Manchester United have been named the world’s richest club after they ended Real Madrid’s 11-year stranglehold on top spot in Deloitte’s Football Money League.
United’s 2015-16 revenues of €689.0m (£515.3) – an all-time record for a football team – lifted them ahead of both Real and Barcelona for the first time since 2003-04.
Neighbours Manchester City climbed to a new high of fifth in the annual list – published today – while Leicester City gatecrashed the global top 20 for the first time following their historic Premier League title win.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United also ranked among the leading clubs last season, giving England twice as many representatives as any other country.
United, who flexed their financial muscle by signing midfielder Paul Pogba for a world record fee of £89m in the summer, comfortably overtook Real and Barca despite the Spanish teams also enjoying growth.
Commercial strength elevates United
The Old Trafford club’s renowned commercial income swelled with the start of a new £75m-a-year kit deal with Adidas, while they also benefited from a return to the lucrative Champions League.
Their No1 spot is under threat from Real and Barca in next year’s list, however, despite the Premier League’s new £8.3bn television contracts guaranteeing a boost to broadcast revenues this season.
That lift is mitigated by United’s absence from the Champions League this term, Real and Barca’s pursuit of bigger commercial contracts and the falling value of sterling against the euro.
“We’re thinking it’s going to be a real tight-run thing between United, Real Madrid and Barcelona,” Dan Jones of Deloitte’s Sports Business Group told City A.M.
“There are three or four factors at work. One is domestic TV, where United will gain from the Premier League TV deals but Spain are doing good things as well.
“You’ve got Champions League performance, which is hugely important. Then you’ve got the commercial side, and that has been the real engine of growth for United over the last few years.
"They’ve done a tremendous job, but teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid are now out in the market and saying to sponsors ‘if United are worth that, we’re worth that’.
“I do think it’s going to be very close. The final factor that’s beyond Manchester United’s control is what happens with the exchange rate.”
Manchester City’s run to the Champions League semi-finals saw them grow revenue to €524.9m (£392.6m), overtake Paris Saint-Germain and give England a second club in the top five for the first time since 2011-12.
Leicester’s title triumph contributed to a 25 per cent increase in income to €172.1m (£128.7m), placing them just behind Italian giants Inter Milan.
All 20 clubs in the list increased revenues, which collectively reached a new high of €7.4bn.