An “extraordinary combination of new contracts and signings” has taken Barcelona back to the top of the global sport pay rankings – and made the La Liga giants the first team to have average basic annual pay of more than £10 million.
Barca are the best-paid team in global sport, according to a global survey published on Monday, and return to the top for the first time in six years.
The Catalans return to the top of the pay rankings in the ninth edition of Sporting Intelligence’s Global Sports Salaries Survey (GSSS) for the first time since 2012.
The average annual basic first-team salary at the Camp Nou was more than £10.45m in late November of the 2018/19 season, the British-based researchers said.
Domestic rivals Real Madrid have climbed to second place. Average basic pay at the Bernabeu is just over £8m per year.
In third place are last year’s number one team, the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder (£7.85m).
The metric used by the GSSS is average first-team pay. It looks solely at earnings for playing sport, not for endorsements or other extra-curricular activities.
“In last year’s list, Barcelona were the world’s best-paid football team but it has still taken an extraordinary combination of new contracts and signings to lift their average basic pay this time above £10m from £6.6m a year ago,” the report said.
“Foremost among those contracts was the biggest pay deal in Barcelona’s history awarded to (Lionel) Messi. His gross basic (pre-tax) annual Barca pay tops £50m per year, including guaranteed image rights fees.”
Six of the top 10 payers in this year’s GSSS are NBA teams – an ongoing consequence of a huge new TV deal in the NBA that kicked in before the 2016/17 season.
As recently as the 2015 GSSS, there were eight football teams in the top 10 but there are just four this year — Barca, Real, Juventus and Manchester United.
The NBA has extended its lead as the best-paying league by average salary (£5.9m), ahead of the Indian Premier League cricket competition (£3.8m when weekly pay is annualised) and MLB (baseball).
The Premier League remains the world’s best-paying football league. Average pay in the 2018/19 season in England’s top division is nearly £3 million a year.
Jurgen Klopp praised the maturity of his Liverpool side after weathering an early Watford storm to extend their unbeaten start to the Premier League season with a 3-0 win at Vicarage Road.
Klopp’s men laboured for long spells but claimed an ultimately convincing victory with three goals in the last 23 minutes through Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino.
“It was a real mature performance,” said Klopp. “In similar games last year we were not that convincing.
“They had moments but you can’t stop that. Controlling it and staying in that mode, being positive, that’s new for us. It was exactly how it had to be in our situation. We have to win football games week in and week out.”
Despite a blistering start to the campaign to collect 33 from a possible 39 Premier League points, Liverpool still trail champions Manchester City by two points.
But Klopp’s men are doing remarkably well just to remain on City’s coat-tails even when not at their flowing best.
Salah prodded home the opener when Liverpool’s front three finally clicked into gear as Firmino sent Sadio Mane surging down the left and his cross picked out the Egyptian for his ninth goal of the season.
Alexander-Arnold then sent a stunning free-kick into the top corner before Firmino rounded off the scoring after Ben Foster had saved Mane’s initial effort.
And Klopp hailed his side’s response after truncated preparations due to many of his squad returning from all over the world after the international break.
“I have to explain how difficult things are,” said Klopp. “I know you always expect perfection but we had exactly one session to prepare for this game because the players came back on Thursday,” he added.
“At half-time we said we had to stay solid and do it again but better, with more rhythm.
“The first goal was brilliant, the second was a world class free-kick and third was one of the best counter-attacks I’ve seen.”
The only negative for Klopp was captain Jordan Henderson’s late sending-off that will see him suspended for next weekend’s Merseyside derby against Everton.
“I think they were both yellow cards,” admitted Klopp. “Things like this happen when you play in a defensive midfield situation. You have to constantly close down a player or space.”
Watford were angered by what they saw as the turning point when Will Hughes appeared to be fouled by Andy Robertson inside the area early in the second-half with the score still at 0-0.
“The last two games we have been unlucky with some decisions but I prefer to always support referees and if I don’t say anything about their work in these two games I will not do it for the rest of the season,” said Watford boss Javi Gracia.
“It was a closer game than the scoreline but they are a very good team and they are able to do this.
“We tried to do our best but after scoring the first goal, with more spaces, they are very dangerous.”
Jose Mourinho accused some of Manchester United’s under-performing players of lacking “heart” against Crystal Palace – an attribute the manager believes is the bare minimum for his stuttering side.
Boos echoed around Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon as the hosts floundered against struggling Palace, who were unfortunate not to return south with more than a 0-0 draw.
United are now 14 points behind table-topping Manchester City – the same gap there is to rock-bottom Huddersfield – and, perhaps more worryingly, let this opportunity to bolster their top-four chances pass them by.
Mourinho had talked up those hopes ahead of the match and did not hold back after this “bad result” against Palace.
“Not enough intensity, not enough desire,” the United boss said.
“So, I think we played a game like ‘one more game’ and I don’t think the game is ‘one more game’. I think it is a game we really need to win.
“If we played with the same philosophy against Young Boys (in the Champions League on Tuesday) then we don’t win and then we have to go to Valencia to win the game in Valencia.
“So, there are matches that are special matches and that not just one more – and this one was not just one more.
“It was the first of eight Premier League games until the end of December and was a game we need to win, and my feeling is that there was not enough from the heart.
“You must play with brain, we must play also with heart and I think (there was) not enough heart.”
Manchester United have created fewer chances this season than Mark Hughes's Southampton.— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) November 24, 2018
He's far from the only issue, but that is still an absolutely damning indictment of Jose Mourinho's management.
Mourinho did not name names after the 0-0 draw, but appeared to call into question the character of Jesse Lingard, Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in an interview aired before the game.
Of that quartet, only Lingard and Martial started on Saturday, when the decision to replace ineffective Paul Pogba with Alexis Sanchez was met by cheers from some at Old Trafford.
It was a maddening return from the international break for Mourinho but the United manager does not believe some of his players will feel that frustration.
“There are people that will have a bad dinner (this evening),” the Portuguese said.
“There is people that will enjoy a nice dinner and there will even be people that maybe will party. I think that’s the way it is.”
Put to Mourinho that it is surely the bare minimum to play with heart, Mourinho said: “I agree, I agree.
“What’s the solution? You cannot change players’ natures dramatically.
“The solution is that probably I have to make certain choices based on heart, and then probably I will blame myself because I will think heart is not enough and I am missing here some quality.”
Things could have been even worse for Mourinho’s men, who were tormented by former United forward Wilfried Zaha and had a Cheikhou Kouyate goal ruled out for offside – the same call that went against Romelu Lukaku.
United defender Chris Smalling wasted a glorious chance, but so did Patrick van Aanholt and Andros Townsend for the visitors.
Asked if his side should have got more out of the game, Palace boss Roy Hodgson said: “That’s the constant lament. I get asked that question almost after every game.
“I got asked the question after we played Arsenal and drew 2-2.
“I got asked the same question when we played Chelsea, when everyone was telling me that their second goal should have been disallowed and we should have got something from it.
“Then last week against Tottenham, when we played really well everybody said ‘you must be absolutely gutted not to get anything from that game because it was a good team performance’.
“So, at least today I got the satisfaction of once again believing myself that the team played extremely well. It was a really good performance and at least we got something from the game.
“On another day, if fate had been a bit kinder to us and if we had been a bit more clinical around the box, especially with those two very big chances we created, we could even have won it.”
Provided by Press Association Sport