Soccer club values are up 30% on average in the past two years, as investors eye untapped potential in the sport’s global appeal.

Move over, Madrid. Spain has a new No. 1.

Barcelona tops the Forbes list of the world’s 20 most valuable soccer teams for the first time, knocking Real Madrid to No. 2. Barcelona is valued at $4.76 billion, just nudging out Real Madrid’s $4.75 billion. The top spot has been monopolized by two teams for the previous 16 years, with Real Madrid taking it five times and England’s Manchester United 11 times.

Barcelona’s rise comes as the club has been caught in a public fight with superstar Lionel Messi, the world’s highest-paid player, who threatened to leave last year before the final season under his contract. The months-long cliffhanger ended with Messi staying put and the team’s president resigning.

The world’s 20 most valuable soccer teams are worth an average of $2.28 billion apiece, an increase of 30% from two years ago, the last time we published the ranking. The jump comes despite a decline in revenue caused by limited attendance during the pandemic, with buyers focused on what they see as still untapped revenue potential in the sport’s massive global following.

Average revenue for the 20 teams was $441 million for the 2019-20 season, down 9.6% from 2017-18, while average operating income fell by 56% over the period to $33.8 million. The pain is far from over, with a worsening decline in match-day revenue during the current season, as most of the teams in Europe’s top leagues still permit few fans to attend games.

Still, investors continue to pay the same kind of rich multiples for top-tier soccer teams that they offer NFL, NBA and big-market MLB franchises. RedBird Capital recently acquired a minority stake in Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Premier League’s Liverpool, that valued the club at more than $4 billion, roughly 6.4 times revenue, about the same multiple Steve Cohen paid for the New York Mets last year when he bought the MLB franchise for $2.42 billion. The NBA’s Utah Jazz also changed hands for $1.66 billion in December, or six times pre-pandemic revenue. The deal pushed up Liverpool’s value 88% since our last valuation.

The club, which lands at No. 5 on this year’s list at $4.1 billion, has 84 million combined followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and is the world’s 12th most valuable sports team. Barcelona, fourth in the world, and Madrid, fifth, have more than 260 million social media followers each. The NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, the world’s most valuable sports franchise at $5.7 billion, has less than 16 million social media followers.

Those massive followings pay off. Manchester, with almost 140 million followers, recently replaced shirt sponsor Chevrolet with TeamViewer, a German software company. The deal begins in the upcoming 2021-22 season and will pay Manchester an average of $64.9 million over five years. While that’s less than the amount paid by the carmaker, it includes fewer commercial rights, which means Manchester can seek another automotive sponsor and match — or even exceed – the original deal with Chevrolet. Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, home to soccer’s No. 2 earner Ronaldo, all have shirt deals expiring within the next few years.  

SOCCER’s TOP SHIRT SPONSORSHIP DEALS


Merchandise is another juicy draw for investors. Last summer, Paris Saint-Germain and sports merchandising powerhouse Fanatics announced an e-commerce, manufacturing and licensing deal that a person familiar with the agreement said could triple the French club’s e-commerce business to almost $40 million by 2023. The club could collect about $60 million annually by the midpoint of the 10-year deal.

Real Madrid remains the king in global soccer when it comes to commercial revenue, pulling in $424 million during 2019-20 from advertising, sponsorships, shirt and kit deals, a rise of 55% from five years ago, including soccer’s most valuable shirt deal ($82.5 million per year), and richest kit deal ($152 million a year), through ties with Adidas that run through 2030. Barcelona, which had commercial revenue of $377 million, nudged ahead of Madrid thanks to its $275 million of broadcast revenue, the highest of any soccer team.

See the full ranking below and click here for historical values and financial information on every team.

#1. Barcelona


Barcelona, Spain


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Club members


Value: $4.76 billion


Two-Year Change: +18%


Revenue (2020): $792 million


Operating Income (2020): $62.2 million


Debt Value: 6%

#2. Real Madrid


Madrid, Spain


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Club members


Value: $4.75 billion


Two-Year Change: 12%


Revenue (2020): $792 million


Operating Income (2020): $92 million


Debt Value: 6%

#3. Bayern Munich


Munich, Germany


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Club members


Value: $4.215 billion


Two-Year Change: 39%


Revenue (2020): $703 million


Operating Income (2020): $49.2 million


Debt Value: 0%

#4. Manchester United


Manchester, England


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Glazer family


Value: $4.2 billion


Two-Year Change: 10%


Revenue (2020): $643 million


Operating Income (2020): $166.6 million


Debt Value: 16%

#5. Liverpool


Liverpool, England


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: John Henry, Tom Werner


Value: $4.1 billion


Two-Year Change: 88%


Revenue (2020): $619 million


Operating Income (2020): $61.9 million


Debt Value: 2%

#6. Manchester City


Manchester, England


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan


Value: $4 billion


Two-Year Change: 49%


Revenue (2020): $609 million


Operating Income (2020): -$2 million


Debt Value: 0%

#7. Chelsea


London, England


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Roman Abramovich


Value: $3.2 billion


Two-Year Change: 24%


Revenue (2020): $520 million


Operating Income (2020): $34.7 million


Debt Value: 0%

#8. Arsenal


London, England


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: E. Stanley Kroenke


Value: $2.8 billion


Two-Year Change: 23%


Revenue (2020): $430 million


Operating Income (2020): $47.3 million


Debt Value: 7%

#9. Paris Saint-Germain


Paris, France


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Qatar Sports Investments


Value: $2.5 billion


Two-Year Change: 129%


Revenue (2020): $599 million


Operating Income (2020): -$4.5 million


Debt Value: 0%

#10. Tottenham Hotspur


London, England


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Joseph Lewis, Daniel Levy


Value: $2.3 billion


Two-Year Change: 42%


Revenue (2020): $494 million


Operating Income: $134.2 million


Debt Value: 39%

#11. Juventus


Turin, Italy


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Agnelli family


Value: $1.95 billion


Two-Year Change: 29%


Revenue (2020): $441 million


Operating Income: -$14 million


Debt Value: 16%

#12. Borussia Dortmund


Dortmund, Germany


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Bernd Geske, Evonik Industries


Value: $1.9 billion


Two-Year Change: 112%


Revenue (2020): $405 million


Operating Income: $15.1 million


Debt Value: 0%

#13. Atletico de Madrid


Madrid, Spain


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Miguel Gil, Enrique Cerezo


Value: $1 billion


Two-Year Change: 5%


Revenue (2020): $368 million


Operating Income: $61.7 million


Debt Value: 26%

#14. Inter Milan


Milan, Italy


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Zhang Jindong, LionRock Capital


Value: $743 million


Two-Year Change: 11%


Revenue (2020): $323 million


Operating Income: $13.1 million


Debt Value: 8%

#15. Everton


Liverpool, England


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Farhad Moshiri


Value: $658 million


Two-Year Change: 38%


Revenue (2020): $235 million


Operating Income: $15 million


Debt Value: 0%

#16. AC Milan


Milan, Italy


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Elliot Management


Value: $559 million


Two-Year Change: -4%


Revenue (2020): $165 million


Operating Income: -$92.4 million


Debt Value: 4%

#17. AS Roma


Rome, Italy


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Dan Friedkin


Value: $548 million


Two-Year Change: -12%


Revenue (2020): $156 million


Operating Income: $108.4 million


Debt Value: 56%

#18. West Ham United


London, England


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: David Sullivan, David Gold


Value: $508 million


Two-Year Change: -18%


Revenue (2020): $175 million


Operating Income: -$24.2 million


Debt Value: 18%

#19. Leicester City


Leicester, England


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Khun Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha


Value: $455 million


Two-Year Change: NR


Revenue (2020): $189 million


Operating Income: -$49.3 million


Debt Value: 17%

#20. Ajax


Amsterdam, Netherlands


Owner/Controlling Shareholder: Club members


Value: $413 million


Two-Year Change: NR


Revenue (2020): $172 million


Operating Income: $1.7 million


Debt Value: 11%

Methodology


To calculate this year’s ranking, Forbes used pre-pandemic operating income is from 2018-19 season that was converted to U.S. dollars based on average exchange rates during that season. Proceeds from lending players to other teams was excluded from revenue. Team values are enterprise values (equity plus net debt) and include the economics of the team’s stadium but exclude the value of the real estate. Operating income is earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, player trading and disposal of player registrations. Debt is interest bearing borrowings (including stadium debt).

Click here for historical values and financial information on every team.


Credits BANNER PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES, ILLUSTRATIONS BY FORBES