Manchester City’s brand is also top of the pile

SAY WHAT you will about Manchester City, but their enormous wealth is being targeted well and in a very focused direction compared to some of their rivals. City have topped Brand Finance’s Football 50 for the first time with a brand value of € 1.5 billion, leapfrogging Spanish giants Real Madrid and pulling clear of their domestic competitors. Although Real Madrid have the strongest brand (built over decades), and City’s rating is AAA compared to the AAA+ of Real, Barca, Manchester United and Liverpool, their rise to the top of the brand value list – they were ninth as recently as 2017 – dovetails nicely with their on-pitch success and revenue growth. Since the pandemic, City’s value has increased by 34%, an indication of the robust nature of their brand. 

Brand Finance’s top 10 includes eight of the dozen teams that were behind the European Super League, only Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich, who sit in sixth and seventh place respectively, were not advocates of the aborted project. Eight clubs have an enterprise in excess of € 3 billion, a list that City top once more.

Given Manchester City have already completed the “double” and that could become a “treble” in 2022-23, one can safely assume their brand will only strengthen in the near future. The City Football Group, the multi-club ownership model with MCFC at the hub, continues to expand, and over the past year has invested in clubs in Italy and Brazil. The club will always be the subject of media attention and speculation because of its ownership and its transfer market activity, not to mention scrutiny over its financial operations, but few can deny the strategic nature of their business.

City’s brand value of € 1.5 billion is just ahead of Real Madrid’s € 1.46 billion and the two nearest English competitors, Manchester United (€ 1.36 bn) and Liverpool (€ 1.36 bn). Real ended the 2022-23 season with some disappointment after finishing 10 points behind Barcelona in La Liga and losing out to Manchester City in the Champions League. They are also at something of a fork in the road regarding some of their older players such as Karim Benzema, who has moved to Saudi Arabia. Real have been upgrading their stadium, a major project that is still in progress, which meant they had to borrow € 360 million to fund the initiative.  Barcelona, whose financial problems have been well documented, have the third highest brand value at € 1.38 billion – their La Liga title win will come as welcome relief after the turmoil of the past two years, which saw them lose, because of restrictions on their expenditure, key players such as Lionel Messi. Real and Barca continue to be way ahead of their nearest rivals – Atlético Madrid, who finished third in La Liga, have a brand value of just € 550 million. Go further down the list of Spanish clubs in Brand Finance’s analysis and the 10th highest La Liga club has a value of a mere € 55 million.

The gulf between the Premier League’s top clubs is quite staggering; while Manchester United and Liverpool are not too far behind City, the London trio of Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea struggle to get above € 1 billion. But deep deeper and the real chasm emerges – the seventh highest Premier club is West Ham, with as brand value of € 301 million and Everton (in 10th), are just below € 200 million. Newcastle United, who enjoyed a high level of brand value growth (+31%), have a value of only € 250 million, a figure that will surely rise in 2023 thanks to a return to Champions League football.

If the Premier looks to have troubling imbalances, the situation in France is bizarre – Paris Saint-Germain’s brand value is € 1.1 billion, but the second highest French club is Olympique Marseille at € 173 million. This underlines the financial power of PSG in being able to acquire player assets like Messi and Neymar. But it also shows what an achievement it was for a club like Lille (brand value € 41 million) to finish above the Parisian all-stars as they did in 2021. In these circumstances it is hardly surprising critics refer to a season in which PSG are usurped as a year in which the new champions didn’t succeed in winning Ligue 1, but PSG merely lost the title.

In 2022-23, Bayern Munich were almost unseated by Borussia Dortmund, but the challengers capitulated on the final day and the reigning champions made it 11 Bundesliga victories in a row. Bayern’s brand value is € 1.1 billion, which is double Dortmund’s. Then comes RB Leipzig, the DFB Pokal winners, with a value of € 222 million.

Italy is the closest thing to a democracy among the top leagues. Napoli’s scudetto was their first since 1990 but it meant that Serie A has had four different title winners in four years, a welcome development after an era of Juventus domination. Juventus have had a difficult time and are still uncertain about their future after the league imposed a points deduction over problems with their transfer activity. Inevitably, Juve’s brand value has suffered and dropped by more than 10%.  Their value is € 631 million, which is € 122 million higher than Inter, compared to € 210 million a year earlier. AC Milan’s value increased by an impressive 33% to € 358 million, which closed the gap on Juventus by € 163 million. Napoli’s value has the potential to increase in 2023-24, possibly even stronger than the 31% it grew by over the past 12 months. Looking beyond the next year, the two Milan clubs may be entering a period of sustained improvement in their brand should the new stadium project reach its conclusion in the near future. Inter, of course, are playing Manchester City the Champions League final and could add to their three successes in the competition.

Brand Value’s report confirms the power in global club football is still very much in Europe. There are no US teams in the top 50 and the only non-European is Brazil’s Copa Libertadores holders Flamengo, with a value of € 98 million. It is difficult to see this changing in the near or medium term.

A Dortmund Bundesliga win would be good for Germany

FOR THE first time in years, Bayern Munich have had to scramble to retain their Bundesliga title. It is far from certain that they will be successful as they are two points behind Borussia Dortmund with one game to go. Bayern will travel to Koln on May 27, while BVB will host Mainz. If Dortmund succeed, it may well send the Bavarians into a tail-spin of panic; they have not been used to being challenged on the domestic front for a decade and it’s obvious they don’t enjoy it, as the knee-jerk dismissal of Julian Nagelsmann demonstrated. Just what failure will do to the future of Thomas Tuchel remains to be seen.

Bayern lost their way at home to RB Leipzig by 3-1 in their last fixture, a result that suggests RB are getting used to managing big games. They won the DFB Pokal last season and they’re back in the final again this season and will play Eintracht Frankfurt on June 3 in Berlin.

Dortmund have, at times, been quite stunning to watch, especially at home, where they have scored 53 goals in 16 games and won all but two. They’ve lost just once, a slip-up against Bremen, and drawn one game, with Bayern, and have attracted an average of 81,000 to their famous stadium. 

Bayern have missed the goals of Robert Lewandowski, who moved to Barcelona for € 45 million, and they have others like Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller who are coming to the end of their time at the club. Dortmund’s mix of experience and younger, promising players such as Jude Bellingham, Nico Schlotterbeck and Karim Adeyemi makes for an energetic team that knows their time could be now – such is the power of Bayern that next season they will surely regroup and strengthen. This BVB side, which overcame the loss of Erling Haaland and Manuel Akanji to Manchester City and Axel Witsel to Atletico Madrid in pre-season, has to win the Bundesliga in 2022-23.

1Borussia Dortmund33224781427039
2Bayern Munich33208590376853
3RB Leipzig33196860396321
4Union Berlin33178850385912

And if they do become champions, it will be good for Germany and a victory for those that want club football to be more democratic. In the past 10 years, Bayern, PSG, Manchester City, Juventus, Real and Barcelona have stood astride their domestic leagues. In 2022-23, there’s been a little chink of light in the form of Napoli in Italy, Arsenal in England and Dortmund in the Bundesliga.

Across Europe, you cannot get away from the fact that most leagues have been, and will continue to be, governed by one or two (and maybe three) major clubs. In the last five years, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia have only known one champion. In some countries, such as Scotland, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, France, Belgium and Bulgaria, one club is the dominant force with the occasional deviation provided by a rival that is only a limited window to shine.

Dortmund and Bayern are among the very top clubs in terms of crowd appeal – there are 23 clubs that attract 50,000 or more in Europe and the German duo are at the summit. The Bundesliga’s overall attendances are still at the top, with an average of almost 43,000, although the Premier League is closing the gap with gates above 40,000. 

Dortmund have developed a reputation for being an excellent stepping stone for players, hiring them at reasonable prices or nurturing them from youth and selling them on for a profit. Jadon Sancho was one such player and England international Bellingham will surely be the next to move, possibly to Real Madrid if you believe the rumour-mill. Over the past 10 years, Dortmund have spent € 840 million on players, but have received € 923 million from sales. The net effect is a positive of € 83 million. Bayern, by contrast, have a net spend of € 340 million in the same timeframe.

Coach Edin Terzic returned to BVB in the summer of 2022 after the departure of Marco Rose and it is clear he has been behind their transformation into potential champions. The final day of the Bundesliga season approaches and it could be a landmark moment for German football. Dortmund may be in the driving seat, but as we all know, Bayern Munich can never be written off. They have been in this position before and if they are deposed, it won’t be long before they regain the top prize.