Improving club values reflect football returning to normal


The 7th edition of “Football Clubs’ Valuation: The European Elite” confirms the recent upturn in the industry – indeed, after a year when all clubs’ EVs decreased, now 23 clubs have managed to improve on their past valuations. In contrast to last year, when due to the devastating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the aggregate EV of the 32 clubs suffered a historic decrease of 15%, now their total EV has grown again year on year (by 10%), almost the same average growth rate of the years preceding the health crisis.  

Key conclusions from our report: 

  • Real Madrid have remained the most valuable European football club for the fourth consecutive year, and are also the only club having an EV over EUR 3bn. Manchester United have taken back second place from Barcelona after a year. 
  • The English Premier League is represented in the top 32 by a record number of 10 clubs, two more than last year. 
  • Newcomers include West Ham United, who returned after one year away, while Aston Villa and recent EUL winners Eintracht Frankfurt make their debut in our report series. Meanwhile, Schalke 04, Marseille and Fenerbahçe have dropped out. 
  • Following a year when all clubs’ EVs decreased, now 23 clubs have managed to improve on their past valuations. 
  • Eight clubs reached their record valuation in this edition, while AC Milan are the best performers by annual EV change (+35%), followed by Villarreal and Atalanta. 
  • PSG boast the highest EV growth over the past seven years (+153%, and +EUR 1,289m in absolute terms). 
  • Inter Milan, Lyon, Tottenham, Sevilla, Atlético Madrid and Liverpool have also more than doubled their EV since 2016, our first annual edition.  

This year’s EV ranking reinforces the top three on the podium - barring one interruption by Bayern München in 2019, the top three spots have been taken solely by Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barcelona in each of our annual EV ranking since the first edition of our report in 2016.  

Real Madrid and Manchester United were both able to increase their EV year on year, while Barcelona’s value worsened by 2%, following notably inferior financial performance. Real Madrid have extended their lead at the top due to continuous sporting and commercial success. Most impressively, they are one of the few top clubs who registered a net profit, although not significant, in both seasons impacted by the pandemic. Manchester United saw a slight decline in total operating revenues in 2020/21, as devastated matchday revenues were partially offset by the club’s participation in the UCL after a year-long absence. While Barcelona’s revenues dried up in the two pandemic-impacted seasons, high staff costs were locked in via long-term contracts, culminating in a staff costs-to-revenue ratio of 88%, and finally in a record loss of EUR 481m in 2020/21. 

In the current top ten, the swap of places by Manchester United and Barcelona on the podium is the only change in positions. Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City could add the most to their EV year on year, with only Barcelona’s valuation declining. 

The number of clubs in the top 32 from the Big 5 leagues has grown further, reaching a record high at 28 – these clubs also account for 96% of the aggregate EV of the top 32. Considering the EV averages of the Big 5 league clubs in the report, interestingly, the 7 Italian clubs are quite behind, having an average value of only around half of the other the Big 5 clubs. The English Premier League is represented by a record number of 10 clubs, who have the highest average EV per club (over EUR 1.5 bn) and also make up 42% of the 32 clubs’ total EV. However, it is also interesting to observe that, amongst the clubs also ranked in 2016, the first year of publishing our report, three English clubs – Manchester United, Everton and Arsenal – are the only ones currently having a lower value than in 2016. 

“While our valuations are based on published financial figures, they also incorporate latest trends and sentiments. Indeed, last year’s financial results still bear the negative impacts of COVID-19, while the past several months reflect solid signs of football returning to normal, most notably with crowds again in the stadia and with continued robust demand from sponsors and investors. Indeed, investors are looking forward, contemplating the future, rather than dwelling on the past. The positive attitude prevailed in the market is well illustrated by the recent transaction concerning Atalanta, and the ongoing potential sale of major clubs such as Chelsea or AC Milan, especially the rumored transaction prices reported,” says Andrea Sartori, founder and CEO of Football Benchmark. 

Acknowledging the recent upturn in the industry, Football Benchmark applied special considerations to its methodology.  “At the time of the 2021 edition’s publication, complete uncertainty on the immediate future of the sport remained, but in our current 2022 edition, the picture is much clearer: football is returning back to normal. As such, in this edition we have employed a growth outlook specifically related to stadium revenues that were completely erased during the 2020/21 football season. In addition, we have considered the last three financial years as opposed to the last two, as we did in all past editions,” Andrea Sartori explains. 

23 clubs have managed to improve on their past valuations, in contrast to last year, when all clubs’ EVs decreased. Consequently, the total Enterprise Value of the 32 football clubs grew again (by 10%), after last year’s historic decrease of 15%. That 10% annual aggregate growth almost equals the average growth rate of 11% from 2016 to 2020. Nevertheless, the current aggregate EV of these clubs (EUR 37bn) remains short of the peak of EUR 39.7bn registered in 2020, before the COVID disruption.

Analyzing clubs’ annual EV change, the best performers are AC Milan (+35%) thanks to their growing revenues and improved profitability, followed by Villarreal (+27%) and Atalanta (+25%), while at the other end we find Lyon, Benfica, and Barcelona. 

Regarding clubs’ EV evolution over the seven-year history of the analysis, Paris Saint-Germain boast the highest growth both in percentage (+ 153%) and in absolute terms (+EUR 1,289m), reaching now their record valuation of EUR 2,132m in this edition. Further clubs who could more than double their EV in the same period include Inter Milan (+150%), Lyon (+146%), Tottenham (+139%), Sevilla (+116%), Atlético Madrid (+109%) and Liverpool (+101%).