The world's best-paid sports teams

Story highlights

  • Barcelona is best-paid sports team, with players earning average of $8.6 million a year
  • European football clubs dominate the list, taking seven of top 10 spots
  • Raises questions over the effectiveness of UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations
  • NBA is is still best-paid league in the world with average annual salaries of $4.29 million

If Barcelona's players were driven to tears after last week's shock Champions League exit, they could at least rely on pocketfuls of cash to ease the pain.

Sure, the world's best football team has slipped from its throne in recent weeks after losing to Chelsea in a nail-biting European semifinal at Camp Nou and also relinquishing the Spanish crown to Real Madrid.

But hold your pity. This, after all, is the best-paid team on the planet, with each of its players earning an average $8.6 million a year according to a new report -- a 10% increase on the previous year.

Losing hurts. But the Spanish team, led by record-breaking goal scorer Lionel Messi, can take some comfort in pocketing an average $166,934 each in wages every week.

The two-time FIFA Club World Cup champions top the list of the highest-paid sports teams, revealed by researchers Sporting Intelligence. The report looked at the average salaries of 278 teams in 14 leagues across 10 countries.

Real Madrid followed close behind in second place with its players earning an average $8.6 million a year. That's a whopping $166,934 per week and a 6% rise on last year.

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European soccer teams dominated the list, claiming seven of the top 10 spots. And as their billionaire owners continue to spend big on top-level players, traditional American sports such as baseball and basketball are being pushed down the list.

Despite not winning a English league title since 1968, Manchester City moved up the earnings rankings from 10th to third this year -- largely thanks to the oil-rich deep pockets of owner Sheikh Mansour.

The Abu Dhabi United Group chief has spent hundreds of millions of pounds on star players since buying the club in August 2008.

City players now enjoy average annual salaries of $7.4 million, or around $142,389 per week. And after defeating rivals Manchester United in a Premier League battle watched by 600 million people worldwide on Tuesday, Mansour will be hoping to see returns on his mega investments.

Likewise Russian billionaire Roman Abromovich will be eager for his Chelsea team -- which climbed from sixth to fourth on the rich list -- to earn their keep and deliver a Champions League title in the May 19 final. His players currently boast an average $6.7 million a year -- around $130,690 a week.

Judging by the million-dollar football salaries, you'd be forgiven for thinking the UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations -- agreed in 2009 as a way of controlling clubs' ever-rising expenditure -- had done little to stem spending.

"It is possible but by no means certain that some wage restraint at some European football clubs is on the horizon as a result of new Financial Fair Play rules being introduced by UEFA, the governing body of football across Europe. But the effectiveness of UEFA's policing remains to be seen," the Sporting Intelligence report found.

"And in any case, the biggest, richest clubs will almost certainly continue to generate massive sums, and therefore continue to fund growing salary bills."

American basketball franchise the LA Lakers are the first non-football team on the list, coming in at fifth with an average yearly salary of $6.2 million -- or $120,732 per week.

Next is baseball's New York Yankees in sixth place, having been top when the list was originally published two years ago. The report's authors say the plummet is partly due to wages being restricted in the U.S. since 2010, while in Europe the amounts spent on top players continues to rise.

Rounding out the top 10 were baseball's Philadelphia Phillies, earning an average $5.8 million a year, and Italian soccer team Inter Milan on $5.7 million.

Despite the NBA claiming just two teams in the top-24, basketball is still the best-paid league in the world with players earning average annual salaries of $4.29 million.

In comparison, Spain's La Liga is skewed towards the top end with Barcelona players earning 22 times more than the lowest teams in the 20-club league.

Figures are from the in-progress seasons in NBA basketball, NHL ice hockey, MLB baseball and MLS football, and from the most recently completed seasons for all other teams, including the major leagues of European football, AFL Aussie Rules and NPB Japanese baseball.

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