The worldwide popularity of the Barclays Premier League grows with every European football season. Just look at how much coverage and attention the league gets in the United States these days, if you had any doubts on that. It wasn't that long ago that one could only find Premier League matches on FOX Soccer, a channel that either wasn't available or was only aired in standard definition. Fans had to practically work in order to watch and follow the England top-flight.
Those days are now well into the past. Premier League games air on a weekly basis on NBC Sports Network AND even on NBC every now and again. All indications are that NBC will, down the road, have to splash a hefty amount of cash to keep the likes of ABC (ESPN) and FOX from swooping in and attaining the television rights for the league. Live Premier League action is now must-see and must-watch sports television in the US.
Club owners who can boast about the overall successes of the Premier League and also their own personal professional endeavors are able to invest high sums of money into squads that take pitches on EPL weekends. The hope is that expensive Premier League squads will "pay" owners back by earning wins and making runs in domestic competitions such as the League Cup and the FA Cup. Those teams can earn even more profits by qualifying for European football, either the Champions League or the Europa League.
That, as you'll see, is not always the case. One of the teams in the top-ten of the most expensive Premier League squads has been held on the outside looking in on Champions League football for the past several years. One of the clubs seems destined to be in a relegation battle next spring, while another could be on the verge of being sold for only a fraction of their worth before the campaign comes to a close.
The amount of money that separates what smaller Premier League clubs can afford to spend on wages from the giants of English Football who are mainstays in the country's top-flight league is absolutely massive. Burnley, who were promoted to the Premier League last spring, has a squad that costs £10.4 million. That is nearly £70 million under what the first team on this list spends on a squad that is, as of the posting of this piece, only two points safe of the relegation zone.
In the end, the Premier League is not that much different from Major League Baseball. Just because clubs can and do spend boatloads of money to acquire the rights to the best players in the business, does not guarantee those sides anything other than debt. Equally as important as having talented footballers is a club finding the right man to manage those players and lead them into battle in multiple competitions.
Chelsea and Manchester United are examples of how to do it right and how to do it wrong in the Premier League. The Blues did not hesitate in bringing beloved manager Jose Mourinho back to the club the second that Mourinho became available and made it known that he would be willing to return to Chelsea, United, meanwhile, have had three managers in three years.
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10 Aston Villa: £79.9 million
Villa have been in the news this fall for two reasons. They haven't been scoring goals (they hit the back of the net five times in their first ten matches), and owner Randy Lerner is reportedly keen on selling the club. The former owner of the Cleveland Browns, who made around $1 billion in selling the National Football League franchise to businessman Jimmy Haslam, has apparently had his fill of English football. Lerner may, according to some reports, even consider selling Villa at a third of the price.
9 Sunderland: £82.2m
It would be a massive understatement to suggest that Sunderland have not spent their money wisely over the past few season. The experiment that was making Paolo Di Canio full-time manager before the start of the 2013-14 campaign was the disaster everybody expected it to be, and the Black Cats narrowly avoided the drop into the Championship last spring. Early results this fall indicate that Sunderland will again be fighting for their Premier League lives in May 2015. They are currently two points safe of the relegation zone.
8 Southampton: £90.4m
Southampton could be referred to as the anti-Sunderland as it pertains to money spent. A side that entered the campaign with average expectations according to most analysts has been the biggest positive surprise in all of English football, winning seven of their first ten matches and climbing to second in the Premier League table. Whether or not Southampton will have staying power has yet to be determined, but one can't deny that The Saints have looked like the real deal.
7 Everton: £95.7m
Everton have been somewhat of a model Premier League club in that The Toffees have routinely competed and posted positive results despite not having the resources to spend as much as the teams higher up on this list. The big test for the team comes this season. Everton not only has to perform well in English football. They also have to contend in and attempt to return to European football. Failing to do so would cost the club millions of dollars.
6 Tottenham Hotspur: £178m
Since former Tottenham manager and current Queens Park Rangers boss Harry Redknapp led Spurs to the Champions League, Tottenham have achieved the following: the club has sold it two best players -- Luka Modric and Gareth Bale -- in consecutive summer transfer windows, Spurs haven't made a return to Champions League, they haven't adequately replaced the talent they've lost, and they haven't made noteworthy runs in other competitions. Money well spent, Daniel Levy.
5 Arsenal: £242.7m
What a difference a phenomenal stadium deal and yearly trips to the Champions League have made for the north London rivals of Spurs. While Tottenham have remained in the Europa League, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has his club playing on club football's biggest stage every season. The Gunners also ended their long trophy drought earlier in 2014 when they hoisted the FA Cup in celebration. Arsenal continue to outdo Tottenham in every way, and it's something that haunts Spurs and those who support what are the little brothers of that particular rivalry.
4 Liverpool: £253.8m
The clock has been turned back at Anfield. Manager Brendan Rodgers has thus far proven to be the savior Liverpool hoped he would be, as Rodgers has the club back in the Champions League. Rodgers now faces the biggest challenge to date of his career: getting Liverpool through the group stages of Champions League while also producing positive results in Premier League play and in other competitions, all the while doing so without world-class striker Luis Suarez. The controversial Suarez made a move to Barcelona over the summer.
3 Chelsea: £301.8m
Life is nice for Chelsea and for those who are devoted to supporting the club. Eccentric billionaire and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has not been shy about spending hundreds of millions of dollars to sign big-name players. Jose Mourinho has built what has, this fall, been the best squad in the Premier League after ten games. Chelsea sit atop the EPL table after winning eight of their first ten contests, and they have yet to lose in Premier League play. Looking forward, Chelsea seem to have the goods to compete in and even win the Champions League. They spend a lot on squads, but nobody can accuse Chelsea of not spending wisely.
2 Manchester City: £353.7m
The days of Manchester and the Premier League belonging to the other Manchester club are a thing of the past. City have won the League title twice over the past three seasons. They will likely again be near or at the top of the EPL table when all is said and done. The Citizens have been able to offer blank checks to players since the establishment of City Football Group. CFG now has its eyes on dominating the sport in the North American top-flight. Expansion club New York City Football Club, a franchise owned by both Manchester City and the New York Yankees, will begin playing in Major League Soccer in 2015.
1 Manchester United: £379.4m
It's a new, unfamiliar and unhappy world for United and for the club's fan base. While City have been the country's most successful club over the past several years, United have experienced quite the falloff since legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired. David Moyes, Ferguson's hand-picked replacement, could not keep United in the Champions League let alone in contention for trophies. United acquiring Louis van Gaal, who managed the Netherlands leading up to and during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and spending more money on a squad than what any other Premier League club spent has not yet generated much success for the club. The Red Devils are currently tenth in the Premier League table.
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