The Spanish football giant is valued at $3.3bn (£2.2bn), while Manchester United sits in second place at $3.17bn (£2.1bn).
The Forbes report says it is not that Manchester United have faltered, but more that Real Madrid are simply bigger, more profitable and growing faster.
The report attributes this to Real Madrid’s scores of sponsorships, including the world’s biggest kit deal with Adidas, which is valued at €38m (£31m) a year until 2020. This is ahead of the next biggest kit deal, Barcelona’s tie up with Nike, valued at €33m (£27m) per year.
The club’s victories on the pitch have been paramount to its financial success. As well as winning a record nine Champions League titles and 32 domestic championships, the club has attracted star players that are global brands themselves boosting its attractiveness to fans.
Daniel Krendel, account director at sports and entertainment agency Fuse, says: “Madrid have benefited from having a strong roster of globally renowned players including CristianoRonaldo and Kaka which drive revenue through merchandise and licensing. There is also the fact that their manager Jose Mourinho is one of the bankable assets in the game. These stars combined with a good run in this seasons Champions League have put Real Madrid in a very strong financial position.”
Manchester United, second on the list, has sustained its financial success by “scoring with its powerful global brand”, the report says.
Last year the club landed a record $559m (£366m) sponsorship deal with Chevrolet that will begin in the 2014-15 season and in April sold the naming rights to its training ground as part of a sponsorship deal with insurance firm Aon for an estimated $230m (£151m) over eight years.
Overall, the top 20 football teams are worth an average of $968m (£634m), an increase of 26 per cent on last year. Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barcelona now command the top three spots among all sports teams in the world, closely followed by the New York Yankees ($2.3bn) and Dallas Cowboys ($2.1bn).
The world’s most valuable football teams
Club/ Value % change year on year/ Revenue
- Real Madrid $3.3bn 76 $650m
- Manchester United $3.17bn 42 $502m
- Barcelona $2.6bn 99 $613m
- Arsenal $1.33bn 3 $368m
- Bayern Munich $1.31bn 6 $468m
- AC Milan $945m -4 $326m
- Chelsea $901m 18 $409m
- Juventus $694m 17 $248m
- Manchester City $689m 56 $362m
- Liverpool $651m 5 $296m