Club presidents are obsessed with power and have vested interests in asking footballers to take wage cuts during the coronavirus lockdown, former Brazil playmaker Neto has claimed.

Lionel Messi insisted on Monday that Barcelona’s players had always intended to take a 70% pay cut to help pay non-playing staff at the Spanish giants, but uncompromising pundit Neto has questioned the management of clubs where players are making financial sacrifices during the crisis.

“You can’t lower a worker’s salary,” Neto told television program The Owners of the Ball. “A player is a worker.

“In a little while, do you know what will happen? The clubs will [get rid of] doctors, masseurs, cleaning ladies, and they will stay in power. If they stay in power, they will be able to get elected again.”

A row over the issue has broken out in Brazil, where the professional players’ union has rejected a follow-up proposal by clubs to reduce player salaries by 25%.

Squads were initially asked to take a 50% wage cut after all Brazilian football was suspended last week in a move sparked by players from top-flight club Gremio wearing face masks during a match as a protest against fixtures continuing during the pandemic.

Players have instead agreed to take 30 days of paid leave, arguing that their wages have not increased in line with what they believe is a doubling of club revenues over the last five years.

Clubs are rumored to be considering making a legal argument that wage cuts should be enforced because the global health crisis constitutes an exceptional situation.

“We observe these managers who publicly ask players to lower their wages,” said Neto. “[The clubs have] been professional for more than 100 years and now they want to do that. Why do you don’t give your assets to protect the club?

“It’s alright if you get an agreement between the players saying, ‘guys, this situation is difficult for everyone, you earn very well, we will lower 20% of the salary so that we can distribute this money in the fight against the coronavirus.’

“You don’t have to take anybody’s salary unless what is taken goes to the [effort against] coronavirus.”

In the Premier League, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy caused controversy on Tuesday by announcing that the club had reduced the wages of their 550 non-playing staff by 20%.

Levy urged other clubs to introduce similar measures to protect jobs, earning criticism from some quarters on the same day as Tottenham’s accounts showed that he had earned a salary of £4 million and a deferred £3 million bonus for the completion of the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Tottenham and Newcastle have both applied to the UK government’s coronavirus job protection scheme, which allows staff to claim up to £2,500 per month in wages.

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