Varane, Martial, Thiago: Five big wage drains clubs are finally getting off the payroll

Dave Tickner
Varane, Thiago and Andre Gomes
Varane, Thiago and Andre Gomes

Nearly the end of the season, isn’t it? And that means contracts expiring and time running out for some pretty hefty wage drains. These five lads will never have it so good again, while several clubs will suddenly see some welcome wriggle room in the payroll…


Raphael Varane (Manchester United)
A fully paid-up member of the ever-growing gang of ‘Great footballers who were not great Manchester United footballers’, Varane leaves this summer after three frustratingly stop-start years at Old Trafford in which injuries and form and the general sense of decay and confusion permeating the entire club have combined to stop him delivering anything like the kind of consistent excellence that might have been expected.

His longest run of consecutive Premier League starts for United has been just six, and that during his first season with the club in 2021/22. He’s managed only 20-odd league games in each of his three seasons and while he could not reasonably be considered a flop, he certainly hasn’t proved to be the solution to United’s defensive issues.

The struggles he’s had getting on the pitch at United and the fact he seems to have been around forever make it quite striking to remember that he is still now only 31. Man United have made vast numbers of mistakes in recent years, but thinking that in a 28-year-old Varane they were signing an elite defender in their peak years to lead their defence wasn’t really one of them.

👉 Ranking Man Utd signings since Fergie: Varane among top dozen, No.1 could leave too…
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Thiago Alcantara (Liverpool)
Wage drain is perhaps a touch harsh for an obviously talented footballer who has made tangible contributions to Liverpool in recent years, but his last Premier League start came in February 2023 and his entire contribution to this season’s title bid was five minutes at the end of a 3-1 defeat at Arsenal in which he shamefully and entirely failed to alter the entire direction of travel in that game before picking up another injury to end his season.

The cruel and harsh facts are that Thiago has been a Liverpool player for 150 Premier League games and been ruled out of 78 of them – more than half – by an assortment of injuries, illnesses and niggles.

Given that only Mo Salah and Virgil van Dijk earn more than his £200,000 a week at Anfield, it’s not hard to see how that money might be put to slightly better use from next season onwards.


Andre Gomes (Everton)
Looked sure to leave Everton last summer after spending 2022/23 at Lille, but no permanent move there or anywhere else materialised and he returned to run down his Goodison Park contract.

Hasn’t been a complete waste of space this season, but three Premier League starts and a handful of substitute appearances probably aren’t the best use Sean Dyche can muster for £120,000 a week. And if there is one club in the Premier League not in any position to be spaffing that kind of money every single week on bit-part midfielders…


Anthony Martial (Manchester United)
No greater evidence of United’s stagnant carelessness than the fact Martial has hung around right through to the end of his contract without serving any real identifiable purpose for an awful long time now.

A five-and-a-half-year contract extension looked pretty generous even at the time in January 2019 but he did at least occasionally score goals then, and in 2019/20 had his best Premier League season with 17. It wasn’t entirely absurd.

But failing to get him out the exit door at any point in the last four years, during which he’s managed 12 Premier League goals in 64 games, really is deeply poor. Reward players, sure, but don’t get them on such fat £240,000-a-week contracts that they become entirely impossible to shift. To only manage to get such a costly and non-contributing player out of the door for one six-month loan in those last few years is ludicrous, really.


Cedric Soares (Arsenal)
Yeah, this one is very harsh indeed but you do need five, don’t you? Nobody’s reading a ‘four wage drains’ feature, whereas now quite literally 12 people will. Because five is a better number.

It was always a slightly odd-looking move, but really it just shows how far and how fast Arsenal have travelled in the last couple of years that the very idea of Cedric Soares as an Arsenal player now seems so utterly absurd.

And the truth is we will simply never ever know just how very different this Premier League season might have looked without Cedric stepping off the bench and using all his nous and experience to nervelessly help Arsenal secure vital points in seeing out arse-nipping 6-0, 5-0 and 6-0 wins over West Ham, Burnley and Sheffield United back in March and April.

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