The top 20 richest football clubs of Europe

25 April 2017 7 min. read
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After a 12-year absence from the top spot, Premier League title hopefuls Manchester United have finally returned to the number one spot of another league table. The Red Devils, who were joined by four other English teams in the top ten, clinched poll position as the richest football club in the world, taking the lead from Real Madrid in Deloitte’s latest Football Money League analysis.

The English Premier League is celebrating its 25th anniversary this season, following a quarter century of the sporting institution – however Big Four firm Deloitte is currently enjoying a footballing milestone of its own, having launched the 20th edition of the consultancy’s Deloitte Football Money League (DFML) report. The analysis documents and compares which of the beautiful game’s most renowned football clubs are the most profitable in the world’s most popular sport.

The data was derived from audited financial statements or reported by the individual football clubs. The financial players off the field have remained dominated by European clubs this year, with England holding eight positions in the top 20 followed by four Italian clubs, three Spanish, two Russian, two German and one French. The order continues to shift, yet the top three clubs have remained the same since the beginning of Deloitte’s study in 1997. DFML club revenues have witnessed an overall 12% increase in 2017, totalling to £5.5 billion across the top 20 teams.

Since 2003, Manchester United have continuously held their place at soccer’s top table, as both throughout the on-pitch success of the Sir Alex Ferguson era, and the faltering transition period that followed his surprise retirement in 2013, United have experienced substantial growth. Even though the team did not qualify for the UEFA Champions League in 2016-2017, the team still brought in record income, and Deloitte attributes this to huge success in the commercial aspects of the game, which brought in 53% of its revenue with £272.1 million in 2016. In Spring of 2017, Deloitte had published a report warning that Premier League clubs were to make their first collective loss in five seasons, following a summer of record spending that saw the likes of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrive at Old Trafford, the former becoming a world record transfer, for a hefty £93.2 million price tag. Bringing top names to the team ultimately seems to have paid for itself however.

The top 20 richest football clubs of Europe (2014/15 revenue in € / million)

Earlier in the year, the team was also named the most valuable in Europe by fellow Big Four consultancy KPMG. The club has maintained its standing globally too, presently valued at £2.86 billion, despite a disappointing domestic campaign which saw United finish fifth in the footballing league table last campaign. The club has also generated the most revenues on the list on match days, with £102.8 million coming from ticket sales, making up 20% of its total revenue. The club saw the greatest shift in fortunes over the season in this respect, with £395.2 million paid to watch the team of 2015 rocketing to £515.3 million in 2016.

United were joined in the top ten by their infamously “noisy neighbours” Manchester City – with the blue half of the city having invested in the development of their club heavily in recent years. Founded in 1880, the club was purchased by Abu Dhabi United Group Investment and Development Limited, with the UAE based company paid a sum of £200 million for the club in 2009. Manchester City ranked fifth on the DFML, which considering they were languishing in English football’s third tier as recently as 1999, is a remarkable transformation. The Citizens now boast a revenue of £392.6 million, and a league attendance rise of 19% increase to £52.5 million.

Another British football club ranked in seventh place, with Arsenal bringing in £350.4 million in revenue last year. Whether the club weathers the storm of missing out on the Champions League for the first time in 20 years remains to be seen however, with UEFA competition money and attendance fees playing a huge role in the Gunners’ fortunes last season. Russian oligarch-owned Chelsea may boast substantial war-chests during transfer season, however they took eighth place in DFML, with a revenue of 334.6 million. The Blues first rose to prominence when they won the English league championship in 1955, going on to amass a further 21 trophies by 2017, including both the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.

The formerly dominant footballing institution of Liverpool placed as the ninth richest team according to the DFML. With £302 million, the club witnessed a small increase in revenue in 2016, over the course of a season that saw the Reds return to the Champions League. However, the Main Stand at Anfield operated at a reduced capacity due to construction, limiting further income.

European elite

Despite sustained dominance by English teams in the list, the usual European superpowers were also present. Catalan giants Barcelona brought home an impressive £463.8 million thanks to recent rise in league match attendances, as well as commercial partner contracts. The club also outlet their famous Camp Nou stadium for concerts and the final of the Top 14 Rugby tournament. Barça still remains number one in a number of areas, having gained the most support on social media websites with its 44.1 million Instagram followers and 19.5 million twitter followers. Despite becoming the first club to win the Champions League back to back in its current format meanwhile, Barcelona’s chief rivals Real Madrid have now dropped down two places after 11 consecutive years of appearing at the top of the DFML. Even a 7% increase in revenue could not stop their fall, along with Real Madrid successful preseason tours in the lucrative Chinese and Australian markets.

The top 20 richest football clubs of Europe (2015/16 revenue in € / million)

German heavyweights Bayern Munich brought home an impressive £442.7 million, with a 25% growth in revenue last year. While the Bundesliga, where Bayern ply their trade, remains the best league in the world for average attendances, the rise in revenue for Bayern was chiefly attributed to increased distributions in international broadcasting contracts agreed upon by the league, with a new deal enriched by commercial partners keen to engage with stay-at-home fans. The Bavarian club plays is the most successful German club in history, with 27 national league wins, and 18 national cups under its belt.

Consistent with their continental counterparts, Paris-Saint Germain witnessed an 8% rise in revenue last year, however this was not enough to secure them a place in the top five for the first time since 2012. The club, who in the summer shattered the world transfer record with its earth-shaking £198 million move for Brazillian star Neymar Junior, saw success in terms of UEFA financial distribution, higher priced ticket sales and growth in the expansion of their Corporate Hospitality facilities at the Parc des Princes, which now stands at 4,400 hospitality seats.

Italian league champions, and defeated Champions League finalists Juventus, was meanwhile the highest earning club in Italy, and 10th in the world. Juventus, also known affectionately as the Old Lady of Italian soccer, is a Turin-based club, founded in 1897. The club experienced some reductions in match day and broadcast revenue in 2017, despite major sponsorship boosts from Adidas and Jeep.