The World’s top football players earn massive incomes, from their clubs and various sponsorship deals that run into millions of dollars. With busy schedules and cross-globe travel a regular occurrence, these athletes are seeking flexibility and comfortable travel, a luxury offered by private business aviation and jet ownership.
Some of the most popular private jet choices from international football players include the Gulfstream GE650 and G280, as well as the Cessna Citation.
Why Will Football Stars Fly Privately?
Professional footballers spend a lot of time travelling, from participating in training or matches with their club or country - or to be with their loved ones. Although not all players own or can afford to buy their own private jet, many charter flights for private travel.
At the top end of the earning spectrum, these stars are also promoting brands and sponsorship activities globally.
Private jets and chartered flights provide the fastest and flexible means of transport, which can suit their busy globe-trotting schedules. In addition, they avoid waiting times and are assisted with check-ins and security checks at airports. Concierge services and private staff also cater for their comfort, nutritional, and business needs.
Euros 2020 and Private Air Travel
With the delayed European Football Championships 2020 (Euros 2020) taking place across the continent from June-July 2021, 24 of the top national European sides will be captivating a global audience.
Football stars themselves will be making the journey to the tournament and making use of their star power and substantial income to fly privately to avoid mass crowds and commercial air travel due to the strict COVID bubbles enforced for the squads.
Deals will also be signed this European summer, as clubs look to bolster their teams in the lucrative transfer market. Billionaire club owners will impress young players with the promise of stardom and transfers are renowned for being signed and negotiated on luxury private jets.
Even before the Euros tournament kicks off on Friday 11 June 2021, with Turkey facing Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, a number of players have had to take advantage of private planes to reach their national team training squad bases - flying in from the various international clubs to meet up with the squads at training centres.
Inter Milan FC striker Romelu Lukaku arrived in Belgium, from his club in Italy where he won the Serie A, to join the Belgian national team but not before being delayed as local authorities restricted the movement of players due to positive COVID-19 tests. (The striker also flew privately with his agent back in 2019 when he signed for Inter Milan from Manchester United to seal the transfer.)
During this past pandemic-affected season, Belgian teammate Eden Hazard even flew in his own personal barber to Spain on a private chartered plane for a hair trim during Spain's coronavirus lockdown!
With the elite professional football players earning anywhere from $50,000 - 600,000 per week, they can afford the luxury, and in some cases, the necessity of private air travel.
Remember too the truly global nature of the sport and that many players are relocating themselves and their immediate family to new cities with each new season, but they still visit their home countries and extended families when they can, preferably outside of the public eye.
Cost of Owning a Private Jet?
Owning and chartering private jets involves an annual cost for maintenance, upkeep and airport fees as well as professional staff such as pilots. These HNWI (high net worth individuals) can afford these luxuries and the cost benefits are of value to these global stars.
The estimated expense for the private aircraft can range from $800,000 to $4.5 million for the most expensive private aircraft.
Data in 2020 suggested the cost of chartering a private jet each year (depending on flying hours) can range anywhere between $300,000 - $730,000.
Christian Ronaldo (Portugal) - Gulfstream GE650
Cristiano Ronaldo is considered one of the best players in football history, as well as one of the highest earners and most visible from a branding point of view.
His list of football accolades includes having won the Ballon d’Or five times, the Champions League five times with Manchester United and Real Madrid, and the Euros with Portugal. He has scored more than 750 career goals!
As a current player with Serie A club Juventus, he earns around $117 million a year, never mind his endorsements and sponsorship deals with well known global brands such as Nike, Clear Shampoo, and Herbalife. His net worth is believed to be around half a billion US dollars.
Known as CR7, the footballer leases one of the most expensive private jets, the Gulfstream G650. The same private plane is owned by some of the world’s wealthiest billionaires. and can carry up to 18 people, with a range of 12,960 km. Being based in Europe, the Portuguese international makes use of his invaluable luxury private jet to travel throughout Europe with his family.
The Gulfstream is one of the most popular business jets in the ultra-long-range private jet category but Ronaldo has also personalised the exterior of his private jet with his initials, and player number. However, the star does not own this private jet but leases it for around $7,000 an hour.
Paul Pogba‘s Private Jet (France) - Gulfstream G280
Paul Pogba is one of France’s most popular footballers and is already a World Cup winner. Pogba currently plays in the Premier League with Manchester United and is considered a megastar on and off the field.
The football star is believed to have a net worth of $125 million and he is one of the highest-paid soccer players on the planet, earning $28 million per year in base salary and $6-10 million per year from endorsements. These sponsor deals include brands like Adidas where is a global ambassador.
Paul Pogba uses his status and income to hire a Gulfstream G280 for his numerous sporting, private and professional trips. He has used the private jet for vacations and for promotional tours for Adidas.
The Gulfstream G280 can fly at 850 km/h and has a range of 6,700 km and can accommodate up to 10 passengers. The jet is valued at around $28 million and is considered one of the best in class super-midsize aircraft. Pogba is able to modify the interior of the Gulfstream to provide up to two living areas for added travel comfort.
Zlatan Ibrahimović‘s (Sweden) - Cessna Citation Longitude Private Jet
Zlatan Ibrahimović is one the most enduring and high-profile football stars on the planet and is known for his outgoing personality as well as a track record of winning wherever he plays his professional football. He was due to return to the Swedish national squad for the Euros 2020 which should have been his last outing with the national side but a late injury blow ruled him out.
The striker has a net worth of $190 million and his club record has seen him play with AC Milan, Manchester United, Juventus, Barcelona, Ajax, Inter Milan, PSG and LA Galaxy, picking up more than 30 trophies and scoring over 500 goals.
Ibrahimović’s current Italian club (AC Milan) pays him around $8.5 million to keep him at the club but he also owns and travels to properties in Sweden and Los Angeles.
The Swedish international footballer owns a Cessna Citation Longitude which is a very modern private jet offering exceptional comfort to a total of 12 passengers. The jet can cover the transatlantic range (the Citation Longitude offers a range of 6,482 km) and can reach up to 881 km per hour. The jet has one of the lowest total ownership costs of any super-midsize jet - the hourly operating costs are below $2,200 or has a purchase cost of $26 million.
Even with his height, Zlatan can comfortably stand up and move around within his private plane. The Cessna also offers 12 leather seats, facilities for cooking and a bed - Cessna claims the jet has “exclusive soundproofing techniques” for added travel comfort.
Gareth Bale (Wales) - Cessna Citation XLS Plus
Gareth Bale is a well-known Welsh football star who has played for Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League and Real Madrid in Spain. The footballer has won four Champions League titles and currently has a contract of over $750,000-a-week that expires in 2022. He currently has a net worth of around $145 million.
Gareth Bale’s annual wages of over $25 million a year makes him one of the ten highest-paid football players in the world. In addition, he earns an estimated $9 million from endorsements. Bale has also scored more goals for his country than any other Welshman and the Euros should be his last stint in the Welsh team.
When Bale completed his loan move back to Spurs for the most recent 2021 season, he travelled in luxury as he flew from Madrid to London in an Embraer Legacy 600 provided by the English club. The plane is owned by Spurs chiefs ENIC (a British private investment company) and features leather seats, polished wooden tables and catering options.
Bale himself also owns a Cessna, the Citation XL Plus, which is valued at $11 million and he uses it to fly back and forth from Spain to the UK as well as for holidays with his family. Cessna claims Citation XL Plus has a range of 3,890 km and can reach speeds of 815 km/h.
Bale also earns significant income through his Instagram page, reported to be as much as $185,000 per sponsored post, and he has posted photos of himself aboard his private jet previously.
The latest rumours suggest the Welshman is seeking to retire after the Euros and negotiate a +$20 million payout with Real Madrid to cancel the final year of the contract. Even if Bale retires, he could afford his luxurious private jet, which is capable of comfortably carrying 12 passengers.
The Business Benefits of Operating a Private Jet
Football agents at the elite level are also key private air charter customers as they zig-zag across the continents to secure high-value deals, especially in the off-season and in the aftermath of major sporting events, when there will be increased activity in the transfer market after players shine on the global stage.
With many of the world’s top football clubs owned by billionaire families, the use of private planes to secure lucrative sponsor deals, sign the world’s best players, and doing so in privacy and safely, makes the investment in these private jets a valuable business asset.
Private terminals and aircraft offer discretion and a reprieve from the media and press seeking to break the latest news.
Kylian Mbappe - France and PSG
Mbappe is one of the most respected football talents in the world and heads into the Euros as one of the most influential players for the French national team, who are aiming to add to their World Cup triumph from 2018.
The PSG player is strongly being linked to making the transfer move to English heavyweights Liverpool (LFC) in 2021, but the reported fees of over $700,000 a week are throwing some doubts on the deal.
Although Mbappe might not be a private jet owner himself, the LFC owner is - and is said to have impressed the young Frenchman when he flew his family on his private plane previously. French publication L'Equipe claims that the Reds' owner, John W. Henry personally welcomed the player and his family on his private jet to fly them around the south of France back in 2017 which left a strong impression on Mbappe.
Henry is the owner of a Bombardier Global 5000 private jet which has a cost of US$50 million and can accommodate 14 passengers. Previously he has owned a Dassault Falcon 900.
Even as a 19-year-old, Mbappé reportedly demanded a private jet as part of his $200 million signing with Paris Saint-Germain, which the club refused. As part of the negotiations, the player asked that he be able to use a private jet for 50 hours a year at the club's expense.
Even though he did not get his way on that occasion, the appeal and lure of private aircraft in influential business deals are clear to see and it can be used as a bargaining chip for the highest performing athletes and football players on the planet.
Kevin de Bruyne - Belgium and Manchester City
Kevin de Bruyne is another football player, signed as a young talent, who was impressed by the lure of a private plane from Manchester City when he signed in 2015. De Bruyne's agent, Patrick De Koster, said at the time: “It was impressive, as in a movie. We flew from there by private jet, and were picked up in limousines.”
De Bruyne has since gone on to win multiple accolades as a Manchester City and Belgian player and has won multiple silverware with this Premier League club. This has resulted in the player being valued at a market value of over $100.00 million which makes him the number one ranked player at Manchester City and second of all players in the Premier League.
With the global pandemic enduring through 2021, and the invaluable time of sporting professionals and their representatives at a premium, the demand for private air charter services and ownership is on the rise.
The Euro 2020 tournament might be setting a recurring trend for other global sporting events on the horizon, such as the Olympics in Tokyo 2020, the Rugby League World Cup (UK) and Rugby Union World Cup (New Zealand).