By Mike Ozanian and Justin Birnbaum, Forbes Staff
The soccer pitch is filled with more green than ever.
The world’s 30 most valuable soccer teams are worth an average of $2.17 billion. A year ago, we valued 20 teams, which had an average appraisal of $2.53 billion. In contrast, this year’s top 20 teams have an average value of $2.89 billion — 14% higher.
The increase in values wasn’t fueled by revenue, which increased just 2.5%, to an average of $496 million per team, but rather by the higher enterprise multiples (enterprise value divided by revenue) that buyers are paying for teams. The average enterprise multiple for the 20 most valuable teams this year is 5.9, compared with 4.8 a year ago. Consider: Manchester United, ranked second on our list, could soon be sold for some $6 billion, 7.7 times revenue. Bankers tell Forbes that Paris Saint-Germain will likely soon raise money in a minority-stake sale that will value the team at more than $4 billion, about 5.7 times revenue. According to an MLS team executive, LAFC was raising money at around a $930 million valuation early this year, 8 times revenue.
Why such rich valuations? Manchester United throws off a ton of cash, generating $108 million in operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) in 2021-22. But in many cases investors are buying into the brands more than the profits. PSG posted negative operating income of $219 million during 2021-22, and LAFC’s operating income was just $8 million in 2022. Indeed, the 30 teams on this year’s list had average operating income of $23 million on average revenue of $386 million.
The World’s Most Valuable Soccer Teams 2023
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Using our proprietary methodology, Forbes calculates the brand values (the portion of each team’s values not attached to its economics).
Biggest Brands on the Pitch
Two teams are now worth at least $6 billion. Real Madrid takes the top slot with a $6.07 valuation, 19% more than last year. The Spanish side has made it to five of the last nine lucrative Champions League finals, winning all of them. Real Madrid has also secured nearly $400 million from Sixth Street and Legends as part of a 20-year deal to enhance revenue at its Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, which has been undergoing a massive renovation that is expected to be completed next year.
Manchester United climbed 30% from a year ago, to $6 billion. Bidding for the English team has reportedly come down to Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim. The team’s current owners, the Glazer family, paid $1.5 billion for the Red Devils in 2005 and could pocket a four-fold appreciation if a deal is reached.
It should be noted that since Forbes began publishing annual soccer valuations in 2004 (we skipped 2020 due to Covid), Real Madrid and Manchester United are the only two teams that have ranked in the top five each time. Over that span, Real Madrid has placed first seven times and Manchester United 11. Barcelona topped our list in 2021.
The biggest gainer on this year’s list is Newcastle United, now worth $794 million, 51% more than last year. Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund’s purchase of the team in October of 2021 for $378 million ((£305 million) injected the team’s balance sheet with $208 million of capital, and this season the Magpies qualified for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.
The revenue and operating income figures listed for European teams are for the 2021-2022 season, converted to U.S. dollars based on average exchange rates during that season (1 euro = $1.128, 1 GBP = $1.33, 1 GBP = 1.18 euro). For Major League Soccer teams, figures are for the 2022 season. Revenue figures reflect proceeds the soccer team generates from broadcasting, commercial and match-day events. 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 itself), based on comparable transactions. Operating income is earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, player trading and disposal of player registrations. Debt is interest-bearing borrowings due in more than one year (including stadium debt). The exchange rates used to convert team values and debt to U.S. dollars were as of May 22, 2023 (1 euro = $1.08, 1 GBP = $1.24, 1 GBP = 1.15 euro). Sources include the teams’ annual reports and documents, team executives and investors, credit rating agency reports, sports bankers and the annual Deloitte Football Money League reports.
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