The perception among most football fans is that Real Madrid tries to buy its titles, while Barcelona nurtures them from within.
If you look at the teams' squad sheets, it's hard to argue with the perception. According to the DailyMail, Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Victor Valdez have all been with the Catalan club since they were boys.
On the other hand, Real Madrid can claim star goalkeeper Iker Casillas and Álvaro Arbeloa as truly homegrown, but most of the Galácticos were imported from other clubs.
That's why financial figures reported by ESPN this week are so surprising. According to ESPN, Barcelona actually pays its players an average of about £330,000 more than Real Madrid does.
It raises the question: which team is actually buying titles?
Now you may say, "Wait. In the grand scheme of international football, £330,000 is a pittance, and surely star-hungry Real has outpaced Barca in transfer fees." And the truth is, you'd be correct on both counts.
In fact, of the top 15 transfer fees in history, four were paid by Real Madrid and two by Barcelona. Though the race isn't even as close as it sounds when you consider that Madrid paid £80m for Cristiano Ronaldo, and the next highest transfer (Barcelona's bid for Zlatan Ibrahimović), which was nearly £25m less.
Still, the salary figures cannot be ignored.
It stands to reason that if Barcelona didn't pay its stars the giant salaries the market demands, they'd find another club who would. Barca's players may be loyal to the club that nurtured them, but they're not saps.
So, as we criticize Real Madrid and its players for their mercenary ways, perhaps we should also take a look at the millionaires who play for Barcelona.
Their football may be the most beautiful in the world, but it should be—they're the most handsomely paid.
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