Last month, it was announced that Real Madrid is officially the most valuable club in world football.
‘Los Blancos’ had won the Champions League (CL) title for three consecutive seasons previous to 2018/19 and, as a result, were catapulted ahead of Manchester United in the commercials earnings stakes.
Those successes were all under the guidance of club legend Zinedine Zidane, who returned to the club in January 2016 to replace the outgoing Rafael Benitez as the club’s head coach.
As well as those three CL titles Zidane, who became the most expensive player in the world at the time of his transfer to Real in 2001, also helped the club to one LaLiga title, two UEFA Super Cups, one Spanish Super Cup and three World Club Championships during his initial two-and-a-half-year spell in charge at the Bernabeu.
The financial records which show Real as now being the most valuable football club on the planet are accurate as of the end of the 2017/18 season. As it happens, these revenue reports always tend to run 12 months behind so it’s shining Real Madrid in the best possible light – right at the tail end of their third successive CL title victory, their 13th in total.
Real Madrid is now far and away the most successful team in the history of European football with their 13 European Cups. Second, comes Serie A’s fallen giant, AC Milan, some way back with seven European Cups.
It’s a very different story for Manchester United over at Old Trafford at the moment. While the club is still reaping the lucrative rewards of the commercial know-how they displayed to capitalise on their on-field successes under Sir Alex Ferguson, the team’s gradual demise since Ferguson’s departure in 2013 means revenue streams such as CL and Premier League (PL) prize money have dried up for the club.
United remain one of the club’s with the largest global fanbases but the growth they experienced in the 1990s and 2000s has flatlined for now. The club’s last success in the CL came in 2008 following a victory over Chelsea in the final in Moscow.
This season United made it to the quarter-finals of the CL only to be knocked out by the brilliance of Lionel Messi and Barcelona. In the PL, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over from the outgoing Jose Mourinho in December and, despite a promising start to his managerial spell at Old Trafford, he wasn’t able to improve on United’s league position of sixth place.
As a result, United will do battle in Europe’s second club competition, the Europa League, next season. Whether Solskjaer has the capabilities to return United back to the glory days of the Ferguson era is a question only time will answer. If they continue to stagnate on the pitch it’s sure to see the club drift gradually down football’s money ladder, too.
Real Madrid’s stint at the top could be short-lived if they don’t solve their own on-pitch issues. Zidane, who left last summer after leading his side to their third consecutive CL success, was called back to rescue the club in March 2019. Club legend Cristiano Ronaldo had departed LaLiga to earn his crust at Juventus in Italy’s Serie A.
Real had used both Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari in his absence with both coaches falling short and being dismissed having spent only five months each in the hot-seat at the Santiago Bernabeu.
When Zidane returned, Real Madrid was already out of the Copa del Rey, 12 points behind Barcelona in LaLiga and eliminated from the CL at the hands of Ajax. Zidane was brought in to steady the ship and hopefully push for honours from next season onwards. The former French star was given a contract until 2022.
Next season will be hugely important for Real as if they are deemed to have failed under Zidane, then it’s unclear who else they could turn to in the football world. The club’s earnings are likely to have taken a big hit over the last year thanks to the lack of success.
Real’s brand value increased by a huge 26.9 per cent from 2018 into 2019 but another faltering season in 2019/20 could have a very negative effect on such figures.
One could argue that they never actually replaced Cristiano Ronaldo, not that it is easy, or even possible, to replace such a giant of the game. Yet, they have made a huge purchase this summer, signing Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. Will Hazard be the man to revive Real’s fortunes on the field? If Hazard and co can gel into a cohesive team unit quickly then they may be able to keep Real Madrid’s name at the top of the pile, both in terms of on and off the pitch successes.