State of Play: Madrid heads the list of Europe’s top football cities

FOOTBALL IS, to a large degree, an urban pastime. The sport’s leading clubs generally come from sizeable metropolitan areas. As a game that grew out of the industrial revolution, it was only natural that cities would provide the backdrop for the world’s most intense distraction.

Some football clubs are indelibly linked to the image of their home city – you cannot think about Madrid for too long before bringing Real Madrid into the conversation. Similarly, Barcelona, Munich, Manchester and Liverpool are known for their football clubs almost as much as they are acknowledged for their tourist sights, cultural highlights, gastronomy and personalities. Football clubs can put a town or city on the map, raise its profile and provide an instantly recognisable marker. Some cities have capitalised on this and the economic contribution of a major football club, such as Real Madrid and Liverpool, can be hugely beneficial to the local community.

A football club can provide significant psychological advantages, strengthen community ties and give local GDP a boost. For decades, football’s mass appeal and social importance was overlooked by academics, economists, politicians and commentators. In fact, for many years, thanks to hooliganism and the general behaviour of the sport’s leading figures, football clubs were something of an embarrassment for civic leaders. Today, the commercial and cultural growth of the game has meant that cities and towns are embracing their football clubs as an important element of their identity. Often, a football club can simply make a city more visible.

Judged by the success and standing of their clubs, both at home and abroad, as well as popularity, influence and passion, we have ranked the top 10 football cities in Europe. It is a list that will undoubtedly promote debate and disagreement, and there’s no way it should be considered as anything other than one way to slice and dice the information and data available. One thing to remember is that it is not based on the merits of a single club, so a top performing team can be dragged down by the displays of other local entities.

Top 16 cities by European prizes


To see the GOTP report, Football’s Top 10 European Cities, click here.

Real Madrid’s finances – a display of resilience?

REAL MADRID are on a bit of a cautious high at the moment; European and Spanish champions, in the middle of a stadium redevelopment programme and seemingly starting to bounce back from a financial perspective.  Preliminary figures for 2021-22 issued by the club provided further evidence of the resilience of their finances, despite losing around € 400 million through the pandemic.

Real have also started the 2022-23 season well and have a 100% record in the league and Champions League. Although Real were part of the aborted European Super League project, they remain at the forefront of European football.

Real have just reported a remarkable profit of € 13 million for the 2021-22 season, which continues their profitability through the covid-19 years. Their profit for was € 12 million higher than 2020-21 and even higher than 2020’s € 313,000. Their financial performance is in marked contrast to their bitter rivals, Barcelona, who have been mired in crisis over the past couple of years.

When Real won the Champions League last season, it was something of a surprise as many people wrote them off. Their squad has looked a little aged at times, but in 2021-22, they profited from a stellar year from one of their veterans, Karim Benzema who scored 44 goals. Likewise, their coach, Carlo Ancelotti, who returned to the club in 2021, demonstrated his skill in getting the best out of a bunch of seasoned professionals.

Real Madrid (the whole club), generated € 721.5 million in revenues in 2021-22, a 10% increase on 2020-21. This figure is higher than the last two seasons, but still around € 30 million below the peaks of 2018 and 2019. In 2022-23, the club anticipates revenues to head towards € 800 million and make a pre-tax profit of approximately € 5 million.

Interestingly, Real’s cash position has improved, rising from € 122 million to € 425 million. Furthermore, the club has a net liquidity position of € 263 million, a spectacular turnaround from 2021 when they had net debt of € 46.4 million. During the crisis, Real have reduced debt by more than € 300 million. The club’s liquidity felt the benefit of the € 360 million 20-year deal signed with Sixth Street/Legacy for use of the stadium.

During the pandemic, Real had to be relatively conservative around player acquisition and this may have contributed to their failure to land some of their targets in 2021 and 2022. Their net position across 2020-21 to 2021-22  was € 111 million in gross spend and € 274 million receipts, translating to a net positive of € 163 million. In 2022-23, they have spent € 80 million and recouped € 92 million. In the summer of 2022, there were a number of departures of players who had been on Real’s books for some years, notably Marcelo, Gareth Bale, Isco and Casemiro, the latter who was sold to Manchester United for € 70 million. As for the younger players, such as Vínicius Júnior and Rodrygo, they are starting to really flourish, although there are continued rumours they will try and secure Paris Saint-Germain’s  Klyian Mbappé in 2022-23.

Real’s president, Florentino Pérez, met with shareholders before announcing the closure of the books for 2021-22 and pointed to the club’s operational efficiency, investment capabilities and cost containment measures, all of which had contributed to the healthier cash and debt positions. Although the effects of the pandemic are clearly subsiding, they are still impacting revenues.

The Bernabéu remodelling is a major project and Real have taken further cash from the loan facility allocated for the project, making the total drawings so far to € 800 million. Real have had problems with their pitch this season, largely due to the new turf which has come from a part of Spain – Extramadura where summer temperatures have soared. The new-look stadium will include a mechanism that will allow the pitch to be stored underground.

Real’s full and segmentalised financial figures will be published in due course.