The role of the fullback is one that is perhaps a little bit underrated in soccer: although they aren’t going to necessarily provide highlight reel goals or dazzle the crowd with their pace or dribbling ability, they’re still very important in the sense that they can be fast enough to run down the flank and provide crosses and/or scoring chances for their more offensively-inclined teammates. Not only that, but the best ones in the game also make a pretty hefty paycheck. The 10 men on this list are the ones whose salaries for playing on the left or right flank of their team’s back four are the biggest.
Several of these players are more or less on the downswing of their career, others have already retired from international football, while others – Luke Shaw in particular – are only just getting started. None of these players are necessarily the centrepiece of their team’s starting XI, but they’ve proven that they’re capable of being quite a bit more than just a bit part element of that starting lineup. With the pay checks these 10 men are collecting, it’s even further proof that playing in the back half of the pitch for your club won’t hinder your ability either to get huge money or to gain recognition both by supporters and by outsiders.
If nothing else, this goes to show that not only are fullbacks important for the chemistry and performance of any team’s starting XI, they’re also making quite the windfall on a weekly or yearly basis even if they may not necessarily have the same profile as the Messis or Ronaldos of the sport. Without further ado, here are the 10 highest-paid fullbacks in soccer sorted by their yearly salary converted into American dollars from either euros or British pounds.
10 Gregory van der Wiel -- Paris Saint-Germain: $5.4 million
He may not always be playing a whole lot for his club team Paris Saint-Germain or the Netherlands’ national team, but Gregory van der Wiel is making a fairly hefty pay check regardless at $5.4 million this year. The Dutch right back signed with the Parisian giants in 2012, and the so-called successor to Michael Reiziger on the right flank for the Dutch national team (at least according to former Dutch defender John Heitinga) will be expected to battle with young Ivorian right-back Serge Aurier – who went to the World Cup, while van der Wiel was not selected to go with the Oranje to Brazil – for a place in the starting XI.
9 Marcelo -- Real Madrid: $5.4 million
If players like Diego Maradona, Paolo Maldini and Roberto Carlos are singing your praises, you’re clearly doing something very, very right. Marcelo has been doing the right things for Real Madrid ever since he joined the club from Fluminense in Brazil in 2007. With a pay check of roughly $5.4 million this year, the left back has been consistently in the starting XI over fellow left back Fabio Coentrao, and played for his country at the 2014 World Cup this past summer in his home nation – despite the opening goal of the tournament being an own goal at his expense against Croatia.
8 Leighton Baines -- Everton: $6.5 million
Though his performance during England’s lacklustre run at the World Cup this summer was disappointing, Leighton Baines is still his country’s best left back even with the emergence of teenager Luke Shaw, and Baines has had solid performances with his club team Everton to vindicate his salary of $6.5 million this year. The 29-year-old has been capped 26 times for his country and was their undisputed first-choice left back at the World Cup in Brazil thanks to the international retirement of Ashley Cole prior to the tournament. Whether or not he’ll be much of a fixture come Euro 2016 remains to be seen.
7 Filipe Luis -- Chelsea: $7 million
Surprisingly left out of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s squad at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Filipe Luis had a stellar season with Atletico Madrid last year and was rewarded with a big-money move to Chelsea. As a result, he’s now got a roughly $7 million salary this year in his first season at Stamford Bridge. He may have to compete for time in the starting XI at left back with Cesar Azpilicueta and may also have to fill the boots of Ashley Cole (who just left for Roma in the Serie A), but there’s no doubting his ability on the left flank.
6 Gael Clichy -- Manchester City: $7.8 million
Despite having made his name for years on Arsenal’s left flank, Gael Clichy has been plying his trade at the Etihad Stadium with Manchester City with a salary to the tune of $7.8 million, and is under contract with the current Premier League champions until 2017. Unfortunately for Clichy, he was snubbed from Didier Deschamps’ France squad that made the quarterfinals at this year’s World Cup in Brazil, falling short behind Patrice Evra and Paris Saint-Germain youngster Lucas Digne at left back. At City, he will likely spend time battling against Aleksandar Kolarov for their starting left back position.
5 Glen Johnson -- Liverpool: $8.7 million
Although he’s been criticized at times for his less-than-superb performances for the English national team – not helped by the Three Lions failing to win a single game in Brazil this summer – Glen Johnson has remained a fixture on Liverpool’s right flank. With a salary of roughly $8.7 million this year, Johnson’s position on the team’s starting XI will likely stay as it is despite competition from fast-rising teenager Jon Flanagan, who was called up as a standby player for that squad in Brazil by Roy Hodgson. However, his 2014-15 season has not gotten off to a good start, with some Liverpool fans bashing him on Twitter following his performance against Southampton.
4 Dani Alves -- Barcelona: $10 million
He signed with Barcelona in 2008 at a gargantuan fee of €32.5 million, and Dani Alves’ importance to the Blaugrana at large over the years can’t be understated. Becoming the third-most expensive transfer for a defender in football history in the process, the right back has helped Barcelona win two La Liga titles, a Champions League title, a FIFA Club World Cup and two Spanish Super Cups. Despite his accomplishments at the Nou Camp and his $10 million salary this season, Alves has been subjected both to boos from his own club’s supporters as well as rumours that Barça are trying to sell him.
3 Bacary Sagna -- Manchester City: $13 million
He produced stellar performances during his time at Arsenal – in which Arsene Wenger referred to him as the best right back in the Premier League – but Bacary Sagna has now decided to move his club career to the Etihad Stadium as he will likely prepare to fight for playing time against Argentina national team regular Pablo Zabaleta with Manchester City. The 31-year-old was also selected for France’s team at the 2014 World Cup this year, and will be making a salary of roughly $13 million for this season as the first player City signed during this transfer window.
2 Luke Shaw -- Manchester United: $14 million
The fact that he’s just barely turned 19 years old and is playing at such a high calibre is impressive by itself, but the fact that Luke Shaw has done so while securing a place in England’s World Cup squad and a big-money move to Manchester United is something else entirely. After signing a world record transfer for a teenaged player with the Red Devils this summer, Shaw will be making a $14 million salary for this current season. Arguably one of the most talented youngsters in football at the moment, Shaw will likely be counted on to carry the load at left back from the recently departed Patrice Evra.
1 Philipp Lahm -- Bayern Munich: $14.5 million
For someone who just recently retired from international football – even if a little bit prematurely – Philipp Lahm is still making quite the hefty pay check with a salary of about $14.5 million this season with Bayern Munich. Even as he’s hit his 30s, Lahm will still be relied on to be a leader for Bayern, whether that’s as a fullback or as a defensive midfielder – the latter of which he tends to play as more often for his club. Regardless of where he plays, Lahm is still a player of immense ability, and his instrumental contributions to Germany’s World Cup-winning squad won’t soon be forgotten.