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Super-rich footballers are working harder

Premier League footballers may have never been so well paid, but research shows they are working harder than ever.

Analysis has shown substantial improvement in pass completion, number of explosive runs and sprinting speed.

The findings show that the Premier League is getting even faster and physically demanding for players who must combine being ultra-fit athletes as well as highly-skilled footballers.

The study by Sunderland University and Chris Barnes, head of sports science at West Brom, appears in the International Journal of Sports Medicine and is the largest of its kind.

It analysed 1,000 individual performances in the Premier League, covering the seven years between 2006/07 - when Manchester United won the league and Cristiano Ronaldo (inset) was voted best player - and 2012/13.

The findings reflected the increased emphasis on ball retention and short passing, with teams trying to emulate Barcelona's tika-taka style.