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Chelsea vs. Manchester City payroll breakdown: Champions League final is a battle of super-rich clubs

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Chelsea vs. Manchester City payroll breakdown: Champions League final is a battle of super-rich clubs

If you sit back and think about it, we should’ve probably all seen this Manchester City vs. Chelsea matchup coming in the 2021 UEFA Champions League final.

And how ironic it is that in the same year that the ill-fated (but not yet defunct) Super League concept was thrust upon the soccer world, that fans are now treated to a final showcasing two of the deepest pockets in global soccer — in fact, two Super League founders before they withdrew under public pressure.

Yet the fact that Chelsea and Manchester City are battling for the most prestigious trophy in club soccer is not just a product of the deep pockets of their respective owners. It’s that those deep pockets have been investing and building their respective clubs for years now. It’s the result of asset accumulation and compounding wealth.

MORE: Everything you need to know about the Champions League final

And to assign hedge fund terminology to soccer clubs is not to somehow characterize what has transpired as sinister in any way. It’s actually quite the opposite: Those two ownership groups were yes, rich, but also bold, visionary and persistent. They stuck to a plan, whether or not the ball bounced their way.

Chelsea set blueprint, ManCity supersize it

When the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea in 2003, the novelty of the benefactor owner captured the imagination of fans and it would serve to ignite the rush of foreign investment into club soccer in England and across Europe. Abramovich made headlines by his seeming desire to invest whatever it took to make Chelsea a world power.

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The approach was emboldened by the Galacticos era at Real Madrid a few years before. The Spanish giants made headlines of their own by gobbling up as many big stars as they could get their hands on beginning in 2000. That strategy turned Real Madrid into a global marketing and money-making machine. The experiment helped to evolve the concept of a soccer club as a global brand and it accelerated the evolution of the yet untapped business potential of the sport.

MORE: Champions League final betting odds, picks, prediction

Back at Chelsea, as the trophies began trickling in under Abramovich, so too did new faces investing in the sport and looking to compete with him. A few years after Abramovich, Sheikh Mansour, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, took over Manchester City in September 2008. But his plan was even grander than Abramovich’s.

The new ManCity owners similarly invested in the roster and the club’s infrastructure and youth development academy, but they went one step further. The Abu Dhabi Group began investing in clubs around the world, building a soccer network — more like a soccer empire, coined City Football Group — from Australia to the USA, Japan and South America. The various teams would share assets, collaborate and grow by working together.

Showdown of soccer super powers

About 15 or 20 years ago few would have imagined a Chelsea vs. Manchester City final in the Champions League. It’s no surprise today. The two clubs have continued to spend and invest massive amounts of money over the span of years.

In the cash-rich Premier League, there were two clubs that finished the 2010-2020 decade as the leaders in player transfer spending. You guessed it: Manchester City and Chelsea.

And in last summer’s 2020 transfer window, while other clubs played the market conservatively in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, that was not the name of the game for these two clubs. Once again, it was Chelsea and Manchester City finishing No. 1 and No. 2 in summer transfer spending, per Sky Sports.

MORE: Breakdown of Champions League prize money

A look at their Champions League final squads (see table below) is a glimpse into the behemoths they have become. A total of $759 million in transfer fees have allowed Chelsea to build a 25-man first team that’s today worth about $100 million more. Manchester City’s 24-man squad for the Champions League cost them over $1 billion.

And both teams are not just spending to acquire players. Their world-class infrastructure is allowing them to develop top talents with Phil Foden ($88 million per Transfermarkt) and Mason Mount ($82.5 million) among the most valuable young players in the world. The end result? Between the two, they have claimed 8 of the last 12 English Premier League titles.

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But the term “spending” belittles their strategy. In reality, both clubs are investing. Chelsea and Manchester City are in the Top 10 in the world in revenue (per Deloitte 2021 rankings). It’s success begetting success. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that has made the clubs more powerful as the seasons have progressed and they stick to their strategy. The financial difficulties brought on by the pandemic, which have weakened a handful of their competitors, have only worked to expand the gap between the two clubs and the purported chasing pack.

MORE: Will Champions League transform Pulisic into a crossover star?

To think this is only Manchester City’s first trip to the Champions League final. It’s the third for Chelsea. And their runs to the final has earned each around another $100 million and untold more in global exposure they can leverage.

This is probably only the start. The trends point to Manchester City and Chelsea hoisting trophies as an annual rite of spring. They’ll be here again. It’s exactly what the blueprint was designed to accomplish.

Chelsea and Manchester City UEFA Champions League final squads below with reported transfer fees (in millions) paid per player and the current market value as determined by Transfermarkt.

Chelsea FC Squad

PLAYER FEE MARKET VALUE
Kepa $91 $14.3
Kai Havertz $82 $77
Jorginho $75 $44
Christian Pulisic $73 $55
Ben Chilwell $59.2 $49.5
Timo Werner $58.5 $71.5
Mateo Kovacic $50.9 $49.5
Hakim Ziyech $43.3 $44
N’Golo Kante $42.2 $60.5
Antonio Rudiger $38.9 $27.5
Marcos Alonso $30.2 $14.3
Edouard Mendy $28.4 $27.5
Emerson $28.3 $13.2
Olivier Giroud $25.5 $5.5
Kurt Zouma $20.5 $35.2
Cesar Azpilicueta $11 $18.7
Billy Gilmour $0.6 $11
Tammy Abraham $0 $44
Tino Anjorin $0 $2.5
Willy Caballero $0 $0.3
Andreas Christensen $0 $33
Callum Hudson-Odoi $0 $38.5
Reece James $0 $44
Mason Mount $0 $82.5
Thiago Silva $0 $3.85
TOTAL $759 $867

Manchester City FC

PLAYER FEE MARKET VALUE
Aymeric Laporte $80.9 $55
Ruben Dias $79.8 $77
Riyad Mahrez $79.5 $46.2
Rodri $79 $77
Kevin De Bruyne $78.5 $110
Raheem Sterling $76.6 $99
Joao Cancelo $72.8 $55
Benjamin Mendy $67.7 $24.2
Sergio Aguero $62 $27.5
John Stones $61.7 $33
Kyle Walker $58.1 $30.8
Bernardo Silva $55.1 $77
Nathan Ake $52 $35.2
Fernandinho $45.6 $2.75
Ederson $44.8 $61.6
Gabriel Jesus $33.3 $66
Ferran Torres $32 $55
Ilkay Gundogan $28.8 $44
Zack Steffen $10 $6.6
Oleksandr Zinchenko $2.3 $27.5
Phil Foden $0 $88
James Trafford $0 N/A
Eric Garcia $0 $22
Scott Carson N/A $0.5
TOTAL $1.1b $1.12b

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Chris Paul, NBA Twitter react to Deandre Ayton’s game-winning dunk in Suns vs. Clippers

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Chris Paul, NBA Twitter react to Deandre Ayton's game-winning dunk in Suns vs. Clippers

Deandre Ayton was the hero for the Suns in their Game 2 win over the Clippers.

With less than a second left on the clock, the Suns were down one point and had just 0.9 seconds to get a shot off. Jae Crowder inbounded the ball on the baseline under the Suns’ basket and found Ayton cutting to the hoop.

Ayton threw it down. The play took just 0.2 seconds off the clock and sealed the 104-103 win for the Suns.

Here’s a look at the amazing finish.

Ayton and Crowder deserve a bulk of the credit, but Devin Booker had an impact on the finish as well. His physical screen on Ivica Zubac — who is seven inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than Booker — gave Ayton just enough space to get open off the cut and throw down the dunk.

And Booker put his body on the line despite playing with a bloodied nose that required stitches after an inadvertent hit from Patrick Beverley earlier in the game.

The Suns’ finish thrilled Phoenix fans as well as the team’s star point guard Chris Paul, who missed his second straight game in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He took time to celebrate the victory on Twitter and praised coach Monty Williams for his “big-time play call.”

Indeed, it was a nice play call, and Williams made sure Ayton was prepared to dunk immediately after catching the ball.

“DA — if he throws it, you gotta try to dunk it,” Williams said. “Okay?”

Ayton was ready and obliged. As a result of his make, NBA Twitter erupted and celebrated the exciting end to yet another tightly-contested playoff battle. 

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Clippers’ Paul George misses crucial free throws in stunning Game 2 loss to Suns

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Clippers' Paul George misses crucial free throws in stunning Game 2 loss to Suns

The box score from Tuesday’s Suns-Clippers game — a pivotal Game 2 win for Phoenix in the Western Conference finals — will show Paul George had a decent game.

Twenty-six points, on 10-of-23 shooting; six assists; six rebounds; and 5-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. He also scored his team’s last six points, all within the last minute, to help the Clippers to a 103-102 lead with just 8.2 seconds remaining.

The only stats that ultimately mattered in the Clippers’ 104-103 loss, however, were the final two free throws George — a career 84.7-percent free throw shooter — missed. They ultimately allowed Phoenix a chance at an unbelievable comeback victory, which may prove costly even as the series heads back to LA.

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Had George sunk both of those shots, the Suns would have needed a 3-pointer just to send the game to overtime. Had he sunk even one shot, they would have needed a 2-pointer. But he missed both, allowing the Suns to win on an inbound dunk with less than a second remaining:

Credit to Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder and the Suns. That play will go down as one of the top plays in NBA playoffs history. But every heartbreaking loss needs a goat, and no one fits the bill better than “Playoff P,” who could have secured a win for his team with the simplest of basketball scoring plays.

Here’s the bright side for the Clippers, if there is one: They have already overcome 2-0 deficits in each of their first two series against the Mavericks and Jazz, respectively. That’s likely a cold comfort as George and Co. head back to LA, however. The scathing Twitter comments aimed at George likely won’t do anything to help, either:

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Athletics’ Sergio Romo pulls down pants during substance check

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Athletics' Sergio Romo pulls down pants during substance check

MLB pitchers aren’t taking kindly to the league’s new foreign substance rules.

Athletics pitcher Sergio Romo seemed particularly annoyed that the umpires performed a substance check on him Tuesday night.

After working a one-run seventh inning for Oakland, the umpire beckoned for Romo to come over for the check. Romo responded to the moment by tossing his hat and glove to the ground and whipping his belt off.

MORE: Rays’ Wander Franco homers in first MLB game

Then came Romo’s final act. He pulled his pants halfway down to prove that he wasn’t harboring any illegal substances.

Romo certainly made his point, but Dan Iassogna, the umpire checking him, didn’t seem too bothered by his high jinks. In fact, the umpire flashed a smile at Romo, who the broadcast described as “heated.”

Romo wasn’t alone in being bothered by the substance check on Tuesday. Max Scherzer was checked for foreign substances three times in the first four innings of the Nationals-Phillies game and became increasingly irritable with each examination. He directed his rage at Phillies manager Joe Girardi, who was later ejected for jawing at Scherzer. The checks didn’t seem to faze the three-time Cy Young winner too much; he earned the win, pitching five innings while giving up just a run and striking out eight.

Needless to say, these antics will be fairly common as MLB attempts to implement these rule changes on the fly.

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