Mr Balls said in the footballer's case it was perhaps "genuinely the talent getting the pay" as there is "only one Wayne Rooney" who could go anywhere in the world.
But massive multi- million-pound salaries in some parts of the economy feel "like a bit of a Ponzi scheme" when the pay is not because of a great idea - such as the iPhone - or "when it's not the talent of Wayne Rooney", the Labour front-bencher said.
Mr Balls was questioned about Business Secretary Vince Cable's view he did not understand "why people need a million quid a year".
Mr Cable said: "I've asked one or two of the more sympathetic bankers to explain it to me.
"The response has been: 'It's not that I need the money, it is because others get it so I should, too'. That is a ludicrous mindset."