There’s a lot of money to be made in the world of sports. Every year we read about hundreds of millions of dollars in player transfer and purchases, stadium development and league expansions – not to mention all of the money in sports apparel and merchandise sales. Yes, from top to bottom, you could get lost in the figures concerning how much money flows through a team, league or athletic governing body. In more way than one, sports teams are businesses. They focus on a specific sector of the ‘market,’ hire an extensive and expensive staff, offer a service to a consumer, build their reputation and watch their value decrease or increase from year to year.
Over the past years, Forbes has become known for tracking the values of teams in various leagues and competitions around the world. Recently, they released their report on the most valuable soccer teams in the world. This annual report tracks the rise or decline of the biggest soccer clubs in financial terms. Figures are based on a number of variables. A team’s value is calculated by looking at stadium deals, club debts, revenue and operating income – some data used by Forbes come from financial service Deloitte. Further affecting a club’s value are sponsorship deals, including kit sponsors, television and broadcast deals, as well as competition succes, especially in the lucrative UEFA Champions League. It’s not all about having a rich sugar-daddy running the club, although you’ll see that it can’t hurt.
The following list contains 20 of the most valuable clubs in world soccer. These clubs are divided between six countries which are all within the UEFA confederation. This is not to say that the rest of the world doesn’t have valuable teams. It’s just that, currently, UEFA has the monopoly on the top 20 most valuable clubs. While it may not end the debate between fans over whose club is bigger, Forbes has provided some ammunition for fans who can gloat that their club is more valuable.
20 Napoli: $296 Million
Starting off our list is Serie A club Napoli. In contrast to last year, the Italian club have dropped from 17th position and a $330 million valuation. Over the past few seasons Napoli have improved their power on the pitch by signing notable names like Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens. They finished second in Serie A in 2012/13, won the Coppa Italia in 2014 and qualified for the 2014/15 Champions League season.
19 AS Roma: $307 Million
The second Serie A side on this list, Roma are new to Forbes’ list this season, starting off at 19th. Roma have not won a major title since the 2008 Coppa Italia. That said, there are signs that the Giallorossi are on their way up. Over the past few seasons they have been runners up in the league and Coppa Italia. This summer they have signed a number of new players such as Seydou Keita, Ashley Cole and Juan Iturbe. Additionally, the club plan on having a new $380 million stadium built by the 2016/17 season.
18 Hamburg SV: $326 Million
Moving away from Serie A, we come to Bundesliga club Hamburg. The north German team holds steady at last year’s 18th position, although valuation has increased from $300 million. Hamburg are the only club to have played in every season since the foundation of the Bundesliga in 1963. It’s been more than a couple decades since the team has won a major trophy and they finished the league in a rather poor 16th place last season. Helping to keep Hamburg on this list are a loyal fan base and a 15% increase in merchandise revenue last season.
17 Atlético de Madrid: $328 Million
This Spanish club weren’t even on the list last season, yet start out at a respectable 17th this year. Atlético are helped onto this list by their highly successful 2013/14 season. In La Liga, they beat Barcelona to claim the title on the last day of the season. In Champions League, Atlético made it to the finals only to be beaten by city rivals Real Madrid. This huge success on the pitch has elevated the club’s valuation. With a new stadium development on the horizon and another season of Champions League, Atlético’s value is set to only go up.
16 Galatasaray: $347 Million
The only Turkish side on this list, Galatasaray are one of the most successful Turkish clubs in Europe. The team made the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2012/13, were runner-up in the league and Turkish Cup winners in 2013/14. Notable names on the club roster include Felipe Melo, Wesley Sneijder and Hamit Altintop. A 52,000+ seat stadium, sponsorship deals with Turk Telecom, Nike, Microsoft and GM, and continued participation in the Champions League tournament all suggest Galatasaray’s financial future are bright.
15 Paris Saint-Germain: $415 Million
In June 2011, Qatar Sports Investment gained a controlling stake in this Ligue 1 club which saw revenue quadruple almost immediately. Marketing of the club’s brand increased dramatically, perhaps best seen with the signing of David Beckham in the second half of the 2012/13 season. Emirates and Nike are the shirt and kit sponsors while the Qatar Tourism Authority gives the club over $200 million a year. This money has brought/bought success with PSG winning the league for the past two seasons and the league cup last season.
14 Inter Milan: $483 Million
Holding at 14th position and up from $401 million last year are Serie A side Inter Milan. The last few seasons have been trying for the Nerazzurri and the fans. Since the 2010/11 Coppa Italia, the Italian giants have not won any trophies and have been ousted from Champions League because of poor league finishes. Helping to stabilize the team’s position on this list is the 2013 $473 million controlling stake purchase by Indonesian businessman Erik Thohir. For now, broadcasting revenue, as well as sponsorship deals with Nike and Pirelli, help to hold Inter’s valuation, but without Champions League football, the question becomes, for how long?
13 Tottenham Hotspur: $514 Million
This London club has dropped from 11th position and $520 million on last year’s list. Nevertheless, Tottenham continue to hold their ground in the middle of the pack without Champions League football and the 'limited' seating capacity of their stadium, White Hart Lane. Plans are moving ahead for a new 55,000+ seat stadium. In the meantime, dual shirt sponsorship deals and a lucrative television deal with the Premier League help to keep Spurs in the chase for a top 10 position.
12 Schalke 04: $580 Million
In comparison to last year, Budesliga side Schalke hold their 12th position and see a healthy increase in valuation, up from $498 million. The Gelsenkirchen-based club have spent all but five seasons in Germany’s top flight. Recently, they were semi-finalists in the 2011 Champions League and winner of the 2011 German Cup. Ranked as the third biggest sports club in Germany, having a 61,000+ seat stadium and recently agreeing a pouring rights deal with Coca-Cola, Schalke’s valuation looks set to, at a minimum, hold over the coming the years.
11 Borussia Dortmund: $600 Million
Another German club, Borussia Dortmund, climb the valuation table this season up from 13th place and a value of $456 million. Last year’s runners-up in the Bundesliga, Dortmund have developed into a European power over the last few seasons. Twice winners and runners-up over the last four seasons in the Bundesliga, Dortmund have also gone as far as the 2012/13 Champions League finals, where they lost to league rival Bayern Munich. Strong sponsorship and broadcasting deals give the club further financial muscle as they look to enjoy an extended run among the European elite.
10 Liverpool: $691 Million
Breaking into the top 10 are Premier League outfit Liverpool. Despite missing out on Champions League for the past several seasons and experiencing little domestic Cup success, the Reds carry over their 10th place on this list from last year and see their valuation rise from $651 million. Planned stadium redevelopment and re-entry into the Champions League suggest things are on the up for the Merseyside club. It also doesn’t hurt that commercially they are one of the most successful world brands – something which attracts sponsorship like bees to honey.
9 Juventus: $850 Million
Back to Serie A we find Juventus have dropped one spot from last year’s 8th position but increased in value from $694 million. The Turin-based club have won the Serie A title for the last three years running and progressed as far as the quarter-finals in the 2012/13 Champions League – an accomplishment which netted $85 million. Helping to boost the team’s value over time is their new 41,000+ seat stadium, opened in 2011. New media and training centres, as well as kit and shirt sponsorship deals means Juventus is likely to stay on this list for some time.
8 AC Milan: $856 Million
The highest ranked Italian team on Forbes’ list, this year sees AC Milan drop from last year’s 6th place and $945 million valuation. Since their last major successes in 2010/11 season, Milan’s performances have dropped off leading to a dismal 8th place finish in Serie A last season. Club income will suffer from lack of Champions League football this year and the issue of stadium ownership remains a problem. Club President Silvio Berlusconi is working on getting funds to build a new stadium which Milan will own – as opposed to leasing the San Siro. If this occurs, expect Milan’s valuation to increase.
7 Manchester City: $863 Million
2014 Premier League Champions Manchester City have ascended the valuation list, up from 9th place and a valuation on $689 million last year. Since the 2008/09 season when Sheikh Mansour took over the club, City’s yearly revenue has tripled. An expanding global brand, a new-80 acre training complex, a host of lucrative sponsorship deals and participation in the Champions League have all helped the climb. City has proved the adage that you need to spend money to make money. It looks likely this club and its value will only go up from here.
6 Chelsea: $868 Million
Another Premier League club to benefit from a billionaire owner, London-based Chelsea have seen their club rise up the power ranks over the last decade. They also climb one spot over last year’s position, albeit dropping in valuation from $901 million. The Blues have enjoyed a run of Champions League participation, although revenue took a noticeable revenue hit during the 2013/14 Europa League season. Perhaps one of the biggest things hampering this club from increasing its value is the inability to move forward on increasing stadium capacity by either developing Stamford Bridge or building a new stadium altogether.
5 Arsenal: $1.33 Billion
Yet another Premier League club in the top 10, Arsenal have dropped off one place on this year’s list despite a value increase from $1.326 billion. Last year, Arsenal finished 4th in the Premier League meaning they have to play a qualifying round before potentially qualifying for a 17th consecutive year in the Champions League. Boosting the Gunners’ value is a string of sponsorship deals, a well-developed world brand and a 60,000+ seat stadium built in 2006. Recent domestic success opens the possibility for further growth for next year’s list.
4 Bayern Munich: $1.85 Billion
The giants of Germany. Bundesliga champs Bayern Munich have always been a force domestically and in Europe. Champions League success in 2012/13 boosted the brand name greatly by swelling the ranks of club membership and attracting new sponsorship deals from the likes of Coca-Cola and Lufthansa. Domestically, Bayern attracted an average home attendance of 71,000 which has watched them dominate the league and cups – winning both the Bundesliga and DFB Cup in the previous two seasons.
3 Manchester United: $2.81 Billion
The highest ranked English club on this list, Manchester United are the giants of the Premier League. That said, compared to last season, the club has fallen a spot on Forbes’ list and dropped in value from $3.165 billion. A poor 2013/14 season saw the club, its brand and stock values take a hit across the board. Stocks are heading back up but lack of Champions League this season is estimated to cost the club in the region of $84 million. The sting of this loss is no doubt offset by the massive sponsorship deal agreed with GM and the kit deal agreed with Adidas.
2 Barcelona: $3.2 Billion
Breaking the $3 billion-barrier we find Catalan giants Barcelona FC. The biggest climbers on this list in terms of value, Barca have gone up one position and increased their value by $600 million, according to Forbes. The La Liga side are a world recognized brand with their players appearing in ads everywhere you look. Even the Neymar transfer scandal and a relatively unproductive 2013/14 season can’t dampen this club’s value – in fact, the Neymar transfer, for all its problems actually boosted commercial success for the club this past year. Sponsorship deals with Qatar Airways and Intel, along with a stadium expansion to 105,000 seats all suggest Barcelona are going to stay near the top of this list in the future.
1 Real Madrid: $3.44 Billion
Topping off Forbes’ list of most valuable teams this year are the 2013/14 Champions League winners Real Madrid. The club remains at the top from last year and increased its value from $3.3 billion. Thanks to tough economic times in Spain, match attendance has been down slightly in the past few years. This has been compensated for by increases in commercial and broadcast revenue as well as a highly developed world brand. The club’s participation in the Champions League is a big financial boost, made even better by the recent performances. It also helps that the club own their own 81,000 seat stadium and hold a number of lucrative sponsorship deals with the likes of Adidas, Emirates, Audi and Coca-Cola.