No soccer team has done as good a job as Manchester United at turning a storied history of success on the pitch into profits.
The Red Devils have won a record 13 titles in the Premier League since the top flight of English soccer was given that name in 1992. During that time Manchester United has also made it to four Champions League finals, winning in 1999 and 2008.
Ashley Young, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind and Chris Smalling of Manchester United take selfies with the trophy after the UEFA Europa League Final between Ajax and Manchester United at Friends Arena on May 24 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
And now for the first time in five years, Manchester United is the world’s most valuable soccer team, worth $3.69 billion. The team’s return to the top spot is a testament to their powerful brand and marketing acumen. Manchester United generated revenue of $765 million during the 2015-16 season, $77 million more than both Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Manchester United brought in $405 million in advertising and sponsorship revenue, more than any other soccer team. And the Red Devils are also by far the most profitable soccer team in the world, posting operating income of $288 million, $107 million more than runner-up Real Madrid. It will not be easy to overtake the Red Devils in the near future: By winning the Europa League this year, Manchester United qualified for the lucrative 2017-18 Champions League.
The world’s most valuable soccer teams are big businesses because of the popularity of their brands and the sport’s unparalleled global audience. The 20 most valuable soccer teams this year are worth an average of $1.48 billion, 3% more than a year ago. Following Manchester United in value are Barcelona ($3.64 billion), Real Madrid ($3.58 billion), Bayern Munich ($2.71 billion) and Manchester City ($2.08 billion).
All revenues and operating income figures in our table are for the 2015-16 season, converted into U.S. dollars based on average exchange rates for the same period. Team values are enterprise values (equity plus net debt) and are based on exchange rates as of April 24. Operating income is earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, player trading and disposal of player registrations. Debt includes stadium debt recourse to the team. Most revenue figures are from Deloitte’s Money League report.
The U.S. dollar rose in value relative to the euro during the past year. As a result, while not a single team declined in value year-over-year when measured in euros, nine of the 20 teams decreased in value when priced in U.S. dollars. Measured in euros, the average team value went up 7% during the past year, to 1.37 billion euros.
England dominates our list with seven teams due to the Premier League having the biggest domestic and international television deals. Big thanks to my colleague, Bobby McMahon, for putting together the table below (term represents the end of season for deals). One-fourth of the distribution of the Premier League’s television money is based on pitch performance.
Per-Season Broadcasting Rights (Millions)
League Domestic International Total Term
$2,340 $2,210 $4,550 2017/19
*2017/20 * International rights 2018/24
Another important driver of revenue are shirt and kit sponsorships. Take a look at the table below, courtesy of my colleague Chris Smith. His figures include all signed deals as of June 1 for gameday jersey and kit sponsorships, and naming rights for stadium and training grounds.
Soccer’s Most Valuable Sponsorships
Rank Team (Mil)Annual average
1 Barcelona $233
2 Real Madrid $216
3 Manchester United $214
4 Chelsea $148
5 Bayern Munich $109
6 Arsenal $89
7 Liverpool $82
8 Manchester City $77
9 Tottenham Hotspur $74
10 Juventus $52
The icing on the cake is the Champions League, the richest annual sports event in the world. The Swiss Ramble compiled a table of the top Champions League earners over the past five years, which I show below. For the 2016-17 Champions League, winner Real Madrid will receive $91 million, while runner-up Juventus will earn $117 million. The Spanish team became the first team ever to repeat as Champions League winner by humbling its Italian rival, 4-1.
Top Champions League Earners 2015-16
Rank Team/Country Amount (Mil)
1 Manchester City/England $93
2 Real Madrid /Spain $89
3 Juventus/Italy $85
4 Paris Saint-Germain/France $85
5 Atletico Madrid/Spain $77
6 Chelsea/England $77
7 AS Roma/Italy $76
8 Bayern Munich/Germany $71
9 Barcelona/Spain $63
10 Arsenal/England $591
Top Champions League Earners Past Five Seasons Through 2015-16
Rank Team/Country Amount (Mil)
1 Juventus/Italy $312
2 Real Madrid/Spain $307
3 Bayern Munich/Germany $284
4 Chelsea/England $281
5 Barcelona/Spain $273
6 Paris Saint-Germain/France $253
7 Manchester City/England $246
8 Atletico Madrid/Spain $199
9 Arsenal/England $196
10 Borussia Dortmund/Germany $180
With top-flight soccer awash in money, it is not surprising that eight of the top 20 most valuable teams are owned by billionaires. In addition, Inter Milan is owned by Suning, of which 48% is owned by billionaire Zhang Jindong. And Schalke 04 (Clemens Toennies) and Real Madrid (Florentino Perez) have presidents who are billionaires.
Rank Billionaire Soccer Owners Net Worth (Bil) Team
1 Alisher Usmanov $15.2 Arsenal
2 Roman Abramovich $9.1 Chelsea
3 E. Stanley Kroenke $7.5 Arsenal
4 Joseph Lewis $5.7 Tottenham Hotspur
5 Glazer family $4.5 Manchester United
6 Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha $4.2 Leicester City
7 Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan $4.0+ Manchester City
8 John Henry $2.5 Liverpool
9 Agnelli family $1.0+ Juventus
How are the best soccer players making out? Let’s just put it this way (or, more precisely, the way my colleague Christina Settimi, recently put it): “Their paychecks are in a class all their own.” Settimi reports that for the fourth straight year, Real Madrid’s Ronaldo is the world’s highest-paid soccer player. The $93 million he banked in the last year also bests the earnings of every active professional athlete worldwide. You can see her ranking of the highest-earning soccer players here.
If you want to know what it all means–that is, how this soccer scorecard plays into the global ecosystem of sports agents, brands, teams and players, check out our SportsMoney Index. As the video below explains, it’s the only thing like it in the world.