IT’S unlikely that there will be many Barcelona fans partying on the streets of the Catalonian capital celebrating the club coming top in the Deloitte football rich list for 2018-2019. Rather, they will be anxiously analysing the fact they are now blooding-in a third manager in as many years and that it’s not clear who is running the team at the Camp Nou.
And they are not the only club on the football's rich list that can relax on the laurels of having a bulging bank balance.
Sure, Barcelona have the bragging rights of surpassing their hated rivals Real Madrid to the money pinnacle for the first time in their history. And there are the benefits, no doubt, to come of having such a lucrative financial stream when buying new talent and facilities. But the rather undignified public ‘ejection’ this week of Ernesto Valverde as manager, to be immediately replaced by Quique Setién, belies the rich-list table that things are all rosy for the La Liga leaders.
The 2018-19 list of top-earning clubs has a distinctly familiar look about it, especially the top four. Barcelona claimed the most earnings with an income of €840m. They were followed by former no1s, Real Madrid, nearly a hundred million euro behind their La Liga rivals on €757m. Long-time leaders in the earning list, Manchester United retained third-spot last season with earnings of €711m followed, unsurprisingly, by the leading German side Bayern Munich on €660m.
These top four earners have pretty much dominated these placing with minor variations for the past 20 years and the strength of the club’s brand cannot be underestimated even if their teams are not necessarily performing their magic on the field. And there is a feeling that this hierarchy is under some pressure to maintain their grip on the top cash streams.
Sure, Barcelona lead La Liga from Real Madrid, but it’s only on goal difference in a season when some of the Catalonian ruthlessness has been noticeably absent even if the flair still exists in the shape of Messi and Suarez. Meanwhile, both leaders cannot relax with the warm breath of Atlético and Sevilla closing in on their shoulders should either or both make another slip.
Bayern Munich after two defeats in their last two games have slipped to third in the Bundesliga behind Leipzig and Monchengladbach and look very shaky in their push for the title and may do well to hold on to their Champions League place.
Barcelona, Real, and Bayern are all still on track in their Champions League path, but results in recent matches and the past season does indicate that they are not the terrifying prospect as opponents they once were in Europe.
Back in the Premier League, Man United, coincidentally, face their arch-rival, Liverpool, on Sunday, the same week that the rich list showed the Merseysiders closing in with earnings of €605m last season, up €100m on last season. The Champions League triumph was a big boost to the Reds but they still lie in seventh behind PSG and Man City who earned slightly more cash than the Reds.
However, if Liverpool can see out their title run in the Premier League this year it is felt that they will not only surpass Man City, in sixth but would also come close to surpassing Man United too.
It is a serious time for United. Out of title contention in the Premier League, they are also struggling to get past Chelsea in the battle for fourth and that most-treasured Champions League qualification spot. Missing out on that for another year could spell a serious drop in revenue for United. And the loss of revenue could be more disastrous for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future at the club rather than any lack of silverware.
The Norweigan club legend met with some criticism this week from United fans when he admitted at a press conference that United's aim to compete for the Premier League title in the coming seasons may not be "realistic."
"But with a few signings, with the improvement these (Liverpool/Man City) are making, in the next couple of years we want to do that," he said.
This may just be healthy realism from the United manager but should they fail to claim a Champions League spot again this year then it is highly likely that there will be the kind of funds available to boost the squad at Old Trafford to the desire Solskjaer's needs. And this will impact in the medium to long-term just as the club and fans desperately look to rediscover the glory days of Alex Ferguson when they held sway on top of the table both in the Premier League and the clubs' rich list.
It's not an easy solution for a club in transition from the departure of a managerial legend. Arsenal’s revenues now see them down in 11th on €445m behind both Tottenham and Chelsea as the richest London club. Once, seen as something inconceivable for Gunner fans in the pomp of Arsene Wenger's era.
Liverpool know all about it too. 28 years in the Premier League doldrums came about when the thing that once worked perfectly without question for decades suddenly stopped performing. The resulting collapse in revenues inhibited the club buying their way out of the problems and all of a sudden they were in the spiral of endless managerial replacements, frustrated fans, mediocre players and performances.
The danger is real, which is why Solskjaer and United will be really determined to perform against Liverpool on Sunday. Not just to get the better of their hated neighbour but the real economic need to capture fourth spot.