Soccer Players Buy Picassos as Premier League Salaries Surge

Premier League soccer players are investing rising incomes on everything from Picasso paintings to real estate in London’s most exclusive neighborhoods.

The average annual salary in the sport’s richest league was

1.6 million pounds ($2.7 million) in the 2012-13 season as payrolls rose 8 percent, backed by more sponsorship and match-day income, and as wealthy foreign owners handed out interest-free “soft loans” to clubs, according to Deloitte LLP’s Annual Review of Football Finance published today.

The league’s rising payrolls, which increased to a record 71 percent of total revenue according to Deloitte, are helping attract more talent from around the world. Some players are investing in buy-to-let properties in London’s Chelsea and Mayfair districts and “quite a few” are spending on art, according to Lee Dixon, a former Arsenal defender who is a match analyst for broadcaster ITV.

“They have so much expendable income they can do what they want to a certain extent,” Dixon said in a recent interview. “I know of English players who have invested in Picasso paintings and sculptures.”

The pay in the Premier League is luring more foreign talent, Deloitte said. More than 100 of the league’s players were named in provisional squads for the World Cup, which starts June 12 in Sao Paulo, Deloitte said. They include the likes of Manchester City’s Yaya Toure and David Silva, Mesut Ozil of Arsenal and Luis Suarez of Liverpool.

City’s Wage Bill

Stricter licensing controls kept payrolls in Germany’s Bundesliga at 51 percent of revenue, while in Spain’s La Liga they dropped to 56 percent of income -- the lowest level since the 1999-2000 season, Deloitte said. Spain is emerging from a six-year economic slump.

Manchester City, runner-up to Manchester United the season before last, paid out 233 million pounds in wages that campaign compared with 45 million for the lowest payroll spender, Wigan, which finished 18th and was demoted to the second division. The top seven-ranked teams had a payroll above the average of 89 million pounds.

Dixon, 50, said his investment portfolio when he was at Stoke City in the 1980s was “pension, pension, pension” although later in his career he expanded it to include French wine. More recently, he invested in social gaming company We R Interactive Ltd., whose “I Am Playr” mimics the life of a Premier League footballer.

He has bought some 1,000 pound-bottles of Bordeaux from 2000 which have made an average annual return of as much as 50 percent, he said. If the price of wine tails off, “you can always open it and have a nice glass with your pasta,” Dixon said.

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