The national flag hangs low after Malaysia’s loss to Thailand in the AFF Suzuki Cup finals last year. Khairull Azry Bidin

HERE is the grim news that has left local football fans shaking their heads in despair and disbelief. Bhutan, which up to last month was officially the world’s worst team, has overtaken Malaysia in the latest Fifa rankings.

The tiny Himalayan nation is ranked No. 163 in the latest world rankings by Fifa on Thursday, while Malaysia has slipped to No. 164, its worst ever standing in history.

It is hard to accept that Malaysia’s international football standard is so pathetic when Bhutan’s domestic league is nothing compared to our thriving MLeague, which is quite well-known in Asia and attracts players from all over the world.

Bhutan’s top football players get a paltry monthly allowance of 10,000 Ngultrum (RM582), and most of them hold day jobs.

They earn a pittance compared with Malaysian players, but yet so poor are the international results of our national team.

It just does not add up. Money does not equate to success, at least in the case of local footballers.

The Thai national team in the spotlight after the end of the AFF Suzuki Cup finals last year, while Harimau Malaya players (foreground) look on. Pix by Khairull Azry Bidin

Malaysia’s top players earn big money in the M-League, commanding salaries that make company chief executive officers envious.

Early this year, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha became the highest paid local player when he joined Armed Forces for a breath taking monthly salary of RM130,000, excluding bonuses and other benefits.

However, when Armed Forces could no longer afford his “amazing salary ”, Norshahrul signed with Terengganu for a much lower RM80,000 a month. But, such an amount is still a lot of money.

Infographic by NST Artiste

The second transfer window of the 2015 M-League season opened at the beginning of this month and will close on April 28.

This is the time for Malaysian teams to shop for players, both local and foreign, to strengthen their squads.

Buying foreign players is not cheap, considering that the ringgit has lost ground against the US dollar. But this has not deterred Johor Darul Ta’zim from paying a princely sum for a foreign player.

Recently, the southern outfit announced the signing of 25-year-old Argentine Patricio Julián Rodríguez, who will take home an eye -popping salary of about RM250,000 a month.

Super League teams JDT and Felda are in the top bracket of the money league when it comes to players’ salaries. JDT midfielder Safiq Rahim is seen as one of the highest paid local players, with a monthly salary of RM70,000.

Safiq’s teammate, Safee Sali, earns RM40,000 monthly after taking a pay cut from RM80,000 two seasons ago.

Felda United already started flexing its financial muscle last year when the club was still in the second-tier Premier League.

Indra Putra Mahayuddin is believed to be Felda’s highest paid local player, earning RM75,000 monthly, which is consistent with the attacker’s international experience.

Indra’s teammate, Shukor Adan, who was the national team captain last year, is a close second, earning around RM70,000.

Selangor may boast of having a rich football history, having won the Malaysia Cup a record 32 times, but is not in JDT’s league when it comes to players’ salaries.

Selangor’s annual budget for its team this year is RM12 million, making it one of the smallest among the Super League teams. Selangor pays its foreign quartet of Australian Robert Cornthwaite, Brazilians Leandro Dos Santos and Guilherme De Paula, and Indonesian winger Andik Vermansyah between RM54,000 and RM73,000 a month.

Selangor’s local players, those who have earned international caps, get between RM10,000 and RM40,000 a month, with K. Gurusamy, Nazmi Faiz Mansor and Azli Muslim said to be getting the higher amount.

When Pahang won three titles last season — the Malaysia Cup, FA Cup and Charity Shield — its players each took home close to RM100,000 in bonuses and incentives, including rewards from sponsors and the state government.

Pahang’s Nigerian striker, Dickson Nwakaeme, is said to be earning about RM160,000 monthly, while skipper Mohd Razman Roslan and deputy captain Azamuddin Akil get betwee n RM40,000 and RM50,000, excluding match bonuses.

The monthly wages of Pahang’s experienced players, such as R. Gopinathan, Hafiz Kamal and Azidan Sarudin, are between RM16,000 and RM22,000.

The wage bill for the Terengganu team has grown significantly beginning this season, thanks to its operating budget having been increased to more than RM20 million this year.

Terengganu’s Brazilian striker, Paolo Rangel, is said to be earning a whopping RM108,000 a month, with Argentine Gustavo Lopez not far behind.

Another long-serving import, Vincent Bikana, earns about RM73,000. The local players in the Terengganu team — Zubir Azmi, Ashaari Shamsuddin, Manaf Mamat Zairo Anuar Zailani and Ismail Faruqi Ashari — draw monthly wages of between RM40,000 and RM50,000.

Terengganu’s young players earn much more than university graduates. For example, midfielder Shahrin Sapien, who came from its T-Team Under-21 squad, is paid RM14,000 a month.

However, the money is much less in Terengganu’s T-Team, which plays in the Premier League.

Its foreign players draw less than RM36,000 a month, key local players get less than RM20,000, and the “junior players” take home less than RM10,000.

Though Sabah plays only in the Premier League, its Football Association is said to be paying between RM100,000 and RM150,000 a month for its four foreign players, with former Liverpool winger El Hadji Diouf earning the most.

The East Malaysian team pays its key local players about RM30,000 a month. Even teams in the lower Premier League are capable of offering top salaries, with Kedah’s Baddrol Bakhtiar believed to be paid RM65,000 a month.

But the FA of Malaysia (FAM),the national governing body of the sport, should be aware that Malaysian fans are upset and angry.

Players are earning super salaries, while the various national teams earn ridicule.

If FAM does not agree with the Fifa rankings, it should arrange an international friendly match between Malaysia and Bhutan to prove a point.

But on current form, there is no indication that the national team will tower over the Himalayan team.