In Viet Nam, where the VND1 billion transfer mark was first breached by a football club just five years ago, the most expensive player is now worth VND4 billion (US$240,000).
When Binh Duong paid VND1 billion in 2003 for midfielder Tran Truong Giang, it came as a shock to everyone.
For, Dong Tam Long An had just bought young talent Minh Phuong from Saigon Port team for just VND399 million.
It took two years for Giang's record to be broken when Nguyen Trung Kien was bought by Saigon Port for VND1.6 billion.
But things have hotted up recently.
Before the 2008 season started, Ninakansai Ninh Binh took the soccer world by surprise when it bought attacking midfielder Huu Thang from Binh Duong for VND2 billion. It also paid Thang, injured in his legs then, VND500 million.
Even moderate players attract huge sums. T&T offered VND1 billion to former half-back Quoc Trung, who quit football due to chronic injuries and joined the Sports and Gymnastics University in 2006, to return to the pitch.
Vinakansai Ninh Binh paid VND1.3 billion to buy Cao Xuan Thang, a modest player, from East Asia Bank that was dissolved before this season.
The club then paid Southern Steel – Saigon Port VND1.5 billion for half-back Luu Ngoc Hung.
Just before the 2008 V-League came to a close, it bought midfielder Trong Binh from Khataco Khanh Hoa for VND1.2 billion.
T&T offered Southern Steel - Saigon Port VND1.8 billion for midfielder Dai Dong though he had not had a particularly distinguished time there. But he does not even start at his new club.
Becamex Binh Duong set the Vietnamese record during the 2008 season. It reportedly renewed its contract with Vu Nhu Thanh, the country’s top midfielder, for VND4 billion.
But asked for confirmation of the amount, a Becamex Binh Duong official just smiled and said, “[We did] nothing of that kind.”
Salary a secret
Vietnamese footballers are generally coy about revealing their earnings.
Clubs announce a player’s salary when he becomes a transfer target or renews his contract.
Many clubs pay the players in cash. All this is presumably to avoid heartburn and disunity among teammates.
But from reliable sources and disclosures by some club managers, we know key players get VND16-18 million a month at teams like Khataco Khanh Hoa, Phu My-Nam Dinh, Southern Steel-Saigon Port, Dong Tam Long An, Hoang Anh Gia Lai, Petroleum Finance-Song Lam Nghe An, and others.
Some players like Huy Hoang, Luu Ngoc Hung, Luong Minh Trung, Trong Binh, Tan Dien, and Huu Chuong get VND20-25 million.
Goalkeeper Duong Hong Son is the only player to reveal his income. Last month he told Tuoi Tre newspaper that he is paid VND30 million per month.
“Every month we play four matches. If my team wins all of them, my salary plus bonus will be nearly VND100 million.”
Bonuses have for long been offered to players based on the team's performance.
Among the V-League teams, T&T was the only one to announce its bonus fund for 2008 – VND8 billion (US$480,000).
After T&T was promoted to the professional class, the boss of the club gave the team an additional bonus of VND2 billion. All regular starters were estimated to get not less than VND300 million through the season.
In the last three months of the 2008 V-league campaign, Vinakansai Ninh Binh paid VND40-50 million per month to its main players, team coach Nguyen Van Si said. Some even got VND60-70 million.