Wayne Rooney has branded the public pressure put on players to take pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic as a "disgrace" and believes they have been left in a "no-win situation".
Health minister Matt Hancock said in his Thursday Covid-19 briefing that Premier League footballers should "play their part" during the crisis and make a contribution, comments made after some top-flight clubs used the government's furlough scheme for non-playing staff.
The Premier League has also called for players to take a 30 per cent pay cut, though the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) claims such a move would lead to a loss in important revenue from tax contributions.
In his column for the Sunday Times, former England captain Rooney explained how he is willing to help out - provided he knows where his money will be used - but was critical of how players have been thrust into the media spotlight.
"If the government approached me to help support nurses financially or buy ventilators I'd be proud to do so - as long as I knew where the money was going," the Derby County skipper wrote.
"I'm in a position where I could give something up. Not every footballer is in the same position. Yet suddenly the whole profession has been put on the spot with a demand for 30 per cent pay cuts across the board. Why are footballers suddenly the scapegoats?
"How the past few days have played out is a disgrace. First the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said that Premier League players should take a pay cut. He was supposed to be giving the nation the latest on the biggest crisis we've faced in our lifetimes.
"Why was the pay of footballers even in his head? Was he desperate to divert attention from his government's handling of this pandemic?"
On the subject of the Premier League's statement on lowering salaries, Rooney questioned the decision by the organisation to go public with such a proposal.
"It seemed strange to me because every other decision in this process has been kept behind closed doors, but this had to be announced publicly,” he added.
"Why? It feels as if it’s to shame the players – to force them into a corner where they have to pick up the bill for lost revenue. In my opinion it is now a no-win situation. Whatever way you look at it, we're easy targets.
"The big clubs don’t need players to take pay cuts. Are you telling me Manchester United or Man City need 30 per cent of their players’ wages to survive? If that’s the case then football is in a far worse position than any of us imagined."