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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

United second as Real remain richest club

LONDON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Real Madrid held its position as the world's richest soccer club as English clubs climbed the rankings to claim three of the top five slots in an annual survey by accountancy firm Deloitte [DLTE.UL].

Manchester United climbed two places to second in the latest 'Football Money League' table of the world's 20 biggest soccer clubs ranked by revenue, Deloitte said.

London-based teams Chelsea and Arsenal also climbed to fourth and fifth places, respectively, while Barcelona dropped one place from second to third, Deloitte said.

'This is the first time that any country has had three clubs in the top five of the Money League,' said Dan Jones, a partner at the Sports Business Group at Deloitte. 'Arsenal's move to the Emirates Stadium has transformed their revenues whilst Chelsea's revenue increase sees them return to the top five.'

Real Madrid, which won the Spanish Liga last season, saw its revenues leap 20 percent to 351 million euros ($511.2 million) during the 2006/07 season, while Manchester United, also winners of last season's Premier League, posted revenues of 315 million euros, Deloitte said.

'With the new Premier League television deals now online for the 2007/08 season, Manchester United have the opportunity to significantly close the gap on Real,' Jones said. 'A successful Champions League run may even see them challenge again for the number one position.'

Combined revenues for the top 20 clubs'rose by 11 percent to 3.7 billion euros, the highest rate of growth since the 2002/03 season, Deloitte said.

The top 20 included six English clubs, four from both Germany and Italy; three from Spain, two French and one from Scotland.

'The performance of German clubs particularly catches the eye, with enhanced revenues being generated from new and improved stadia,' said Alan Switzer, Director in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.

'The stadium is a club's biggest asset and the majority of the Money League clubs are looking to complete stadium developments in the short and medium term.'

The number of English clubs in the ranking fell from eight to six, although it may increase again next year, the accountancy firm said.

'Clubs such as Aston Villa, Everton, Manchester City and West Ham United are already just outside the top 20 and with the revenue uplift from the new broadcast deals now benefiting the clubs, we expect to see the bottom half of next year's Money League dominated by English teams,' said Paul Rawnsley, Director in the Sports Business Group said. Read more...

Scholes stays on his toes

Paul Scholes will be hoping to build - and improve - on his first full match since early October when United face Arsenal this weekend.

His 90 minutes against Manchester City may not have yielded the right result for the Reds, but for Scholes it was another important step as he returns to the peak of his powers. Now he'll be hoping for another start, by seeing off his many rivals for a midfield berth.

Scholes told MUTV: "There are so many options in there now - Michael, Owen, Anderson, Fletcher, O’Shea and Giggsy.

"I think that has to be good for your game. You go into matches knowing that if you don’t play well, there’s always somebody waiting to take your place. We all have to keep our performance level up to get picked for the next game."

The range of midfield personnel at Sir Alex Ferguson's disposal is impressive - as Scholes says, "If we do lose one or two players, it doesn’t make any difference." But he couldn't separate the current crop from any previous set of midfield masters he's been part of.

“It's hard to say (whether this is our best midfield). I think we’ve always had competition, like when Nicky (Butt), Roy (Keane) and (Juan Sebastian) Veron were all here. They were all top midfielders and it was hard to get into the team. I think it’s the same now.

"Any two from six could play and you’d still have the same outcome." Read more...

Rio: We're still hurting

Rio Ferdinand admits United's players have been hurting this week after the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City, and says the only way to get it out of their system is to beat Arsenal on Saturday.

The most disappointing aspect of the defeat for the 29-year-old was the Reds' failure to show any of the characteristics that have placed United among three title challengers this season.

"We didn't do any of the things that have taken us into a good position in the league and made us a threatening, compact team," Rio told MUTV.

"It was a very bad weekend. We've all been thinking about the reasons why it happened and how we want to pull ourselves together and get the result out of our minds."

With Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday and Olympique Lyonnais in the Champions League last 16 first leg the following Wednesday, Sir Alex Ferguson's men have little choice but to lift themselves.

Ferdinand says the healing process has already begun, but would be significantly aided by knocking Arsenal out of the cup at Old Trafford this weekend. "The best thing you can do is to come into training and just get focused on winning the next game, and that's what we're doing." Read more...

Rooney ready to lift Reds

Wayne Rooney will be back for the Reds this weekend against Arsenal in the FA Cup, and John O’Shea says the Reds forward is capable of giving United an injection of confidence.

The effect that Rooney’s suspension-enforced absence had on the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City was palpable. However, O’Shea refuses to use the lack of Rooney’s presence as an excuse for failing to make more of a fight of Sunday’s derby.

“Wayne can lift players around him,” he told MUTV. “He is infectious with his work rate. He gets the crowd buzzing.

“But we were missing other players as well. The team we had out was good enough to win that game. You can always say we’re missing this player, or that player. But we had the squad to cope. We’ve got so many talented players that you hoped one player would conjure something. It just didn’t happen at all for us.”

Whilst not wanting to gloss of one of the most disappointing results of the 2007/08 calendar, O’Shea insists the squad cannot afford to wallow in pity.

“We’re all just waiting for the next game to come around,” he added. “We’re still in a great position in three competitions. We can’t just forget a disappointing result, especially against our city rivals, but we do have a lot to be positive about. We’ve got to make sure we bounce back straight away and go on a long winning run.”

With Rooney back in the team, that seems a more achievable goal. But Sir Alex Ferguson would be keen to point out that United didn’t get to this position operating as a one-player team. And against an in-form Arsenal team at the weekend, the responsibility cannot fall solely on Rooney's shoulders. Read more...

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