Mighty Madrid dominate semis

Ten Real Madrid players will pull on the shirts of Spain, Portugal and Germany in this week's Euro 2012 semi-finals, the latest reminder of the clout wielded by the world's richest club by income.

Cristiano Ronaldo, the world's most expensive player at £80 million, will lead Portugal's Pepe and Fabio Coentrao out against their Madrid team-mates representing Spain in Donetsk on Wednesday, before Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira line up for Germany against Italy in Warsaw on Thursday.

Iker Casillas, Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol and Xabi Alonso are all in the Spain squad alongside Victor Valdes, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas and Pedro from Barcelona.

Real's economic might, and that of great domestic rivals Barcelona, the world's second richest club, mainly derives from their stranglehold over revenue from La Liga television rights.

Their whopping TV deals, negotiated individually, allow them to buy and pay the best players and compete with European rivals like the Manchester clubs, United and City, Chelsea and Bayern Munich, while their Spanish peers are left trailing far behind.

Real and Barca gobbled up roughly half the 640 million euros Spanish clubs earned from TV rights in the 2010-11 season, according to a study published in April by University of Barcelona accounting professor Jose Maria Gay.

Barca's 163m and Real's 156m dwarf the 42m earned by Valencia, who finished a distant third behind champions Real and second-placed Barca in La Liga last season.

The top two in England, United and City, earned about half as much from TV rights as Real and Barca last season but the gap may close altogether depending on the size of overseas rights deals and whether Spain's dominant pair can be persuaded to adopt an English-style bargaining system.

However, Angel Barajas, associate professor of financial management at the University of Vigo, said such a change to the Spanish set up was even less likely after the new Premier League deal with English clubs which was worth over £3 billion.

"Madrid and Barca will still be able to compete for this talent as their TV contracts guarantee them large amounts of revenue," Barajas told Reuters.

"But they will want to hold on to individually negotiated deals as this will allow them to stay at the same level as the richest clubs in the Premier League.

"Perhaps the imbalances in the Spanish league will become even greater."

At present it is a huge gulf. Indeed, such are the riches at Madrid's disposal you can create a first XI based on their players who are taking part in the semi-finals at Euro 2012 - well, if you cheat and allow quarter-finalist Karim Benzema to sneak in anyway...