Should Ryan Giggs have made more than £23m?
Giggs was one of the original golden generation of young United stars to break through at Old Trafford under Sir Alex Ferguson, becoming a regular in Fergie’s first team at a time when team-mate David Beckham was being shipped out on loan to Preston North End.
Now into his 18th season at the Theatre of Dreams he’s picked up 28 trophies, including 10 Premiership titles and two Champions League winners’ medals.
But although his career earnings of £23m might sound like a lot, at an average of £1.3m a year it falls far behind the £150,000-a-week currently being commanded by FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo.
Giggs, who recently gave his biggest hint yet that he could retire at the end of the season, is seventh in a list of wealthy Premier League stars, behind the likes of Sol Campbell (£28m), Robbie Fowler (£28m) and Michael Owen (£40m).
He is also £12m behind team-mate Wayne Rooney, who is 12 years younger than the former Wales captain.
Now 35, Giggs has been the face of Reebok, Citizen Watches and Givenchy but his earnings don’t come close to those of list-topper Beckham, worth £125m making him the richest British footballer.
Max Clifford, the PR expert who’s handled the careers of some of the country’s biggest celebrities, claims Giggs could have more than doubled his money.
“Ryan is a good looking guy with a nice personality," he said, "he could have made £50m easily – but I don’t think he wanted to. He’s always done everything his own way. He didn’t want the showbusiness lifestyle like David Beckham, he got his boot deal and a few sponsorship contracts but he never chased the limelight.
“David Beckham created an image for himself and then developed into a brand. There was a time when Giggs was on the front of every magazine but that was at the start of his career and he soon moved away from that sort of thing.”
Clifford claims the influence of Sir Alex Ferguson among other figures at Manchester United helped to keep the young generation of stars grounded.
“You look at the likes of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, who’ve been at United all their careers, there’s a world of difference between them and Beckham," he said.
“Maybe they could have earned considerably more but I bet they’ve had much more stress-free lives than Beckham.”
Cardiff University international public relation specialist Elliot Pill has worked with both Giggs and Beckham. He is not surprised at the massive gulf in their earnings, having seen their differing attitudes towards the media and life outside football.
“I’ve worked with both of them and they are such different people," he said. "It’s no surprise that Beckham went on to earn so much more. David always had the very best of everything but Ryan was less flamboyant and a bit more down to earth.
“From the start, Beckham was excellent at self promotion and when he got with Victoria his stock went through the roof.
“But Ryan was more of a private person; the only times he hit the headlines was early on in his career when he was with Dani Behr. But I think that was more down to her than him.”
Beckham’s mega-money moves from Manchester United to Real Madrid, then to LA Galaxy and most recently to AC Milan have helped push up his career earnings.
While moves away from United have sometimes been mooted for Giggs, he has always remained loyal to the club he joined as a 14-year-old boy.
With his time at the European champions seemingly set to come to an end in the next few years, Pill doesn’t believe he will be tempted by a move across the Atlantic.
“Despite being one of the best-ever Premiership players I don’t think he’s a big enough brand to make an impact like Beckham in America," he said.
“Ryan is not the sort of front-of-house personality they would want. He doesn’t go after the publicity and he is not as well known in the US as over here.
“I would think he will go into management or coaching because I know he’s been working hard to get his coaching badges over the last few years.”
Professor Tom Cannon, an expert in football business from Liverpool University, added: “I’m sure there’s probably a part of Ryan Giggs that wishes he could have become as global as David Beckham but he also knows it would come at a price.
“Ryan was encouraged from a very young age to stay out of the limelight by Alex Ferguson. He probably could have done some things differently and earned a bit more but saying that he’s not had a bad life at all – £25m is more than enough for anyone.
“Most of the players above him made their millions by transferring clubs but Giggs always stayed loyal to United.”