The Madrid club, which owns the world’s most marketable footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, is valued at $3.44bn (£2bn), a slight increase on the $3.3bn (£1.93bn) that secured the top spot last year. It back’s the club’s decision to make Gareth Bale the most expensive signing in football history with the club banking on his ability to shift sales and enhance its image worldwide to justify the £85m fee.
Real were followed by La Liga rivals Barcelona, who despite enduring a trophyless season, are valued at $3.2bn (£1.87bn), leapfrogging United ($2.81bn) to take second place. The Premier League club has dropped two places in as many years as its on the pitch performances last season, which have been paramount to its financial success, saw it fail to qualify for European football’s top competition for the first time in 18 years.
United will be hoping it slips no further down the list after signing a £750m 10-year deal with Adidas to secure the world’s biggest kit tie-up. Sponsorship experts have questioned the club’s ability to maximise its value in the eyes of sponsors in the absence of European football and said it would need to shake-up commercial activty with new revenue streams and brand partners to pull through.
Bayern Munich, valued at $1.85bn (£1.08bn), were the only other football team to rank in the top 10 tams as the club’s strong domestic season and last year’s arrival of high-profile manager Josep “Pep” Guardiola boosted interest in the brand.
Nigel Currie, director of sports marketing and sponsorship at BrandRapport, says: ”The fact that three European football teams tops the list shows the global strength of football and how the top European clubs are better placed to take advantage of key global markets. American sports teams which used to be more dominant in the list are not able to keep up with the power of football.
”The recent World Cup and other events such as the Champions League put football regularly in the global spotlight. US based sports such as American Football, Baseball and basketball don’t have equivalent events. Of course the US is a huge market but once you have reached a certain level of growth the only way to continue growing is to look to new markets. Even Manchester United who by their standards had a poor year on the pitch have continued to announce major new commercial partnership with the likes of Adidas and international food brand Nissin.”
Forbes calculated the value of the teams based on equity, debt and stadium deals and the average value of the top 50 teams, which is $1.34bn (£782m), an 8% increase on last year.