NEW YORK: Real Madrid have pushed Manchester United from their long-held position on top of Forbes’ list of the world’s most valuable football clubs after being rated at $3.3bn.

That follows the Spanish club’s victory over United on the pitch in the second round of the Champions League.

United have  held top spot since Forbes began tracking club valuations in 2004 but Madrid have been closing the gap steadily and have overtaken despite the Premier League leaders’ recent raft of new sponsorship deals.

The Spanish champions’ ascent to No1 has been attributed to its faster growth, rather than any United downturn.

The Forbes’ calculations are based on the 2011-12 season and it said Madrid generated operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation and player trading) of $134m,  more than any other football club and second only to the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys ($227m) among all sports clubs.

Forbes also cited Madrid’s commercial prowess with its revenue increasing 62pc over the past three years with an average operating margin of 28pc. They are expected to build on this later this month by sealing a four-year shirt sponsorship deal with Emirates, which will be worth a club record fee of between E24m and E26m per year.

United have dropped to second in the list with a valuation of $3.165bn while Barcelona have made significant gains behind them.

Barcelona’s value doubled over the past year, the biggest increase of any top 20 team, to $2.6bn. Forbes said Barcelona’s revenue has increased 19pc over the past three seasons, to $613m in 2011-12.

Barcelona enjoy a $38m-a-year kit deal with Nike while last month they unveiled Qatar Airways as the club’s first commercial shirt sponsor, with the agreement set to represent world football’s most lucrative shirt deal until United’s new partnership with Chevrolet commences in the 2014-15 season.

The agreement with Qatar Airways and Qatar Sports Investments will run through to June 30, 2016 and is reportedly worth $46m  per year.

Forbes’ top 10 is completed by Arsenal ($1.326bn), Bayern Munchen ($1.309bn), AC Milan ($945m), Chelsea ($901m), Juventus ($694m), Manchester City ($689m) and Liverpool ($651m).

The top 20 teams are worth an average of $968m, an increase of 26pc over last year. The values are based on multiples of revenue from television, premium seating, media, licensing, merchandise and concessions.

Madrid, United and Barcelona now command the top three spots among all clubs in the world, followed by Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees ($2.30bn) and the Cowboys ($2.1bn).

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