Manchester City's wage bill has surged by more than 52 per cent in a year from £54.22m to £82.63m. The figures are included in the club's full annual report – available yesterday at Companies House – but were excluded from the data presented to fans and the media when the club's financial results for the year to May 2009 were published on their website on 6 January.
A £28m year-on-year leap in pay is significant because of what it confirms about the future. City are on course to be among the best-paid football teams in the world.
The £82.6m covered a 12-month period before the signings of eight new ''star'' players, headed by Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor, and also including Gareth Barry, Roque Santa Cruz, Kolo Touré, Sylvinho, Joleon Lescott and Patrick Vieira.
Some of those players have been handed contracts reportedly worth as much as £160,000 per week, or £8.32m per year. If all eight were paid that much, it would add some £66m to next year's wage bill. That won't happen because not all those players will be being paid anywhere near that amount.
It is impossible without full disclosure from a club or player to know how accurate such individual wage estimates are, but even if a truer average for the new players is closer to £100,000 per week each (£5.2m a year), which is feasible, then City's overall wage bill could take another upward hike of around £40m when figures for the current season become available this time next year.
When the cost of Mark Hughes' sacking plus the hiring of Roberto Mancini are also factored in, a total club wage bill of £125m-plus in a year's time is likely. This will see City leapfrog most if not all the other clubs in the Premier League in wages. Certainly they should overtake Arsenal (£104m wage bill in 2008-09) and Liverpool (£90m in 2007-08, the latest figures available).
Chelsea and Manchester United are the only other clubs who will realistically be in City's £125m-plus total wage bracket for 2009-10. Manchester United's total staff costs for 2008-09, for example, were £123.1m, with football staff costs – wages for players, manager, coaches, academy and direct footballing employees – somewhere just over the £100m mark. Chelsea's total club wage bill for 2008-09 has yet to be disclosed, but was around £140m in 2007-08 after ''exceptional'' items including compensation for sacked managers was taken out.
City said on 6 January that "substantial investment" by Sheikh Mansour during the 2008-09 season "has had a significant impact on this year's financial results. This investment is also forecast to similarly impact the financial results of the next several years."
City also acknowledged that a hike in operating costs to £121.2m – against income of £87m, which helped lead to losses of £92.6m – had been ''primarily driven by increased playing staff costs''. But it did not detail those costs, now revealed.
Manchester City's big-spending policy on wages will catapult them up among the highest-paid football teams in the world. For now, Mancini's focus is firmly on today's 5.30pm Premier League match at Everton, where his side go in search of a fifth win in five since the Italian took over.
They will do so without Vieira, who may play in next weekend's FA Cup game against Scunthorpe, and Emmanuel Adebayor, who is still recovering from the attack on Togo's bus at the Africa Cup of Nations. ''It is possible that Adebayor will come back next week, maybe 10 days,'' said the Italian.
''When he is ready he will come I don't speak with him. I try but I think this moment is a difficult one for him. I understand that when he is ready he will come back to Manchester.''
If City keep winning, of course, there will be talk of the title. It is a suggestion that Mancini is keen to downplay – for the moment. ''I said last game it's important now that we must play very well and improve game after game, then look at the table in two months,'' he said. ''Now there are six or seven teams who can arrive in the top four. It's a long way away, 18 games for us.
''There are now three teams that can win the Premier League: Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, but football is strange. It can change. It depends on the other teams behind them. In a month or so it could be more teams involved.''
Paying the price: City's rising costs
*£54.22m: City's wage bill 2007-08
*£82.63m: City's wage bill 2008-09
*52 per cent rise, year on year
*Players since added to payroll: Tevez, Adebayor, Barry, Santa Cruz, Toure, Sylvinho, Lescott, Vieira.
*Manager paid off: Hughes.
*Manager added: Mancini.
*£125m-plus: Man City's forecast wage bill 2009-10