Modern day footballers have long been accused of being overpaid, pampered divas. And now one of Britain's high paid stars has admitted it is true.

Manchester United's Juan Mata has risked the wrath of his teammates by conceding what everyone else knew all along - that "overprotected" professional footballers earn an "obscene" amount of money and live in a bubble.

The 27 year-old Spanish footballer - who signed for Manchester United from Chelsea for £37 million (NZ$78m) and earns £150,000 (NZ$317,000) a week - said he was not comfortable with the huge wages given to the games top players and would take a pay cut.

In a frank interview the midfielder also acknowledged how his "protected" life was a world away from that of his friends in Spain who "had to look for work, sign on to the dole and emigrate".


"It scares me sometimes to think about just how protected I am," he said. "The smallest problem and someone will come and fix it for me. That's one of the aspects in which we don't live a normal life".

He added: "Football is very well remunerated at this level. It's like we live in a bubble. With respect to the rest of society, we earn a ridiculous amount.

"It's unfathomable. With respect to the world of football, I earn a normal wage. But compared to 99.9 per cent of Spain and the rest of the world, I earn an obscene amount.

"The barometer we use for measuring our salaries is comparing them to those of our team-mates and what other players are earning elsewhere."

He added: "Real life is the one my friends live. They've had to look for work, sign on to the dole and emigrate. That's normal life now. My life as a footballer is not normal."

Mata, who has won the Champions League and FA Cup with Chelsea and was part of Spain's 2010 World Cup winning squad, signed for Manchester United in 2012, when he was flown from London to Manchester by private helicopter to seal the deal.

His club is the third richest in the world, behind Real Madrid and Barcelona, and generated £395.2m in revenue in 2015 according to the Deloitte Football Money League report. Manchester United's wage bill is in excess of £200 million a year.

Mata himself is understood to earn more than £150,000 a week and is said to live in Cheshire with girlfriend, Evelina Kamph, 27, an osteopath who is originally from Sweden.
But in the interview with Spanish television, he said he was understood critics of the modern game, who claim football has become too commercialised.

It is not the first time the footballer has sparked controversy. The Spaniard is considered to be slightly more down to earth - and intelligent - than the average Premiership footballer.

Within a year of arriving in the UK from Valencia he could speak English fluently. While at Chelsea he studied for a degree in marketing and sports science and spent his time visiting London tourist attractions, posting photographs of his favourite landmarks on his Instrgram page.

He endeared himself to fans at Chelsea when, after signing for Manchester United, he wrote them an open letter in which he thanked them for their support.

In Manchester, he is said to spent his time visiting art galleries and taking photographs and writes a weekly blog in English and Spanish.

He spends his holidays backpacking round the Spanish countryside and Greek islands with friends.

And has eschewed a flashy car, opting instead for a fashionable vintage VW Beetle.
He and his sister Paula were born in Burgos, in northern Spain, where their father played professional football.

They were raised in Oviedo after Juan Snr's career took him further north to Asturias.
When he was 15, Mata left home to join the Real Madrid academy before moving to Valencia at 19 and then to London and Chelsea four years later for £23.5m.

Mata, whose father is his agent, also criticised "flashy" young players in the interview.

"Every player thinks he's Maradona when he joins a big club," he said. "That happens to all of us but then you start to notice it in the younger players.

"You see kids who think they're rock stars; wearing extravagant clothes and driving fancy cars... and sometimes you have to take them aside and have a word.

"As long as you can keep a cool head though and continue working as hard as before, which after all is what got you to where you are, than you'll be able to handle yourself.

"I don't enjoy the business side of football. I love the game. I love training and competing. I'd happily take a pay cut if there was less business involvement in the sport.

"At this level we're very well paid and sometimes you get to thinking that there really isn't much of a difference between x and x+3.

"There are times when too much pressure is put on young players, which is wrong. They're not prepared properly for failure, and things don't always go to plan.

"They need to be taught that only a fortunate few can make it to the top. 99.9% of them won't make it that far."