Incentive to play for national football team?

Given the enormous salaries football (soccer) players make, and the possibility of career-delaying or ending injury (such as Michael Owen’s knee injury against Sweden), what incentive do top footballers have to play for their national teams? Is it really just honest-to-God patriotism? That would shock my inner cynic.

Well, one obvious incentive is that it increases their marketability as they are visible on the world stage. Major tournaments are a big scouting opportunity for the big clubs.

Your inner cynic can rest easy.

And more money from advertisements. Plus, many of them actually LIKE playing (which explains why they’ll play in local tournaments and go to summer camps for zero cash).