Manchester City, the Premier League’s dominant team for much of the last decade, announced on Wednesday that it had spent more on player salaries last season than any team in the history of British soccer, paying more than $500 million while won English and European championships.
Backed by the lavish spending of its owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nayhan, brother of the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, City won a third consecutive Premier League championship, the FA Cup and its first English title last season. Champions League, completing the so-called treble that until now only one English team had achieved.
City’s success has been built on the tactical acumen of the team’s Spanish coach, Pep Guardiola, and a host of world-class players, but also on a seemingly limitless supply of cash. City now trails only Barcelona in how much it pays its players in wages, but unlike the Spanish superteam, City’s spending has not resulted in a financial crisis. Instead, City also announced record revenues of 712.8 million pounds, or almost $900 million, another British record, for the year to June 2023.
The club’s annual balance sheet also boasted a profit of £80 million, double what it reported a year earlier. All the figures highlighted a transformation in City’s financial circumstances, which for years had been defined by huge losses created by a level of spending that few rivals could match.
However, the city’s commercial success and financial progress have been mired in controversy for years. A year-long Premier League investigation that this year produced more than 100 charges for breaking the rules against the team, most linked to allegations of inflated sponsorship deals with companies in the United Arab Emirates and misreported salaries. City have disputed the Premier League’s allegations and its conclusions about the club’s finances.
An independent panel acting on behalf of the league has been hearing the case for years, which was opened in 2018 after a leak of internal club documents. In 2020, City successfully appealed a Champions League suspension imposed after a separate investigation by European football’s governing body, winning on a technicality after their lawyers successfully argued that information that formed the core of the case had prescribed.
Those legal problems have not distracted the team on the field, where they have become one of the most reliable winning machines in the history of English football. City have won four of the last five Premier League titles and, with 13 games played into the current season, currently sit in their usual place at the top of the table.
City President Khaldoon al Mubarak, a senior lieutenant in the Emirati royal family, said the team would not slow down any time soon. The club would be “doubling down on the proven philosophies and practices that have brought us this success,” he said in comments posted by the club.
“We will continue to challenge all industry norms,” he added.