Published: 19 Jul 2012 14:53 GMT+02:00 | Print version
Updated: 19 Jul 2012 14:53 GMT+02:00
Football superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic's record-breaking salary at his new Paris club has sparked a fierce backlash from French politicians denouncing it as "indecent" at a time of financial hardship.
The 30-year-old Swedish striker's transfer to Paris Saint-Germain from AC Milan was hailed by fans with hundreds chanting "Ibra! Ibra!" as he was presented to them on Wednesday at a ceremony in front of the Eiffel Tower.
He has been hired on a reported annual net salary of about €14 million ($17 million) -- the most ever paid to a player in France.
But with France struggling to avoid recession and unemployment on the rise, Socialist politicians have reacted angrily to the figure, denouncing it as a sign of rampant excess.
Even one former sports minister from the right-wing UMP party has denounced the salary.
France's new Socialist government is insisting that Ibrahimovic will have no choice but to pay the 75-percent tax rate it intends to impose on annual salaries in excess of one million euros from next year.
"These numbers are not impressive, they are indecent," Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac told Europe 1 radio Thursday when asked about Ibrahimovic's salary.
"They are indecent at a time when everyone in the entire world is making efforts and knows the terrible consequences of a crisis," he said.
Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron attacked the salary as "astronomical and unreasonable" while government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the sum "shocked a lot of people".
Vallaud-Belkacem said there was no way Ibrahimovic would "escape" from paying the 75-percent tax rate. Some ministers even rejoiced that his salary would bring so much revenue to state coffers.
"I am delighted that he will be paying taxes in France," said Benoit Hamon, a junior economy minister. "This is a demonstration that this tax was not an argument to prevent great players from coming to play in France."
Former sports minister Roselyne Bachelot of the right-wing UMP also expressed her "indignation, almost disgust" with the vast sums involved when asked about Ibrahimovic's transfer.
Even President Francois Hollande joined the fray.
Although he didn't criticize Ibrahimovic's salary itself, he pointed to the relatively modest salaries at French league champions Montpellier as an example.
"There are teams that manage to win... without necessarily having very significant salaries," Hollande said during a visit to France's national sport institute.
PSG President Nasser al-Khelaifi told reporters Wednesday that the club's owners, Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), would follow French law when it came to paying Ibrahimovic's taxes.
"As we have already said, we respect French laws. We do it today and we will do it tomorrow. Ibrahimovic's signing is very positive for PSG but also for French football," he said.
Tax experts said that to guarantee Ibrahimovic a €14-million net salary the club will have to set aside enormous amounts.
"If you want the part taxed at 75 percent a year paid entirely to the player, the club will have to pay four times that much," said French tax lawyer Frederic Naim.
Experts said Ibrahimovic would be required to take French residency and pay French taxes, though he might benefit from a deduction for temporary residency allowing him to cut his taxable income in half.
Hollande defeated right-wing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in a presidential vote in May with vows to tackle France's economic problems by boosting taxes on the wealthy and spending to promote growth.
The 75-percent tax rate has been derided by the right, who say it will lead to an exodus of top earners from France while doing little to address the country's fiscal problems.
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