Wednesday 17 July 2019

Comment: Luke Shaw's new deal shows Declan Rice why it pays to be English in the Premier League

Declan Rice’s current contract earns him €3,400 a week. Photo: Getty
Declan Rice’s current contract earns him €3,400 a week. Photo: Getty
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

Being part of a team which starts the season with three wins, three defeats and a draw wouldn't normally be much of a record for any Manchester United player to be laying the foundations for a new contract but it's a measure of where United are, and the low base from which Luke Shaw started, that his performances in the club's worst start to a season in 26 years have been described in several parts as "impressive".

By comparison to what went before in the last four seasons of his United career, that description is technically correct but were he performing at his current level for a club lower down the Premier League food chain, it's unlikely that many of the top six would be desperate to sign him.

Instead, he has benefited from that wonderful football quirk where performing well for a few weeks at the right time can ensure a player earns a fortune for the best part of a decade.

In Shaw's case, the timing of his revival saw him sign a new five-year contract worth in the region of €180,000 a week, an increase of about 50 per cent on the five-year deal he signed when moving from Southampton as an 18-year-old.

In that period, Shaw has been unlucky with injuries including a broken leg which ruled him out for a year but, even when fully fit, it's a stretch to argue that he has been, or has shown signs to become, a better player than he was when he signed. And yet, if he sees out this contract, he'll earn the best part of €50m in wages in nine years at the club.

It's a great time to be a reasonably good young player at Manchester United because the wage bar has been set so high by Alexis Sanchez and the hierarchy are terrified of allowing a player to leave that could go on to be a success elsewhere.

Luke Shaw (pictured) and Jesse Lingaard have recently signed new deals that will earn them millions in the coming years. Photo: Getty
Luke Shaw (pictured) and Jesse Lingaard have recently signed new deals that will earn them millions in the coming years. Photo: Getty

Consequently, even the smallest of sample sizes is enough for a new deal, like the one Jesse Lingard signed last season which sees him earning €110,000 a week even though he is no longer guaranteed a place in the match-day squad. It helps, too, if like Lingard and Shaw, the player happens to be English.

As Declan Rice continues his contract negotiations with West Ham, the fact that Shaw has added the best part of three million a year to his annual wage won't be lost on either the player or his agent.

Rice's current deal reportedly earns him €3,400 a week and, just for the benefit of clarity in this era of Premier League excess, there's no extra zero missing from the end of that figure. If Shaw was being paid by the hour for every hour of the day in his new deal, he'd earn almost double Rice's weekly wage in the space of an eight-hour sleep.

Clauses

Were Rice a 19-year-old Irish international who had been singled out for high praise on 'Match of the Day', he could, at a bare minimum, demand a 10-fold increase on his deal with substantial clauses to allow further vast improvements if his career trajectory continues on an upward path. In this day and age, West Ham's offer of €17,000 a week would, like Ashley Cole many years ago, almost make him crash his car with incredulity.

In the real world, of course, the wages are absurd but, in an industry which crushes the childhood dreams of hundreds of teenagers every single season because they can't make the grade, it's pretty difficult to feel much sympathy for any club or blame a player for holding out for what they can get.

Shaw and Lingard's contracts sum up why, from Rice's career perspective, it must be so tempting to declare for England. If he is capped by Gareth Southgate, it's not unreasonable to start the bidding at €60,000 a week, point at Shaw's deal and ask, even at that, is Shaw still worthy of three times the money that Rice would get?

Last season, Andy Robertson's relentless energy, marauding runs and excellent crosses were a crucial cog in Liverpool's trip to the Champions League final and, despite having over three years left to run on his contract, he was rewarded with a doubling of his wages. That, in relative terms, however, still leaves him underpaid by comparison with a weekly salary of just over a third of Shaw's new deal.

Robertson is just over a year older than Shaw so there's similar room for improvement, but the fact that he is Scottish won't be much help to his bank balance.

Rice's West Ham contract expires in the summer of 2020 but with every passing week and impressive performance, it looks increasingly likely that Ireland have more chance of seeing him in their shirt in five years' time as West Ham do.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini has urged Rice to concentrate on the best decision for his football career rather than "making more or less money", which is all very easy for somebody to say when they're taking home around €10m a year themselves.

Pellegrini's argument is similar to that put forward by several ex-players, who have often made huge sums in their careers and continue to do so in punditry, when they lament why young players would rather stay either in the reserves or lower leagues in England rather than move abroad for their football development. In football, just like in life, if you don't understand something then the answer is 'money'.

Rice was a crucial part of the West Ham team that embarrassed Manchester United last month and, in an era when holding midfielders who can build the foundation of attacks are the must-have accessory on any team, the timing of his switch from centre-back to the base of midfield couldn't have been much better.

United still haven't found a replacement for Michael Carrick to conduct the play in that style while this afternoon against Tottenham, Rice gets another chance to test himself against some of the best players in the division and again prove that he belongs in that category.

If Shaw's new deal has proved anything to Rice, however, it's that his patriotism is likely to matter more than his performance when it comes to earning the big bucks.

Irish Independent

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