Soccer in the U.S or football as it’s known to the rest of the world, is the world’s most popular sport. It’s even gaining in popularity, now, in the States. And within the sport, the World Cup is the biggest prize. But at club level, Europe is where it’s at and here, the Champions League is, by far, the richest prize available.
For the uninitiated, this is a completion played annually between Europe’s elite. The champions of each country followed by one, two or three more clubs depending on the rating of the league. The clubs play off in a mini league system up to Christmas, followed by a break then a knock-out section from February to May when the final is played around the end of the month.
Last year, the biggest prize in the world’s biggest sport was won by one of its biggest teams, Barcelona, who beat Italy’s biggest name, Juventus, in the final. Barcelona are one of Europe’s top sides of recent years having won the trophy on four occasions over the last ten years. Juventus, on the other hand, are traditionally an enormous name in world football but have been in relative obscurity over recent Champions League history – not having appeared in a final since 2003 when they lost to country rivals AC Milan.
To give you some idea of the relative strength of the sides, Barcelona are currently joint favorites to win the current Champions League campaign alongside German giants Bayern Munich, whilst Juventus are 20-1 shots. Barcelona are also top dogs as things stand over traditional rivals Real Madrid – with the latter being slightly odds against in La Liga betting, whilst Barca are odds-on.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 15, 2015
One of the two clubs almost invariably wins the domestic top spot (though Atlético Madrid won in 2014) and last season, Barcelona managed another epic success. But the Champions League is really where it’s at and, to give you some idea why, consider the money. As well as the prize money, all teams are awarded ‘market pool’ money from UEFA. And this totalled €409.6million ($467m) last year. UEFA also divvied up an additional €500.7m ($570m) between all competing teams which was given out depending on the results and progress of each team.
Then the spin-offs in commercialisation of the clubs and their top players are, of course, all but unquantifiable. The money available for the top players in Europe is getting to a stage where it seems almost unbelievable. Consider, if you will, that Ronaldo is reputed to be paid $79 million a year – of which $52.2m is in his Real Madrid salary, with a further $26.8m coming from his endorsements every year.
Cristiano Ronaldo on his way to Real Madrid's training session. IG????????: "Going to training????????????????" pic.twitter.com/FkBFIKNtum
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@TheCRonaldoFan) October 15, 2015
But this happens mainly as a result of the Champions League which is becoming bigger every year and is showing no signs of slowing. Simply put, the Champions League is really where it’s at in world sporting terms – ahead of the Super Bowl, World Series, Tour de France and any other sports event you care to mention save for the World Cup and Olympics which, you might say, are special cases apart from the rest.