Manchester City are paying their players higher wages than any club in world sport, as doubts emerged about their ability to comply with Uefa's financial fair play system.
The fifth annual Global Sports Salaries Survey revealed that City pay an average player around £5.3m ($NZ10.3m) a year, or £102,000 ($NZ198,600) a week; more than any US baseball or basketball team. The data, produced by the Sportingintelligence website for ESPN, emerged as the process to examine whether City do comply with FFP started at Uefa's headquarters.
The investigative chamber of Uefa's club financial control body spent today examining City's accounts to establish whether they are in the spirit of FFP. The body will conclude its deliberations today and then write to the club informing it whether or not it is felt to be in breach. City then have 10 days to accept or contest those findings. If in breach, they could face a fine or transfer embargo. Any fine would equate to the amount by which City were deemed to be in breach of the FFP rules.
City had felt they had done enough to prove that they were FFP-compliant. But a level of doubt is understood to be emerging internally about whether certain aspects of their annual report published in January will satisfy Uefa. In particular, it is unclear whether more than £40m registered as income for the sale of the club's image rights and the sale of services to third parties, in the annual results for last year, will be considered acceptable by Uefa and in the spirit of FFP.
The club insist that these, plus a sponsorship deal with the Etihad airline, are valid and that the Etihad deal is not merely a way of Abu Dhabi artificially pumping more money into the club. City have invested a huge amount of time and resources in ensuring that they are FFP-compliant, even employing accountants from Deloitte who initially helped establish the FFP system for Uefa.
On the pitch, Yaya Touré could be back in action within a fortnight, according to City's manager, Manuel Pellegrini. It was feared the influential midfielder could miss the rest of the season after he limped off with a leg injury 19 minutes into the defeat at Liverpool on Sunday, but Pellegrini revealed the problem is not as bad as was first thought.
Touré could still miss three league games, against Sunderland tomorrow night, West Bromwich and Crystal Palace, as City look to win all their remaining fixtures to keep their title hopes alive, but should be fit for the match at Everton on May 3.
"Yaya has a muscle injury," said Pellegrini. "We will see with the doctor how many days. Maybe it is not so hard as we thought, but I think he needs at least 10 days or two weeks to recover."
Third-placed City are trailing the leaders Liverpool by seven points, although they have two games in hand.
Global salaries survey: Who pays the most?
Club/Average weekly pay
1 Manchester City $NZ198,600
2 NY Yankees $198,000
3 LA Dodgers $192,000
4 Real Madrid $187,000
5 Barcelona $183,500
6 Brooklyn Nets $168,000
7 Bayern Munich $165,000
8 Manchester Utd $162,000
9 Chicago Bulls $149,000
10 Chelsea $149,000
11 Arsenal $146,000