The Spanish giants ended United’s two-year domination of the annual list by generating revenue of €751m (£665m) last season – an all-time record for any football club.
United slipped to third place after their income stalled at €666m (£590m), with Barcelona also overtaking them and completing a one-two for LaLiga.
English teams fared well on the whole, however, with Tottenham’s financial growth swelling the number of Premier League representatives in the top 10 to six.
The Money League ranks teams by revenue and is published today.
Real Madrid’s revenue grew by €76m year on year as they won the Champions League for a third consecutive season, beating Liverpool in the final.
That growth was driven by a €55m increase in commercial income as the European champions capitalised through sponsorship, merchandising and increasingly lucrative pre-season tours.
“They’re really leveraging on-pitch success,” Deloitte’s Sam Boor told City A.M. “It’s that virtuous cycle that clubs aspire to: on-pitch success into improved commercial performance.”
Progress in the Champions League and the exploitation of brand power through commercial activity are the key differentials among the biggest teams. Deloitte expects Madrid to sustain their record-breaking revenue, provided there is no dramatic decline in their European fortunes.
“Continued success in Uefa competitions will be essential to maintaining three quarters of a billion euros revenue,” added Boor, senior manager in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.
Barcelona saw revenue increase by €42m to €690m (£612m) as they reclaimed the Spanish league title from their fierce rivals, although they still lost ground to them off the field.
Man Utd left behind
United’s revenue remained flat as they suffered a premature Champions League exit to Sevilla in the last 16, although they were still comfortably ahead of Bayern Munich, who were fourth in the list.
They will challenge Barcelona for second place in next year’s list, with United set to benefit from higher Champions League payouts, although their prospects of unseating Madrid likely rest on engineering sustained improvement on the footballing front.
“Improved on-pitch performance will help that virtuous link to financial performance, because as we’ve seen with Real, their commercial growth in the last few years has been quite staggering and it’s no coincidence that they’ve been the most successful team in Europe,” said Boor.
Manchester City held onto fifth place with €568m as they romped to the Premier League title, despite nearest challengers Paris Saint-Germain narrowing the gap with increased revenue of €542m.
England dominate top 10
Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final boosted their revenue by €90m to €514m (£455m) and lifted them ahead of domestic sparring partners Chelsea, who remained eighth, and Arsenal, who fell to ninth.
Tottenham were the other English club to make big gains, with their €68m uplift in income to €428m (£379m) elevating them back into the top 10 for the first time in more than a decade.
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Arsenal slipped three places in the list as the absence of Champions League football for the first time this century depleted revenue to €439m (£389m), only narrowly above their north London rivals.
Everton (17th), Newcastle (19th) and West Ham (20th) also made the top 20, taking the total number of Premier League teams to nine.
Star power boosts PSG
French champions PSG reversed two years of falling revenues and climbed one place to sixth in the Deloitte rankings as income grew by €55m to €542m (£480m).
Matchday and commercial revenues both improved – a trend attributed to the club’s signing of global superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the preceding summer.
Deloitte predicts that the impact of marquee signings such as Neymar, Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo – who left Madrid for Juventus in August – on revenue streams will become an increasingly important decision in the transfer policies of elite clubs.
“It will be really interesting to see if the Neymar move to PSG is a one-off or the first example of it happening under perfect conditions,” said Boor. “Will Ronaldo also trigger further revenue growth for Juve? TBC.”
Elite continue to thrive
The elite game remains in good health, with the combined revenues of the 20 clubs in the Football Money League totalling €8.3bn (7.4bn) – a record and a six per cent increase on the previous year.
Broadcast income remains the single most valuable stream, accounting for 43 per cent, but commercial revenue continues to grow in significance and now makes up 40 per cent of the top clubs’ turnover.
All clubs in the top 20 play in Europe’s five biggest leagues: England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France.
Only three teams in the top 30 are from outside the big five: Zenit St Petersburg (25th), Besiktas (26th) and Benfica (30th).