10 highest paid sports teams in the world

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Manchester United v Crystal Palace - Premier League

The explosion of the popularity of sports over the past 30 years or so was something few people could have foreseen back in the 70s and early 80s. Not only are sports teams worth millions, and in a special few cases, billions, top athletes in a variety of sports today earn wages that would make CEOs of Fortune 500 companies green with envy.

The advent of advertising coupled with the broadcasting and telecasting breakthroughs that we've achieved in the past 30 years has, in a lot of countries, transformed the way sports are looked at today. The Olympics, which were supposed to be pristine hunting grounds for amateur sportspersons when they were revived, are now exclusively participated in by professionals at the top of their respective sports.

The best teams in the world in any sport today are usually the ones that can afford to pay the highest wages. North American leagues have dabbled in placing salary caps in order to control owners' spending, and the aim of levelling the playing field has worked to varying degrees of success in sports like basketball, baseball and American football.

The following 10 teams court the highest wage bill in all of the sports:

#10 Manchester United

Previous Rank: No. 23 (worldwide)

Average annual salary: £6.5 million ($8.3 million)

Highest-paid player: Alexis Sanchez (£23 million

While United are seemingly no longer a destination for the very best players in the world, they have a plethora of financial clout in terms of attracting wantaway players. This is proved amply by their last big-name signing, Alexis Sanchez, whom they're currently paying over $500,000 a week for playing the backup role to the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata.

United's wage structure has seemingly caused a lot of dissent in their locker room according to various reports over the summer, and the Sanchez situation will allow a lot of players to extract a King's ransom when they sit down to negotiate their next contracts with the club.

#9 Juventus

Chievo Verona v Juventus - Serie A
Chievo Verona v Juventus - Serie A

Previous rank: No. 32 (worldwide)

Average annual salary: £6.7 million ($8.55 million)

Highest paid player: Cristiano Ronaldo ($66 million, pre-tax)

Juventus took a decisive step towards reestablishing their place among Europe's elite last summer, signing Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid. The Portuguese superstar, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, has bolstered their attack, and his goalscoring threat has made them favourites to win the Champions League trophy as things stand at the moment.

Ronaldo's wages are well in line with his personality, and the Turin-based club is essentially making millions off the back of their biggest transfer coup since netting Gianluigi Buffon at the height of his powers in the early noughties. Owned by the Agnelli family, Juve are a model club for the rest of the footballing world to follow, and the Ronaldo transfer proves the club's financial clout.

#8 Miami Heat

Charlotte Hornets v Miami Heat
Charlotte Hornets v Miami Heat

Previous rank: No. 26 (worldwide)

Average annual salary: £7 million ($8.95 million)

Highest-paid player: Hassan Whiteside ($25.4 million)

The Miami Heat are stuck between a rock and a hard place. While the $26 million they're paying to Chris Bosh doesn't count towards their salary cap, they're still paying the luxury tax for a roster in which the biggest standouts (Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside) have never been named to the first list of an All-Star team. None of their current contracts (with the exception of Tyler Johnson's poison-pill contract) can be labelled as bad outright, but they still end up having to pay the luxury tax for a team that has barely been above .500 since 2014.

Dwyane Wade's farewell tour will undoubtedly bring more attention to the Heat's 2018-19 campaign than their previous seasons post-LeBron, but whether or not they make an impact or even make the playoffs is a matter up in the air at the start of this season.

#7 Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers
Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers

Previous rank: No. 14 (worldwide)

Average annual salary: £7.5 million ($9.6 million)

Highest-paid player: Chris Paul ($35.6 million)

Unlike the Heat, the Rockets have done a phenomenal job of building their roster up from scratch. Starting in 2012, when they acquired franchise player and reigning MVP James Harden in a trade from then-finalists Oklahoma City Thunder, the Rockets have barely put a foot wrong in terms of handing out contracts. Sure, Ryan Anderson may have seemed like a reach in 2016, but that's one blemish on an otherwise spotless wage bill.

The Rockets will be looking to go two steps better than the Game 7 Western Conference Finals appearance that they managed in 2018, although their task has become monumentally harder due to the Warriors' offseason moves. The Rockets remain a good bet to be a Conference powerhouse for years to come, all things considered.

#6 Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics
Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics

Previous rank: 11th (worldwide)

Average annual salary: £7.58 million ($9.67 million)

Highest-paid player: Kyle Lowry ($31 million)

The Raptors are run by one of the wiliest front office officials in Masai Ujiri, who was a huge coup for the organization as he's proved time and again in the past 5 and a half years. Ujiri has turned around one of the worst expansion teams in league history into a perennial playoff team, working trades left, right and centre to get rid of the dead weight on their wage bill and consolidating around DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

The former has since been traded to the San Antonio Spurs for the best two-way swingman in the world in Kawhi Leonard, and the organization hopes to hold on to him and make him their highest earner by this time next season.

#5 Washington Wizards

Los Angeles Lakers v Washington Wizards
Los Angeles Lakers v Washington Wizards

Previous rank: 18th (worldwide)

Average annual salary: £7.63 million ($9.72 million)

Highest-paid player: Otto Porter Jr ($26 million)

In contrast to the Raptors, the Wizards' front office moves have been mostly reactionary instead of well-thought expenditures. Their highest-paid player this season (Porter Jr) caps out as a long-distance marksman and lockdown defender at the peak of his career - something we might already have seen.

Bradley Beal and John Wall are owed a combined $270 million in the next 3-4 seasons, and although both are All Stars, they have not had any playoff success worth mention in their last 7 seasons together. It remains to be seen what the Wizards are able to salvage of their remaining cap space in the next couple of seasons, but we shouldn't be too hopeful about a turnaround, given that Ernie Grunfeld will be in charge of their decisions for the foreseeable future.

#4 Golden State Warriors

2018 NBA Finals - Game Four
2018 NBA Finals - Game Four

Previous rank: 3rd (worldwide)

Average annual salary: £7.82 million ($9.96 million)

Highest-paid player: Stephen Curry ($37.5 million)

The Warriors should be made into a case study on how to turn the fortunes of a franchise around. Up until 2012, the Warriors were genuinely the laughing stock of the NBA, with their last championship coming in 1975 during a time when the likes of Rick Barry were still balling at the height of their powers.

Under Jerry West, they drafted Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, and 2 Finals appearances later, they added Kevin Durant to the mix to compile the most talented NBA team of all time. This summer, they outdid themselves by signing DeMarcus Cousins - arguably the best big man in the game when healthy - for a season, virtually guaranteeing themselves a 3rd straight championship run.

#3 Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder v Charlotte Hornets
Oklahoma City Thunder v Charlotte Hornets

Previous rank: 1st (worldwide)

Average annual salary: £7.85 million ($10 million)

Highest-paid player: Russell Westbrook ($35.65 million)

The Thunder were widely criticized for their abysmal postseason performance last season after paying the highest luxury tax bill in NBA salary cap history for the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook. They have, since then, made amends by trading an ageing Melo for Dennis Schroder, who's fit into the sixth man role like a custom-made glove.

The Thunder are much deeper this season than they have been in recent memory, and although the injury bug has deprived us of taking a look at what their roster is capable of in its totality, not much time remains for Andre Roberson's slated comeback in January. Their fortunes in the postseason will depend a lot on how they perform during the 82-game grind that the NBA regular season is.

#2 Real Madrid

SD Eibar v Real Madrid CF - La Liga
SD Eibar v Real Madrid CF - La Liga

Previous rank: 9th (worldwide)

Average annual salary: £8.09 million ($10.3 million)

Highest-paid player: Gareth Bale (£18.2 million)

Real Madrid's fortunes have seen a downturn over the course of the 2018-19 European football season. While it was understandable that they'd slump a bit following the departure of their talisman in Cristiano Ronaldo, they have been abysmal on both ends of the ball and are gasping for life in the race for Champions League berths in La Liga while being completely out of contention for the title barely 3 months into the new season.

Rumours linking them to the likes of Neymar and Eden Hazard aside, Los Blancos need to find their top gear as a team in the aftermath of Julen Lopetegui's firing. New head coach Solari hasn't had much of an impact so far, and it is really up to the players themselves to take the club back to the hitherto-unforeseen heights it reached over the past 3 seasons under Zinedine Zidane.

#1 Barcelona

Tottenham Hotspur v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group B
Tottenham Hotspur v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group B

Previous rank: 4th (worldwide)

Average annual salary: £10.45 million ($13.31 million)

Highest-paid player: Lionel Messi ($35 million)

The Blaugrana are a case study for sustained success over the course of the past 3 decades. It's one thing to unravel jewels like Xavi, Andres Iniesta and GOAT contender Lionel Messi from their academy, but Barca is regularly dependent on its academy to supply the supporting cast for these stars as well. At one point in their 2012-13 season, they were able to field a combined XI of solely La Masia graduates.

As long as Messi is at the head of their attacks, expect Barca to be perennial contenders for all trophies that they participate in. It helps a lot that they play an effervescent, attacking style of football that is really easy on the eye, for in football, the manner matters as much as the matter in its totality.

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Edited by Amar Anand
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