Bang-for-buck ranking: Which European teams spend smartest?

Soccer is the fairest sport of all -- in theory.

Major League Baseball involves a 162-game regular season, but then the winner gets crowned via a postseason that requires the champions to play, at most, 22 games. In the NBA, there are 82 games in the regular season -- then a maximum of 28 playoff games to win it all. And in the NFL, you get 17 games in the regular season and as many as four to lift the Super Bowl trophy.

None of those structures is really suited to identify the best team -- rather, just one of the best. Playoff champions are frequently decided by a combination of on-field luck, mistimed injuries and favorable scheduling.

In soccer, though, every game is a playoff game and every team plays the exact same schedule. We add up the points at the end of it all: if you have the most points, you win, and if you have the fewest, you get relegated. It's as meritocratic as it gets.

Well, it should be. But it's not. Unlike the other sports, which have financial regulations designed to save the owners money -- er, sorry, designed to keep everyone's spending at similar levels and promote league-wide parity -- soccer doesn't have that.

Per Deloitte's most recent accounting, Real Madrid brought in more revenue -- €831.4 million -- than any other club in the world. In Spain, Barcelona weren't far behind at €800.1 million, but then you drop all the way down to €364.1 million for Atletico Madrid in third and €214.3 million for Sevilla in fourth. Big clubs have the ability to spend multitudes more than their smaller competition -- it just isn't a fair fight.

So, today, we're going to come up with a way to estimate which teams are getting the most, and the least, out of how they spend their money. We're looking at all 96 teams across Europe's "Big Five" top leagues and ranking them by how much they're over- or underperforming the money they've spent on their own squad.

With this 96-team ranking, let's separate the clubs getting the most value out of their payroll spending from those basically shooting wads of cash at their roster like one of those T-shirt guns.