Barcelona rises to rival soccer's top earners

Barcelona lifted revenue 25 percent to 259 million euros over the last year, which may put the European soccer champion among the continent's top three teams in sales. Revenue surged after Barcelona, which also won the Spanish league, boosted advertising, TV rights and ticket sales, the club said on its Web site. Net income also rose for a third straight year, to 33 million euros, the club said without giving a figure for the previous year. Barcelona may rise above Manchester United, AC Milan and Juventus in the list of Europe's top-earning teams headed by Real Madrid. Ranked 13th by accountant Deloitte & Touche LLP for 2003 and sixth last year, it's the first of the five clubs to release earnings for the latest financial period. "The economic trends of the other European clubs make us think we'll be among the top three," Barcelona Vice-President Ferran Soriano told a news conference. The club "is a model of self-financing," he said. Extra unspecified costs of 46 million euros for the year included bonuses paid to its players - who include world player of the year Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi - for winning the Spanish and European titles, Soriano said. Barcelona spent 12 million euros on its June acquisition of Chelsea forward Eidur Gudjohnsen, the club said. Last week Juventus players Lilian Thuram and Gianluca Zambrotta were added for a combined fee of 19 million euros. The club paid back 23.7 million euros of a 180 million-euro loan from banks led by La Caixa that was negotiated after a record 164 million-euro loss in the 12 months to June 30, 2003. Barcelona still has 68.5 million euros of the loan to repay, the club said.