Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined Paris Saint-Germain from AC Milan in 2012. Reuters

Four years after being taken over by Qatar Sports Investments, Paris Saint-Germain are now the highest-paying sports team in the world. According to a survey from ESPN and Sporting Intelligence, the French champions’ squad has an average salary of $9.08 million. Of the top 10 list, eight are soccer clubs, with Real Madrid, Manchester City and Barcelona coming in behind PSG and ahead of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers -- the first non-soccer team in fifth.

The results show the huge impact that oil-rich foreign owners have had on European soccer in recent seasons. Three years before PSG were brought, Manchester City, who have fallen from first place a year ago, were purchased by the Abu Dhabi United Group, and both clubs have since seen investment on a previously unseen scale. Incredibly, PSG’s average annual salary has more than doubled in the last two years alone. The club has spent huge sums on attracting superstars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. And they have been rewarded by recently clinching their third consecutive Ligue 1 title, having previously only ever won two in their history. Ibrahimovic was the top scorer, repaying PSG’s investment that sees him ranked as the world’s third highest paid player, behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, on $35.8 million, according to Forbes.

City, meanwhile, have won two Premier League championships in the last four years. Contributing sizably to their average annual salary of $8.59 million is Argentinean striker Sergio Aguero’s $18.1 million yearly pay packet. There is little prospect of City’s or PSG’s place near the top of the list being taken in the coming years. The two clubs were punished for breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules last summer, but there have been strong indications this week that the regulations will now be relaxed, allowing rich owners to pump more money into their clubs.

PSG and City have often had to pay exorbitant salaries for players in order to convince leading stars to join clubs that lack the prestige of the traditional European elite. And despite the huge figures they are paying, neither PSG nor City have yet cracked the last four of the Champions League.

It is no surprise that the established European powers still feature prominently on the list. Real Madrid are second with an average annual salary of $8.64 million, following the arrival of Gareth Bale and James Rodríguez in the last two summers to join Ronaldo, who takes home $52 million a year. Messi makes a similar amount, estimated by Forbes at $48.5 million, as part of Barcelona’s average annual salary of $8.08 million.

The two Spanish giants have dominated the latter stages of the Champions League in recent seasons, along with Bayern Munich, who remain seventh on the list, on $7.66 million. A place ahead of them are Manchester United, on $8.02 million, who look set to return to the Champions next season after a year’s absence and will be eager for a return on their sizable investment. The other soccer representation comes from Chelsea in eighth and Arsenal in 10th, sandwiching the New York Yankees.

The domination of the Premier League is clear with Liverpool (14th) and Tottenham (30th), the only other soccer teams in the top 50, alongside Champions League finalists Juventus (24th). The heavy presence of English clubs is poised to continue after the Premier League recently signed a new lucrative television deal to further dwarf its rival European leagues. Yet while soccer is king at the sharp end of the list, the NBA, Indian Premier League cricket (IPL) and MLB all have higher average salaries than any soccer league, demonstrating the vast gulf between rich and poor in soccer.

Absent from the conversation is the NFL. While the NFL has the lowest average of the five major American sports leagues, it also has the highest number of roster players (53). Across all competitions, PSG had 27 players make appearances in the 2014-2015 season.

Highest Average Annual Salaries In Sports
1. Paris Saint-Germain (Ligue 1) $9.08 million
2. Real Madrid (La Liga) $8.64 million
3. Manchester City (EPL) $8.59 million
4. Barcelona (La Liga) $8.08 million
5. Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB) $8.02 million
6. Manchester United (EPL) $8.02 million
7. Bayern Munich (Bundesliga) $7.66 million
8. Chelsea (EPL) $7.46 million
9. New York Yankees (MLB) $7.31 million
10. Arsenal (EPL) $6.95 million