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Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United: Which is the biggest club?

By James Masters for CNN
updated 12:06 PM EST, Thu January 24, 2013
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Leading the way
Real deal
Barca brand
United on course
Top trio
Bavarian bonus
Spain dominates football's rich list
Chelsea chasing
Looks who's watching
Arsenal up there
City slickers
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Real Madrid tops Deloitte's Football Money League table for eighth straight year
  • Real becomes first sports club to ever pass $650.5 million revenue mark in single year
  • Barcelona takes second place to record a Spain one-two with Manchester United in third
  • United tipped to challenge for top spot in coming years by experts

(CNN) -- About to play Manchester United in the Champions League as the competition moves to its knockout phase, Real Madrid landed the first punch on their English rivals after the Spanish team became the first club in any sport to pass the €500 million ($650.5 million) revenue mark in a single year, according to the annual Football Money League table.

United was left lagging in third place with revenues of $502.4 million, just under $111 million behind Real's arch rivals Barcelona ($613 million), as La Liga secured a one-two finish in a financial report produced by accountants Deloitte that does not take into account a club's debt in its calculations.

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The Spanish giants' dominance in the football finance stakes comes despite the perilous state of Spain's economy, in recession since 2009 with unemployment currently hovering at around 25%, according to the country's labor ministry.

Real, which has spent heavily in recent years in acquiring some of the world's leading players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria, won the domestic title last season and is chasing a record 10th title in the Champions League.

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It is not often that United -- who lead the English Premier League by five points -- finish in third, though a raft of recent financial deals could give next season's Football League table a very different complexion.

"Manchester United continue to successfully leverage their global brand," Austin Houlihan, Senior Manager in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, said in a statement.

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"The new world-record seven-year shirt sponsorship deal with General Motors will double the revenues the club receives from its shirt partner in the first season of the new deal in 2014/15.

"This combined with new Premier League broadcast deals from 2013/14, which will deliver incremental distributions of between £20 million ($31.7 million) and £30 million ($47.5 million) per club, will help Manchester United push the two Spanish clubs above them, for a top two ranking," added Houlihan.

"Indeed the new Premier League deals could mean that half of the Money League top 20 are represented by English clubs in a few years' time."

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For the fifth year in a row the clubs the Money League's top six clubs remained the same, with Bayern Munich in fourth, followed by Chelsea, with Arsenal in sixth.

Revenue among the top 20 grew 10% on the previous year to reach $6.37 billion.

"It is an impressive achievement for Real Madrid to have surpassed €500 million in revenue in a single year," said Dan Jones, Partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.

"Real has led the way in the phenomenal rate of revenue growth achieved by the game's top clubs, with the double digit (10%) increase by the top 20 clubs representing continued strong performance in these tough economic times.

"The combined revenues of the top 20 clubs have quadrupled since we began our analysis in 1996/97.

"While eight of the top 20 clubs experienced a drop in revenue in 2011/12, in most cases this was due to less successful on-pitch performances in European club competitions, rather than wider recessionary impacts."

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English champions Manchester City is the joint highest climber after moving up to seventh in the table, while FIFA World Club champions Corinthians of Brazil are the highest placed non-European club with revenues of $123.7 million.

The club's Premier League title win and its participation in the Champions League saw a 51% revenue growth to $452.6 million, the largest absolute and relative growth of any Money League club.

"The club's progress to the top of the English and European game means that they are set to remain a top 10 Money League club for the foreseeable future, and will look to push on ahead of the two English clubs immediately above them in the Money League, Arsenal and Chelsea, for a top five ranking," said Houlihan.

There is also good news for German club Borussia Dortmund, up to 11th from 16th, while Italy's Napoli climbed five places to 15th following its Champions League exploits last season.

There is only one new entry into the top 20 which is Newcastle United, which replaces Spanish club Valencia. The English Premier League has seven representatives in the top 20 rankings, five of which come in the top ten.

Fair play? Football clubs seek to beat financial offside trap

The likes of Everton, Aston Villa, Fulham and Sunderland are hovering just outside, but there is no doubt as to which club continues to dominate revenue within the EPL.

Deloitte's Football Money League list is based on a club's revenue from match-day revenue, television broadcasting rights and commercial revenue.

The need for clubs to maximize these three areas will become ever important with the introduction of financial fair play regulations by European governing body UEFA.

The report does not take into account the amount of debt which has been accumulated by each club.

According to an article published on the Real Madrid website on September 13 2012, "Net debt fell by 26.5% totaling €124.7 million ($166 million), i.e. €45 million less than in the previous period."

Meanwhile, a report on the Barcelona's official website from June 2012 stated that the club had outstanding debts of €320 million ($426 million).

Manchester United's gross debt fell to £359.7 million ($569.6 million) in the three months to 30 September 2012, down 17% on a year earlier, according to widespread media reports.

Facing the prospect of being punished with heavy fines and barred from European competition, they are desperate to make sure that generated revenues are equal or greater than expenditure.

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