THE LAST EIGHT of the UEFA Champions League includes some of the usual suspects, but also highlights the achievements of some of the less celebrated European clubs.
The new paper from KPMG’s Football Benchmark, The Elite Eight, highlights the different business models of the quarter-finalists, but also underlines the progress of clubs like Leicester City, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid.
These three clubs are in exalted company. KPMG says that in terms of revenues, the gulf between the big three of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich and the remaining five teams is significant. The combined revenues of Atletico Madrid, Leicester and Monaco, for example, are more than EUR 100m lower than Bayern Munich’s alone.
Naturally, there is a correlation between the highest earning clubs and highest spenders in terms of wages. Monaco’s comeback is impressive given the period of retrenchment that was forced upon them due to Financial Fair Play. Since then, they have adopted a more sustainable model that has delivered a cluster of young players that will surely yield big transfer fees.
Leicester City’s triumphant 2015-16 season defied financial reality. As KPMG says, the Foxes expenditure on wages was 147% and 200% less than the two Manchester clubs, City and United, respectively.
Borussia Dortmund’s acumen in player trading also deserves mention. They have specialised in attracting and developing young talents who they are forced to sell to domestic and international peers.
Dortmund’s prowess in the transfer market elevates them to the fourth most profitable club among the last eight. Real Madrid have aggregate profits of EUR 111m over the past three years, followed by Barcelona on EUR 85m, Bayern on EUR 73m and Dortmund on EUR 47m. Leicester, thanks to their title-winning campaign, are on EUR 43m. These figures all dwarf the performance of Atletico Madrid (19m), Monaco (1.2m) and Juventus (-0.3m).
Three of Europe’s top four clubs in terms of financial clout are in the last eight, the notably absentee is Manchester United, who failed to even qualify for the competition in 2016-17. However, KPMG stresses the club’s involvement in future seasons is “essential in order to maintain competiveness with European football powerhouses.”
The quarter-finals (current position in domestic league)
Juventus (1st) v Barcelona (2nd) A repeat of the 2015 final which Barca won 3-1. Juve will be aware that even 4-0 may not be enough to get past Barca when they are on fire, but the Italians will not be as defensively frail as PSG. Juve have conceded just 20 goals in Serie A this season and in Europe, just two in eight games. Barca have fallen at this hurdle twice in the past three years. GOTP says: Forza Juve!
Borussia Dortmund (4th) v Monaco (1st) Two unfancied sides, but one will be in the last four. Monaco have to do it all this season for their team will surely break-up in the close season. Dortmund are not quite the finished article, but they do have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in their line-up – an exciting player. GOTP says: Monaco to shade it over the two legs.
Atletico Madrid (3rd) v Leicester City (11th) Atletico may not be as lethal as they were a year or two ago, but they do have one of the best strikers around in Antoine Griezmann. Leicester have to stop him if they are to have any chance of progressing. It may be too much to ask over two games. GOTP says: Atleti’s tie.
Bayern Munich (1st) v Real Madrid (1st) The two best teams in Europe? Bayern may be without Robert Lewandowski, but they still have plenty of options. It was 2010 when Real last failed to reach the last four, and of course, they have won it twice in three years. Bayern have reached the semi-final in each of the last five seasons. GOTP says: Bayern to win – just.