Manchester City 4 Barcelona 1… Arsenal 4 Real Madrid 2… Tottenham Hotspur 2 Valencia 0.
These scores are made up: on the pitch, they belong to the world of fantasy football. Off it however, they are very real in reflecting the growing superiority of English over Spanish clubs in terms of financial clout – after factors such as debt are taken into account.
The Soccerex Football Finance 100 index, published this week, evaluates the top 100 clubs around the world based on their finances. The analysis by the football events company puts Manchester City at the top of the global rankings – with a Football Finance Index (FFI) score of 4.883 – ahead of Arsenal in second place (4.559). Real Madrid and Barcelona “languish” in sixth and 13th place respectively.
These are just some of what Soccerex calls many “eye-catching” results. No fewer than five English clubs occupy places in the top ten, significantly outperforming La Liga’s “Clásico duo”.
The study underlines how world football has changed over the past two decades – thanks to increased broadcast revenue and, significantly, vast amounts of cash pumped in by global billionaires from Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and the Americas.
The Middle East is represented by two of the top three clubs, with Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City at number one and Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain in third position.
City’s fortunes have been transformed since the club was taken over in 2008 by multibillionaire owner Shaikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Twice winners of the Premier League since then, Pep Guardiola’s team are 15 points clear and in pole position to win it again this season.
Years of underperformance are now buried in the past for the French club, which has become a major European force since being owned by Qatar Sports Investments. PSG smashed the world transfer record last August to sign Brazilian superstar Neymar.
The growing influence of Asia – and particularly China – is seen by the presence of Guangzhou Evergrande in fourth position. The Chinese Super League has nine clubs in the top 100 – more than France, Germany and Italy.
However, the finance league table does not necessarily reflect money splashed around in the transfer market.
Arsenal have been criticised for being relatively spendthrift in the search for new players, and failed to qualify for this season’s Champions League. Yet the club sits in second place, Soccerex explaining that the North London club’s “lofty position” reflects its “sound business model”.
Chelsea would move up from ninth to fifth, the study says, were owner Roman Abramovich’s investment listed as sponsorship, as with other clubs, than as a loan.
The new annual report takes account of five variable factors in its calculations: playing assets, fixed qataassets, money in the bank, potential owner investment and net debt.
Spain on the wane?
Soccerex explains the relatively lowly positions of Real Madrid and Barcelona by their member ownership structures and lack of potential owner investment. But the study says should Real be capitalised on the stock markets, their overall financial power “would make them worth more than any tycoon’s club”.
However, the report highlights the increasing impact of foreign ownership on La Liga following recent Chinese investment in Atletico Madrid (15th) and the backing of Singapore’s Peter Lim for Valencia (29th).
Soccerex says its study was based on clubs' balance sheets and annual reports from 2015-16 as well as other renowned sources of information.