Real Madrid valued higher than Manchester United for the first time by Forbes

The Premier League leaders have topped the annual list for the last nine years

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The Independent Football

Manchester United's nine-year spell at the top of the Forbes' annual list of the world's most valuable football teams has come to an end.

While the Premier League leaders are said to be worth a staggering $3.2bn, they have been usurped by Real Madrid, with the reigning Spanish champions valued at $3.3bn.

According to Forbes, being among the world's most valuable football teams means "turning victories on the pitch into dollars at the bank," adding: "No team has done this as well as Real Madrid, which has usurped Manchester United’s long-held title as the most valuable soccer team in the world."

The figures constitute a rise on last year's valuations of 42 per cent for United, and 76 per cent for Real Madrid.

Barcelona are valued third, at $2.6bn, Arsenal fourth at $1.33bn, while German side Bayern Munich complete the top five with a valuation of $1.31bn.

The annual list produced by Forbes started in 2004 and Manchester United have topped it every year until now. Yet Forbes insist there is no reason for major concern at Old Trafford.

"It is not that the Red Devils have faltered," Forbes say on their website. "It is just that Los Merengues are simply bigger, more profitable and growing faster than Manchester United."

That United are on the verge of a 20th league title and have just agreed a £160m deal with Aon to sponsor their training ground will add to the feeling that United will not feel overly aggrieved at the findings.

Forbes say Real Madrid's success is in part due to the Spanish side attracting globally recognised players.

"Thanks to rich sponsorship deals that are underpinned by the team’s storied history of trophies – a record nine Champions League titles and 32 domestic championships – and star players that were or are global themselves – Raul, David Beckham, Ronaldo Lima, Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid’s revenue has increased 62 per cent over the past three years with an average operating margin of 28 per cent."

Forbes suggest there are reasons to believe Real Madrid's place at the top of the list could continue: "More cash is coming to Madrid: Dubai’s Emirates Airline is close to signing a long-term, $39 million-a-year shirt sponsorship deal with the team."

Forbes add that Barcelona, the most successful European club in terms of trophies in recent years, are also closing on the top two.

"Barca’s value doubled over the past year, the biggest increase of any top 20 team, to $2.6 billion. Barcelona’s revenue have increased 19 per cent over the past three seasons, to $613 million in 2011-12.

"Led by Lionel Messi, the sport’s most prolific scorer, Barcelona is on the verge of coming in first in La Liga this season and captured consecutive domestic titles from 2009 through 2011. It also won the Champions League in 2006, 2009 and 2011. The Spanish powerhouse has parlayed the stellar results into a $38 million-a-year kit deal with Nike and its first ever corporate shirt sponsorship with Qatar Airways, worth $45 million a year through the 2015-16 season."

According to Forbes, the top 20 teams are worth an average of $968 million, an increase of 26 per cent on last year. The figures also make Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barcelona the highest valued teams of any sport ahead of the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys in fourth and fifth respectively.