Granit Xhaka appears to be taking a substantial paycut to leave Arsenal and sign for Jose Mourinho at Roma but will benefit from a tax break called the ‘brain return’.

Arsenal's Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka celebrates after scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Norwich City at the Emirates Stadium in London on July 1, 2020. (Photo by MIKE EGERTON / POOL / AFP)
Arsenal’s Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka celebrates after scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Norwich City at the Emirates Stadium in London on July 1, 2020. (Photo by MIKE EGERTON / POOL / AFP)

At Arsenal, Granit Xhaka earns £5.2m-a-season. That’s £100k-per-week.

If reports from Italy are to be believed, Xhaka will earn €2.5m, plus bonuses, in Rome. Converting to sterling, that’s £2.17m-a-year or, if you prefer, £41k-per-week.

That’s a cut of 59%!

That seemed quite steep so considered it might have something to do with the differing tax rates in the two countries. The top bracket in the UK is 45%, meaning that Xhaka ‘only’ ever got to take home £2.66m (£51k-per-week) but the top rate in Italy is not much different at 43%.

Italy, however, have a special tax break for top athletes under what they call the ‘brain return’. The irony of this applying to Granit Xhaka not being lost on me.

People eligible for the ‘brain return’ generally only pay tax on 30% of their salary, but the exemption for sports stars sits at 50% (so Xhaka will pay 43% on 50% of his salary rather than on all of it). Handy for Xhaka, the tax break lasts five years – the same length as his contract.

It still represents a cut, but it’s not as severe as it first seems. It means, if my maths are correct, that Xhaka should take home around £32kpw at Roma.

No doubt, the difference between this and the £51kpw he took home at Arsenal will be made up with bonuses, at least partially. Still, it’s a big basic cut.

The deal is all seemingly wrapped up with an announcement expected when the Euros finish.

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Writer. Feminist. Dreamer. Gooner. Owner of DailyCannon.com, writing about Arsenal since 2008. Sometimes found in the Guardian, Vice.com & elsewhere talking queer issues, politics & football. If in doubt, assume sarcasm.