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European soccer—a swaggering success

In May 1992 the captain and goalkeeper of the Barcelona soccer, Andoni Zubizarreta, lifted football's European Cup above his head in front of a packed Wembley crowd.

His team had just beaten Italian opponents Sampdoria in what would be the last ever old-style format for European soccer's top competition.

The following year would herald revolution as the re-branded UEFA Champions league arrived, a tournament which will earn the 32 teams in the tournament almost 1.3 billion euros ($1.45 billion) this year, according to the organization's website.

No other sporting tournament in the world comes close to that level of cash reward.

The team who wins the final can expect to earn its owners up to 100 million euros. UEFA says half of the cash will be from a fixed amount while the remainder relates to a team's domestic television market.

Administrators reformatted the tournament to ensure that giants of the European game such as Real Madrid, Manchester United and AC Milan would play each other more regularly.

This pleased TV companies who have consistently paid more and more for broadcasting rights.

In 2013, British Telecom shocked Rupert Murdoch's Sky after agreeing a dramatic 1.1 billion euro deal for exclusive live rights to this year's Champions League.

Sky lost that one but returned to the betting table with an astronomical 5.3 billion euro bid to ensure they controlled the biggest slice of the hugely profitable English premiership for the next five years.

Source: Deloitte

English soccer's domestic league has proved to be Europe's consistent market leader. The Deloitte Annual review of football Finance shows the English top tier generated revenue of 3.9 billion euros in 2013/1014.

By comparison, Germany which relied less on TV and more on direct corporate sponsorship raked in 2.3 billion euros.

And In Spain the 1.9 billion euro figure was in the main due to deals arranged with the two top teams Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Deloitte forecasts that by next year, the biggest 5 leagues are expected to hoover in broadcast rights revenues of around 7.5 billion euros.

It also estimates European soccer will hold a market capitalization of 25 billion euros.

And as the clubs in Europe reap more and more cash, the world's best footballers are drawn towards the continent.

In a survey published this week by France Football, all of the top 10 best paid soccer players plied their trade in Europe.


"Why couldn’t you beat a richer club? I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal." -Johan Cruyff, Former Dutch professional soccer player

Top of the list was Barcelona forward Lionel Messi who is set to take home 74 million euros this season, with around half of that coming from sponsorship.

The Argentinian, who turns 29 next month, has signed sponsorship deals with Adidas, PepsiCo, Gillette and Electronic Arts among others.

Second on the list is Cristiano Ronaldo, whose sponsorship income from the likes of Nike and Herbalife will help him rake in 67 million euros this season.

Wikileaks-style website, Football Leaks, claimed in February that the Real Madrid star earned more than 1 million euros from a Saudi Arabian telecoms firm in exchange for just a single day's promotion work in 2012.

But, as the Dutch legend Johan Cruyff once pointed out, money in sport doesn't always win success.

"Why couldn't you beat a richer club? I've never seen a bag of money score a goal. "