The world’s economy may be on the verge of slipping into another recession, but the prospect of a "double dip" doesn’t seem to be concerning some of soccer’s leading clubs.
Statistics released by accountants Deloitte show that four of Europe’s top five leagues showed a marked increase in spending over the summer transfer window compared to last year, with the exception being the German Bundesliga. In total, around £485 million was shelled out in transfer fees by English Premier League clubs—a figure that falls just short of the record £500 million set in 2008.
But while the global economic downturn has ensured that, for the moment, the record stays intact, the dramatic rise in salaries in the last three years has put soccer’s superstars among the highest-earning athletes in the world.
Having swapped Inter Milan for Anzhi Makhachkala in the Russian outpost of Dagestan back in August, Samuel Eto’o has already banked four weekly payments of around £350,000 as part of a record-breaking three-year contract that is among the most lucrative in the history of any sports star.
The Cameroonian stands to bank approximately £18 million per season thanks to the riches of Suleyman Kerimov, Anzhi’s billionaire owner and, coincidentally, governor of Dagestan. That puts him way ahead of Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts—the highest wage-earner in the NFL, with around £15 million per annum—and only just behind Alex Rodriguez from the New York Yankees (£20 million) and Ferrari’s F1 driver Fernando Alonso (£22 million).
But while Eto’o’s nearest competitors Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi still trail in way down the list (£12 and £11 million per annum respectively), with so many international investors taking an interest in the beautiful game, you can bet that gap narrow pretty quickly.
Last year, the inaugural Annual Review of Global Sports Salaries showed that just three soccer clubs featured in the top 10 top-paying sports teams on the planet (Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea). That survey was based on earnings in the 2008/9 season, since when it’s estimated average earnings in the EPL have increased by as much as 50 percent.
Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi cash has certainly helped raise the bar, to the extent that a team like Arsenal simply cannot compete anymore. Samir Nasri’s departure underlines the point, as his pay-packet of approximately £175,000 a week means there are now at least 12 players on City’s books who take home a minimum of £5 million per season.
Add the likes of newly-rich Paris St Germain and Malaga into the mix, and we could see a major shift when the next list is released in 2012. Interestingly, the rest of the top 10 in 2010 was filled entirely with teams from the NBA, although it remains to be seen whether the American sports can hold off soccer’s inexorable charge.
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