former Togolese national team captain had a very eventful that saw him play for various top teams like Arsenal, Manchester City, and Real Madrid. 

Emmanuel was a highly gifted but sometimes troublesome player who was known for his sublime skills and eye-catching goals. 

While with the Gunners, there were constant rumours of him leaving North London to go to City because of higher pay.

The rumours eventually came to pass in 2009 when he joined the Cityzens for a transfer fee of around £25 million, to the chagrin of Arsenal supporters.

9. Hulk

Hulk highest paid players in Brazilian league
(Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Hulk is a Brazilian forward who has featured for various teams in his long career. 

The 36-year-old gets his nickname from a famous comic book superhero with whom he shares a resemblance. 

Apart from his unique alias, the striker is also known for making big money moves to otherwise less fancied clubs in Russia and China.

In the latter, he was reported to earn £320,000 weekly playing for Chinese side Shanghai Port.

10. Georginio Wijnaldum

Georginio Wijnaldum football players who chose money

The Dutch football player was one of the best box-to-box midfielders in his prime. 

In 2016, Wijnaldum joined Liverpool from Newcastle for £23 million. He was a key player for them, helping them to their 2018/19 UEFA Champions League triumph.

However, when his contract at Liverpool was about to end, he was sought after by PSG and Barcelona.

His former Dutch manager, Ronald Koeman was the then coach of Barcelona, desperately wanted Wijnaldum at the Spanish club.

Nonetheless, the Dutchman instead signed a for PSG, who were said to have agreed to double the wages Barca was offering. He is one of the footballers who chose money over passion.

His time at PSG was unsuccessful, and he was immediately loaned to AS Roma.

11. Jack Clarke

Jack Clarke is yet to play for Tottenham's senior side
Jack Clarke is yet to play for Tottenham’s senior side(Image: Getty Images)

Jack Clarke was starting to make a name for himself at Leeds United, but after just one season in the Championship he was picked up by Tottenham Hotspur. Leeds were furious to lose their star, and although he was loaned back for their title-winning season, he only made one appearance.

Clarke has since spent every season on loan, and is yet to make a league appearance for Tottenham, and although still only 21, you can’t help but wonder if sticking with Leeds would have furthered his progression. The forward is taking the Harry Kane approach by getting lots of experience on loan, but it’s hard to see a way into Antonio Conte’s Tottenham side.

The youngster has re-joined Sunderland on loan this season, and has already scored as the Black Cats are finally back in the second tier after achieving promotion from League One. Sunderland are looking to secure back-to-back promotions and return to the top-flight for the first time since 2017.

12. Julian Draxler

Julian Draxler's switch to German rivals Wolfsburg was a disaster
Julian Draxler’s switch to German rivals Wolfsburg was a disaster (Image: GETTY)

Julian Draxler was one of the most talked about midfielders in world football a decade ago, after bursting onto the scene with Schalke. The German was one of their most exciting talents after joining their academy aged 8, and announced himself on the main stage by scoring four goals in one Champions League campaign at the age of just 20.

13. Jay Jay Okocha

Austin Jay Jay Okocha

The legendary African midfielder is considered one of the greatest footballers of his generation. However, he never reached the heights expected of a player of his talents, maybe because he chose money.

Jay Jay Okocha signed for Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer after leaving PSG in 2002.

He was remarkable during his time at Bolton and was even given the captain’s armband. 

However, things turned sour as he began to propose a move to the Middle East. Okocha was stripped of the captaincy as he rejected a one-year extension from the club.

He eventually joined Qatar Sports Club, where he was rumoured to be the then-highest-paid player in Qatar.

14 Alex Song

Despite joining Arsenal in 2005, it was only in 2008 when Alex Song attained a breakthrough in his career. Since then, he featured prominently in Arsene Wenger’s plans and had become an instrumental part of the team. 

Song was responsible for doing the dirty work in the middle of the park and this allowed the likes of Fabregas and Nasri to focus on their creative duties.

However, Song gave up on a promising career when Barcelona offered to double his wages in 2012. Despite knowing that in the presence of Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Fabregas and Keita, he wouldn’t get much playing time, Song decided to make the move.

He went on to appear in just 39 games for Barcelona and soon became the subject of serial transfers. Following spells at West Ham and Rubin Kazan, Alex Song disappeared from the public eye and his career never recovered. He was quoted as saying:

“When Barcelona offered me a contract, and I saw how much I would earn, I didn’t think twice. I felt my wife and children should have comfortable lives once my career is over. 

“I met Barca’s sporting director, and he told me I would not get to play many games. But I didn’t give a f*** – I knew that now I would become a millionaire,” Song later admitted his mistake of prioritizing money over his football career.”

At 34, he now finds himself playing for Arta Solar 7 in Djibouti.

15 Neymar Jr

Neymar’s departure from Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) sent shockwaves through the football world. The move, which happened in 2017, was historic in terms of its transfer fee, setting a new record at the time. Neymar’s decision to leave one of the world’s most prestigious clubs for PSG marked a significant shift in football economics and player power. It also signaled PSG’s intent to challenge the traditional footballing powerhouses for European dominance.

Neymar’s move from Barcelona to PSG was widely interpreted as a choice driven by financial incentives rather than solely passion for the game. While PSG offered him a lucrative contract and the opportunity to become the focal point of their project, critics argued that his decision prioritized financial gain over the competitive challenges and footballing heritage associated with Barcelona. This narrative sparked debates about the balance between pursuing personal wealth and staying true to the essence of the sport.

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