Football is one of the most enjoyed sports in Italy. Having won the FIFA World Cup four times (1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006), Italy ranks among the best countries in the sport with great football history just behind Brazil (who have 5 World Cup titles). Italy has produced many young talents over the years who have contributed a lot to the international football scene. With the legendary names of Giuseppe Meazza, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi in the country's past, just to name a few, the present national team of Italy includes current players from top ranking clubs in the English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A and several other leagues throughout the world.
Also called as the 'Azzuri,' Italy's national team is a complete package of talent, experience and discipline which has added a lot to the beautiful game of football. The seventh-seeded team in FIFA world ranking, the Azzuri side has been drawn in a very tough group D for the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup. Still, these Italian players are sure to bring great competition to the other nations with flair, zeal and energy.
Together with their skills, quality and experience, it's not unusual to see Italian players listed among the highest-paid footballers in the world. Also, with the approach of the January transfer market in club football, the world will surely see some teams paying top dollar for premium Italian talents.
Below we list the top 10 highest-paid Italian Soccer players in the world for 2013.
10 Pablo Osvaldo - Southampton - €2.5 Million ($3.44 Million USD)
Argentine-born Italian footballer, Pablo Osvaldo plays in the striking position for the Italy national team and Premier League side Southampton. After starting his professional career in football at Huracan side in 2005, Osvaldo joined Serie B side Atlanta the very next year and was sent to Lecce in a co-ownership deal where he got regular playing opportunities. Fiorentina bought him in 2007 for a transfer fee of €4.6 million ($6.33 million). Bologna then persuaded Osvaldo to their side on a loan spell first, and then permanently to the club for a deal of €5 million ($6.9 million). In 2010, after moving to Espanyol, he appeared in 44 games and scored 20 goals. This caught the interest of AS Roma, where he moved in 2011 for a fee of €15 million ($20.66 million) plus bonuses. Osvaldo then moved to the English Premier League sides Southampton on 18 August, 2013 for a deal of €15.1 million ($20.8 million) and a €2 million ($2.75 million) bonus. Osvaldo is currently paid €2.5 million ($3.44 million) per year at the English club.
9 Thiago Motta - Paris Saint- Germain - €2.5 Million ($3.44 Million USD)
Thiago Motta is a central midfielder for the Italian national team and the Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain. Motta entered Italy's national team in 2011 and helped them finish second in the 2012 Euro Cup. After coming out of the youth academy from Juventus, Motta joined Barcelona where he played for their B-team for two years before taking his place in the senior squad. Because of his injury problems, he appeared in only 96 games in six years for Barcelona and joined Atletico Madrid in 2007 for an undisclosed fee. After moving to Genoa on a free transfer in 2008, he decided to play for Internazionale in 2009. In 2012 the Ligue 1 side PSG side took him in a €10 million ($13.77 million) deal. Motta is paid €2.5 million a year in his current club.
8 Domenico Criscito - Zenit St. Petersberg - €3 Million ($4.13 Million USD)
Domenico Criscito is a starting left back who made his place in the Italian national team in 2009. After beginning his career in 2002 with Genoa he moved to Juventus in 2007. However, he could not get many first team appearances in the top-seeded Serie A club, inspiring his return back to Genoa with a total fee of €7.5 million ($10.33 million) in 2008. Criscito played there for three years until 2011 during which time he made 116 appearances for the team. He then signed for the Russian Premier League side Zenit St. Petersberg in a deal for €11 million ($15.5 million) where he is paid €3 million a year.
7 Salvatore Sirigu - Paris Saint German - €3 Million ($4.13 Million USD)
Salvatore Sirigu was the third choice Italian goalkeeper for Italy during the 2012 Euro Cup behind Gigi Buffon and Morgan DeSanctis. After starting his career at Palermo in 2006 and moving out on loan to Cremonese and Ancona, he joined the Ligue 1 side PSG in 2011 for a transfer fee of €3.5 million ($4.82 million). Sirigu quickly became the first choice goal keeper for the club and also broke Bernard Lama's clean sheet record of 697 minutes on January 27, 2013. The Italian goalkeeper played for Italy's U-18, U-19 and U-21 teams before making the national team in 2010. Sirigu is making €3 million per year with PSG until his contract expires in 2014.
6 Claudio Marchisio - Juventus - €3 Million ($4.13 Million USD)
One of the finest young products of Juventus in Serie A, Claudio Marchisio is a midfielder for the Italian National team. Having spent all of his time at Juventus, Marchisio went on a season-long loan to Empoli in 2007-2008. The prolific midfield player is often compared to one of greatest Italian midfielders Marco Tarndelli for his amazing style of play and reading of the game. A very versatile central midfielder, Marchisio earns €3 million per year at the Serie A club where he is also vice-captain behind Giorgio Chiellini.
5 Riccardo Montolivo - AC Milan - €3.5 Million ($4.82 Million USD)
A versatile midfield player captaining the AC Milan side in Serie A, Riccardo Montolivo is one of the best midfielders in the club. He is known for having both a deep-lying and attacking mentality with the technical ability to create both short and long range passes. After starting his professional footballing career with Atalanta in 2003, Montolivo was transferred to Fiorentina in 2005 for a fee of €3.5 million where he played for seven years and made 250 appearances. He then signed with Milan side on a free transfer in 2012 for a four-year contract. This German-born Italian is paid €3.5 million per year.
4 Andrea Pirlo - Juventus - €3.5 Million ($4.82 Million USD)
The deep-lying playmaker, praised for his techniques, vision, control and dribbling, Andrea Pirlo is one of the finest midfielders today in world football. Also nicknamed “l’architetto” or "the architect" Pirlo started his footballing career at Brescia in 1995 and moved to Internazionale in 1998 where he was sent on loan to Reggina and back to Brescia. He then made a big move to Italian giants AC Milan for €18 million ($24.8 million) where he scored 32 goals in 284 appearances for the club. Pirlo then signed to the Serie A side Juventus on a free transfer in 2011 where he is paid €3.5 million per year. Having won both the Serie A Player of the Year and Italian Player of the Year Awards in 2012, he is one of the finest and most disciplined players in modern-day football.
3 3. Gianluigi Buffon - Juventus - €4 Million ($5.51 Million USD)
The oldest footballer on the current Italian national team at 35, Gianluigi Buffon is one of the greatest-ever goal keepers in the world. Widely renowned for his great reflexes in goal, he captains for the Serie A club Juventus as well as the Italian national team. The nine-time Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year is also the only goalkeeper to have won the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year Award, which he claimed in 2003. Buffon joined Juventus from Parma for a fee of €54.2 million ($74.64 million) in 2001 and has a yearly wage of €4 million in a deal that will last until 2015.
2 Mario Balotelli - AC Milan - €4.5 Million ($6.2 Million USD)
Born in 1990, Mario Balotelli is an Italian professional footballer playing for the Serie A side AC Milan and the Italian national team. Balotelli started his career at Lumezzane and moved to the Inter Milan side after failing trials at Barcelona. He then moved to the English Premier League side Manchester City in 2010 for a transfer fee of €21.8 million ($30 million). One of the most strongly-criticized players of all time for his disciplinary actions, Balotelli signed for the AC Milan side in a four-and-a-half-year deal rumoured to be worth €20 million plus bonuses and add-ons. Balotelli is currently paid €4.5 million per year at the Italian club.
1 Daniele De Rossi - AS Roma - €6.5 Million ($8.95 Million USD)
The 'Captain Futuro' of the Italian national team, Daniele De Rossi plays in a midfield role for Serie A club AS Roma. Regarded as a complete midfielder by several football pundits, De Rossi is excellent both on defense and on attack. The number 16 midfielder started out his career at AS Roma's youth academy, coming from Ostia Mare in 2000 as a striker, but later switching to the midfield role. The midfielder has been a part of the U-19, U-20, U-21 and senior level for the national team of Italy and was also voted the Serie A Young Footballer of the Year in 2006 and Italian Footballer of the Year in 2009. Daniele De Rossi is the highest-paid footballer in Italy as well as in Serie A and earns €6.5 million per year.