Manchester United players earn the most in the Premier League, despite team struggles

Key Points
  • Manchester United pays its players £600,000 more per year than Manchester City.
  • The Global Sports Salaries Survey looks at how much sports teams pay their players and staff.
  • Barcelona is by far the biggest spender on squad salaries, at £10.5 million.
  • Six NBA franchises make the top 10.
Alexis Sanchez of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during The Emirates FA Cup Semi Final match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium on April 21, 2018 in London, England. 
 Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Premier League soccer team Manchester United pays its players an average £600,000 ($765,000) more per year than local rivals and current champions Manchester City, according to an annual report.

The Global Sports Salaries Survey, conducted by Sporting Intelligence and which looks at how much sports teams pay their players and staff, found Manchester United's average annual player salary to be £6.53 million, compared to Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City's £5.93 million.

"The two Manchester clubs, United and City, remain clear of the rest in basic pay terms, according to our calculations," Sporting Intelligence said in a statement. "We thought last year that whichever of the pair achieved the most on the pitch would end up with the larger of the two overall wage bills (for all staff) for 2017/18.

"In fact, City won the league and had wages of £260 million and United faltered but paid out £296 million."

There are still some anomalies within the wage structure of Manchester City, according to Sporting Intelligence, which said that an undisclosed amount of City's salaries are paid by parent company City Football Group and are then reportedly paid by the club via "external charges."

Spain's two most successful soccer teams top the list. Barcelona is by far the biggest spender on players' salaries, at an average £10.5 million each, with a weekly bill per player of £201,043. By contrast, 13-time Champions League winner Real Madrid's total is £2.36 million less, at £8.09 million per player, with an average weekly wage of £155,569.

Barcelona rewarded record goalscorer Lionel Messi with a new contract last season to keep him at the club until 2021, which reportedly included an approximate £80 million signing-on bonus.

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Manchester United preparing for anticipated Champions League match

It has since explored the idea of selling the naming rights to its famous Nou Camp stadium, estimated to be valued at £160 million, to cover the costs. Real Madrid has tried to raise funds in the same way to pay for its planned £470 million refit of the Santiago Bernabeu, but has found suitable partners hard to come by.

The Spanish league may have the top two highest team salaries overall, but the average pay for a first team player in England's Premier League is 36 per cent greater than any La Liga counterpart and almost double the average in Italy.

Outside of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United, Italian club Juventus is the only other soccer team in the top 10 list of sports team salaries, with the remaining six made up of NBA franchises. Of those, the Oklahoma City Thunder spent the most. The Cleveland Cavaliers dropped from second position last year to 16th this year, in part down to LeBron James leaving for Los Angeles in the summer.

The biggest climbers anywhere on the list are Japanese soccer side Vissel Kobe, now home to former Barcelona midfielder and 2010 FIFA World Cup winner Andres Iniesta. Since his signing in May, the rise in wages has seen Vissel Kobe move up 81 places on this list from 267 to 186, while the NFL's San Francisco 49ers have risen 68 places from 164 to 96.