The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil next summer is bound to be one for the ages. To say nothing of the fact that it’ll be held in one of the most football-mad countries on Earth, it’ll also have some of the most exciting matchups international football can offer – with England vs. Italy, Spain vs. Netherlands and Germany vs. Portugal all happening in the group stage. The World Cup is also the place were the world’s best players – Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Radamel Falcao among them – duke it out for football’s most coveted trophy.
But what about the players who won’t be traveling to Brazil next summer? Some of the best players in the game today won’t be joining in due to their respective national teams’ failures to qualify for next year’s tournament. On this list, we count down the 10 highest-earning players who won't be getting in on the action in Brazil.
One player is a ponytailed Swede with a sublime eye for goal; another is a Czech who is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world; and another is a Welshman who was the subject of the most expensive summer transfer in Spanish footballing history. Regardless, these 10 men are among the best in the beautiful game, and it’s truly a shame that the world won’t get to see their talents on display in Sao Paolo.
Some of the countries represented by these players just barely missed out on football’s showpiece event, while others never had a chance of making it to begin with. Whatever the case, these individuals are going to be staying at home on their couches in front of their TV sets this summer rather than competing with the best of their footballing peers. Let’s take a look at these 10 footballing studs and their respective paychecks.
10 Aaron Ramsey - Wales - 2013 Earnings: $4.7 Million
Having one hell of a season so far with current Premier League top dogs Arsenal, Aaron Ramsey is truly coming into his own after initially struggling with inconsistency with the Gunners. But despite his tip-top form at the ripe age of 22, Ramsey won’t be playing in the tropical breezes of Brazil next summer, as Wales finished second to last in Group A of UEFA’s qualifying rounds – just ahead of Macedonia. The box-to-box midfielder’s current salary is $4.7 million per year, though he’s bound to get a raise after this season if he keeps his performances up.
9 Samir Handanovic - Slovenia - 2013 Earnings: $6.6 Million
Although he got to taste what it’s like to be at a World Cup four years ago in South Africa, the Slovenia and Inter Milan goalkeeper Samir Handanovic won’t be able to do that again in Brazil. Slovenia finished a disappointing third in their qualifying group behind Switzerland and Iceland, the latter of which just missed out on qualifying in the playoff round by losing to Croatia. Handanovic currently sits in fourth in the Serie A table with Inter, and has been the Nerazzurri’s starting keeper thanks in part to his league record-tying six penalty shots saved during the 2010-11 Serie A campaign. The shot stopper currently earns about $6.6 million per year.
8 Petr Cech - Czech Republic - 2013 Earnings $8.5 Million
With his only World Cup appearance being with a Czech side that disappointed in the group stage at Germany 2006, this year’s World Cup will be missing one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Petr Cech. The keeper has been the recipient of UEFA’s Best Goalkeeper award on three occasions and has achieved success to the tune of 146 clean sheets and three Premier League titles with the Blues. Still a mainstay in Chelsea’s net after having joined the club in 2004, Cech remains clearly a world-class keeper, and his $8.5 million paycheck is proof of that.
7 Marek Hamsik - Slovakia - 2013 Earnings: $8.5 Million
Lucky enough to make the round of 16 in South Africa in 2010 with Slovakia, Napoli attacking midfielder/national team captain Marek Hamsik isn’t so lucky this time, as the Slovaks finished third in their qualifying group behind eventual qualifiers Bosnia-Herzegovina – who qualify for the first time since their independence from the former Yugoslavia – and Greece. With Napoli, Hamsik has won one Coppa Italia, and also made regular Champions League appearances with the Partenopei. With a yearly paycheck of $8.5 million, Hamsik has recently been named the eighth-best footballer in Europe by Bloomberg Sports.
6 David Alaba - Austria - 2013 Earnings: $8.6 Million
Born to a Nigerian father and a Filipina mother, Bayern Munich left back David Alaba is developing into one of the most exciting full backs – despite having been played in many positions beforehand – in world football at the age of 21. However, he and his cohorts in the Austrian national team finished third in their qualifying group, beyond world heavyweights Germany and playoff round losers Sweden. The youngest player to ever play for Austria – he made his debut at the age of just 17 – Alaba is currently raking in about $8.6 million per year and remains a regular part of the most decorated club in German footballing history.
5 Arda Turan - Turkey - 2013 Earnings: $9.3 Million
Despite having an otherwise fairly talented team on paper, the Turkish national team finished a disappointing fourth behind 2010 finalists Netherlands, playoff round losers Romania and Hungary in their World Cup qualifying campaign. Therefore, their captain and undisputed best player, Arda Turan, won’t be able to showcase his exquisite dribbling and ball controlling abilities in Brazil. Unfortunate, because the Atletico Madrid right winger – who captained his former club Galatasaray at the age of just 21 – has settled in nicely in Spain, and it’s reflected in his paycheck. Turan currently makes about $9.3 million per year with Liverpool and Manchester United currently battling for his signature in January’s transfer window.
4 Robert Lewandowski - Poland - 2013 Earnings: $9.3 Million
Arguably one of the most lethal strikers in the world thanks to his displays last season with Borussia Dortmund both domestically and in the UEFA Champions League, Robert Lewandowski certainly deserves his $9.3 million a year paycheck. However, Poland had a poor qualifying campaign; finishing fourth behind England, Ukraine and Montenegro. Scoring 36 goals in 49 competitive matches last season during Borussia Dortmund’s run to the Champions League final, Lewandowski’s eye for goal has led to a much publicized – but so far, yet to actually materialize – planned move to Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich when the transfer window reopens in January.
3 Stevan Jovetic - Montenegro - 2013 Earnings: $10.1 Million
Despite not having played very much for Manchester City so far this Premier League season, Stevan Jovetic is still one of the most creative and technically gifted up-and-coming forwards in football today. The Montenegrin was unlucky once again in his small home nation’s latest attempt to qualify for a major tournament, finishing third behind England and Ukraine in their qualifying group. Following a $36 million move to Manchester City after flourishing for several years at Fiorentina, Jovetic is still hoping to make himself a regular in City’s starting 11. With a yearly paycheck of $10.1 million, Jovetic is one of the most talented players from the Balkan Peninsula in the beautiful game.
2 Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Sweden - 2013 Earnings: $19.2 Million
Although he is arguably in the twilight of both his club and his own international career, Zlatan Ibrahimovic won’t be able to take Sweden to Brazil next summer, having lost to Cristiano Ronaldo and co. in Portugal during the UEFA playoff round. The pony-tailed assassin is still one of the most potent strikers in the game at 31 years of age, and his continually strong performances with Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 this season prove exactly that. His $19.2 million yearly paycheck is well-deserved, even if bolstered by his contract with Nike, as well as recently being named the ambassador for the Xbox One in France.
1 Gareth Bale - Wales - 2013 Earnings: $25.5 Million
The subject of Spanish football’s most expensive transfer will not be able to showcase his utterly sublime talents to billions of viewers this coming summer. Gareth Bale of Real Madrid is quite possibly one of the best players in the world – perhaps even arguably the third best behind Messi and Ronaldo – but he and the Welsh national team did poorly in their qualifying group, finishing fifth out of sixth. With other talented young players such as Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and Liverpool’s Joe Allen at Wales’ disposal, Bale and co. do have a better chance than ever of qualifying for Russia 2018. But for now, the man who makes $25.5 million per year with Los Merengues will have to sit out the game’s biggest event.