The concentration game – UEFA Champions League

THE LAST eight of the UEFA Champions League kicks off this evening and it is largely a case of “business as usual”.

While the latter stages of the competition are undeniably exciting and generally of the highest quality, half of this season’s participants have featured in each of the last three UCL quarter finals.

KPMG’s Football Benchmark, in its latest report, says the composition of the last eight reflects the concentration of European club football at the highest level, with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich appearing for the seventh consecutive season. Indeed, Barcelona (11) and Real (eight) have made it this far even longer.

Needless to say, money talks and the most affluent clubs account for most of the eight places. The notable exception is Manchester United, who were ranked number one in KPMG’s European Elite report in 2017. The four ties are: ninth (Juventus) versus second (Real Madrid); 27th (Sevilla) versus fourth (Bayern); fifth (Manchester City) versus eighth (Liverpool); and 18th (Roma) versus third (Barcelona). Absentees in the top 10, as well as Manchester United, are Arsenal (sixth) and Chelsea (seventh).

Given the financial clout of the eight quarter-finalists, the last four should be: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and Bayern Munich. Of course, football does not always work that way, but consider that Barca’s enterprise value is 177% higher than Roma’s and Bayern’s is 136% more than Sevilla’s EV. Real’s market value is +52% on Juve’s and Manchester City versus Liverpool is the closest of the four pairings at +45% in City’s favour.

Sevilla’s victory over Manchester United ib the last 16 can be considered a European “giant-killing” given United’s enterprise value (according to KPMG’s European Elite) is €3.1bn compared to Sevilla’s €261m (+1039%).

The eight clubs involved demonstrates the growing gap between the elite and the rest of the Champions League contenders. With Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris St. Germain and Juventus looking likely to win their domestic titles once more, and Manchester City overwhelmingly dominant in England, the same names will appear once more in the 2018-19 UCL draw. The element of surprise is rapidly disappearing in European football and with Financial Fair Play restricting the sort of investments that have made Chelsea, PSG and Manchester City into members of football’s bulge bracket, it also appears to have created a closed shop.

KPMG, to some extent, confirms this with their analysis of revenues, staff costs and profitability: “Football is a growing business, and that trend is confirmed by the fact that this year’s elite eight have generated higher turnover than last year (EUR 3.6 billion vs. EUR 2.9 billion). There is strong evidence that the richer clubs are more successful – when looking at the elimination rounds in the Champions League of the past two seasons and the current campaign, in 78% of ties, the clubs with higher revenues were successful.”

Comparing the last eight

* Ent.


Op revs
Staff costs €m Profit/loss
QF places* Current Lge position Top players***
2 Real Madrid 859 671 406 26 8 3 13
3 Barcelona 957 643 395 31 10 1 10
4 Bayern Munich 643 588 265 66 9 1 8
5 Manchester City 798 553 307 0.1 2 1 8
8 Liverpool 548 424 242 41 2 3 3
9 Juventus 564 412 262 58 4 1 7
18 Roma 345 175 145 (36) 1 3 2
27 Sevilla 272 141 100 32 1 7 0

*KPMG European Elite by Enterprise value
**Champions League 2008-09 to 2017-18
***Guardian top 100 players 2017


To see the full KPMG report, click here

Photo: Camilo Rueda López via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0




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