Soccer, more commonly known as football throughout this floating orb that we know as Earth, is truly the world's game, a sport that can be played anywhere so long as there is an available surface and also an object that can be utilized as a ball. Top-tier leagues are located all around the world, and those competitions are featured on domestic and international television via deals that are worth billions – yes, billions – of dollars. The game of soccer is more than just a beloved sport for those who play and those who watch. It is also a massive business these days.
The values of sports franchises fluctuate per location and per the media deals that are associated with clubs and with leagues. Major League Soccer, as one example, asks for an investment of $100 million from those looking to enter the league via an expansion club. It is widely believed that every National Football League and every National Basketball Association team is worth $1 billion because of the media deals those leagues currently have and contracts that will be signed in the future. No wonder so many successful business moguls are interested in getting pieces of that action.
Just as in every pro sport, big-name players and also success on the pitch move the needle in the soccer world. One of the most-valuable soccer teams in the world for 2015 has seen better days in the past, but that club remains widely recognized and it also has solid followings all around the world. It should come as no surprise to anybody who follows the sport that the richest clubs on the planet come from Spain. Those massive teams have international superstars who are featured in advertising campaigns, and they also happen to be responsible for two of the top squads in the game today.
All values courtesy of Forbes
20 Galatasaray: $294 million
The kings of club football out of Turkey are true mainstays of European competitions, as Galatasaray make news when they are not in the group stages of the Champions League. With that said, those running the club are currently facing a worrisome crisis. UEFA warned the club in 2015 that Galatasaray had to clear the team's debt by the end of the current season or face serious consequences. The club has not yet be able to meet that objective, and the possibility exists that Galatasaray could soon be banned from playing in competitions such as the Champions League. That would lead to the team losing even more money.
19 West Ham United: $309 million
The roller coaster ride that has been West Ham United continues to roll along. West Ham are but one additional regular season away from beginning play in their shiny new home, the venue that was used as Olympic Stadium back in the summer of 2012. The Hammers could qualify for next season's Europa League competition via the Fair Play table, something that may or may not be a positive for the team (ask Tottenham Hotspur for clarification on that matter). Manager Sam Allardyce is reportedly set on making an exit from the club this coming summer, although he may simply be looking for a pay increase from his current team.
18 Newcastle United: $349 million
It does not seem like it was only a few years ago when Newcastle United were one of the more positive stories in all of the Premier League, a side that shocked many by qualifying for the Europa League. That competition proved to be more of a curse than a blessing for the club, as Newcastle have since experienced disappointment after disappointment after disappointment. Manager Alan Pardew was shown the door, probably later than he should have been sacked, and the club is currently fighting to remain in the Premier League for another season. Relegation would certainly remove Newcastle from next year's edition of this list.
17 Napoli: $353 million
Where Napoli will be on the 2016 edition of this list, if the club makes it at all, will be determined in the final days of the 2014-15 Serie A table. The team has stumbled during the spring months as it is pursuing Champions League football, and the possibility exists that Napoli could be on the outside looking in as it pertains to that competition by the time May 2015 comes to an end. It is already being reported that several of the team's top players are being scouted by Premier League teams. Chelsea are just one side being linked to Napoli's top contributors.
16 Atletico Madrid: $436 million
Order has been restored in Spanish club football in that the La Liga race was once again, for the most part, a two-team affair involving Real Madrid and Barcelona. While Barcelona have emerged as the top team out of that country, Atleti have done well to remain the third best club in a country that is dominated by the two richest teams on the planet. It was a magical ride for Atletico back in the spring of 2014, when the club came painfully close to winning the Champions League. Don't hold your breaths waiting for a repeat of that to occur anytime soon.
15 Inter Milan: $439 million
Inter Milan made headlines in May of 2015 when it was reported across multiple platforms that the team had agreed to terms with Manchester City star Yaya Toure. The club could certainly use the help, as Inter have become nothing more than a middle-of-the-road Serie A side that is a far cry from the proud team that was capable of contending for the Champions League trophy. While the Toure signing would be a positive for Inter, it is being widely reported that Premier League sides and also other organizations are looking at raiding the Italian team for talent this coming summer.
14 FC Schalke 04: $572 million
Schalke may be worth over half of a billion dollars, but money can apparently only buy so much in the world of football. The club has been in a free-fall during the first half of 2015, and Schalke will not even sniff a Champions League spot in the Bundesliga table this time around. Those running the club then made a massive statement when both Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sidney Sam were handed indefinite suspensions in May. Boateng, who has rocked the boat just about anywhere that he has played during his career, has been linked with a potential switch to Major League Soccer.
13 Tottenham Hotspur: $600 million
Devoted followers of Tottenham Hotspur are hoping that the club's run of selling its best players, firing managers and missing out on Champions League football will come to an end sooner than later. Spurs have great talent in the likes of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, midfielder Christian Eriksen and front man Harry Kane, but all three are being linked with future moves to massive teams. Spurs are reportedly looking to cash in a stadium deal that could see the team have a partnership with the NFL, and the club has also done well to grow fanbases overseas such as in the United States.
12 Paris Saint-Germain: $634 million
Water is wet, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and Paris Saint-Germain are once again the kings of Ligue 1. PSG are essentially guaranteed a spot in the Champions League every year, and the club can also freely spend on transfers during the summer months. Hugo Lloris, Angel Di Maria, Paul Pogba and Kevin de Bruyne are just some of the names being linked with the French outfit before the upcoming transfer window opens. PSG will undeniably be active on the market once July rolls around, and it is a safe bet that the club will again be near or at the top of the league table this time next year.
11 Borussia Dortmund: $700 million
It has been a downright shocking season for Borussia Dortmund. The club had a disastrous start to the campaign, and things got so bad that Dortmund looked to be favorites for relegation into the second division. Dortmund has since turned things around enough so that the club will remain in the Bundesliga for another season, but the team needs to make massive improvements over the summer if it is to remain this high on the list next year. That may prove to be harder said than done, as there is speculation that teams that have earned Champions League football could be coming in to raid Dortmund this summer.
10 AC Milan: $775 million
Do you remember when AC Milan were the champions of Europe? It was not that long ago, but one would not know it by examining the current state of the club. Milan are not much more than afterthoughts in Serie A as of May 2015, an average team in need of a significant overhaul as quickly as possible. The star quality on the team's squad has experienced quite the downfall over the years, and those hoping that a big name such as striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coming to save the club would do well to embrace reality and realize that Milan simply are not what they once were.
9 Juventus: $837 million
While the Serie A is a shell of what the once great league used to be, it is still somewhat surprising that Juventus are not higher on this list. The undisputed kings of Italian football are at it again, winning the league with relative ease and also making it to at least the semifinal round of the Champions League. Juve are being linked with several big names heading into the summer transfer window, and the club is once again perceived as one of the very best in the world. Perhaps it says more about the state of Serie A and not about Juve that the club is not worth at least $1 billion.
8 Liverpool: $982 million
Liverpool made a triumphant return to Champions League football in 2014, but the club's run in that competition was over seemingly right when it started. Manager Brendan Rodgers has since lost the minds and hearts of some of the Liverpool faithful with the decisions that he has made during the current campaign, as his side is once again relegated to the much-maligned Europa League for next season. Some are even calling for the club to part ways with the manager, but that seems unlikely when you consider what Rodgers has managed to achieve during his time at Liverpool.
7 Arsenal: $1.31 billion
The Gunners kick off the list of the clubs worth at least $1 billion for 2015. Arsenal ended what had been a long and painful trophy drought in the spring of 2014, and there was a time when the club seemed capable of contending for the Premier League title for 2014-15. That would ultimately prove to not be the case for a variety of reasons, but the club can once again celebrate the fact that the Gunners will take part in the Champions League tournament. Complain all you want, critics, but Arsenal being mainstays in that competition is only a good thing for the club.
6 Chelsea: $1.37 billion
They know what they are. They know what they are. Champions of England. That's what they are. The Jose Mourinho redemption project at Chelsea took a little longer than some believed that it would – nobody gets it right the first time every time – but even his biggest detractors cannot deny that he has put together the best team in the Premier League and one that could be capable of making a run in the Champions League next season. Chelsea are the undisputed kings of all of England, and Mourinho is the best manager in the league. The more things change...
5 Manchester City: $1.38 billion
It is time for the rumors to begin flying following what Manchester City would have to deem to have been a disappointing campaign. There are reports out there that current club boss Manuel Pellegrini could be shown the door as soon as the Premier League season ends, and Pep Guardiola has been named by some to be a possible replacement. Carlo Ancelotti of Real Madrid could also be a possibility depending on his relationship with the Spanish giants come the start of June. You can be sure that City will once again at least attempt to be big spenders in the summer transfer window.
4 Bayern Munich: $2.35 billion
The Bundesliga is but a one-team show for the foreseeable future, and it is Bayern Munich that has a choke-hold on that competition. Don't expect Bayern to let up on that grip of German club football. The reigning and defending Bundesliga champs once again secured a league title well before the final month of the campaign, and Bayern also made it all the way to the semifinal round of the Champions League before running into the buzzsaw that was Barcelona. Don't be too bummed, Bayern supporters, as your team should only improve from the posting of this piece up through August of 2015. It's good to be the champs.
3 Manchester United: $3.1 billion
It turns out that replacing a legend is harder than some believed. There will likely never again be another Sir Alex Ferguson, and Manchester United supporters are learning that truth the hard away. The start of the Louis van Gaal era at United was dark days for the club, but Van Gaal and United have done well to right the ship and have what would have to be considered a solid season, one that will see the team return to Champions League football later this year. The United brand is famous all around the world, and it is no wonder that the club is worth a fortune.
2 Barcelona: $3.16 billion
They play in a true cathedral of world soccer. The club has worldwide superstar names on its squad, players such as Lionel Messi and Neymar. Barcelona have made a triumphant return to the Champions League Final, and they should, so long as they avoid what would be a historic collapse, once again emerge as the La Liga champs. The beautiful game at the club level is no more beautiful than what occurs in the Spanish top-flight, and Barcelona will likely once again be in one of the top-two spots of this list come May 2016. To think that some called Barca a “crisis club” just one springtime ago.
1 Real Madrid: $3.26 billion
The club is worth billions – plural – of dollars, and those who sign for the team get to play in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Of course Real Madrid are so valuable! The sun does not always shine on the club, as Real will once again (probably) miss out on a league championship. There are also rumblings that former Tottenham Hotspur star Gareth Bale may be feuding with his teammates. Regardless of whether or not Bale is playing for Real in September 2015, it seems a safe bet that the club will be a contender to win La Liga and the Champions League next season.