Real Madrid is world's most valuable sports franchise, Forbes says

Karim Benzema (L) of Real Madrid CF celebrates beside Angel di Maria after scoring his team's third goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Sporting de Gijon at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 14, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Last week, Real Madrid made Asier Illarramendi - a relatively unknown midfielder - one of the club's most expensive transfers ever, dishing out $50 million to cover his buyout clause and taxes.

But, according to a new survey, that's just pocket change for the Spanish powerhouse. Real Madrid has now overtaken Manchester United as the world's most valuable franchise in sports at $3.3 billion, Forbes magazine says in its annual top 50 list.

The iconic European soccer club's value soared in the past 12 months: last year, Forbes estimated the value of Real Madrid at $1.88 billion.

According to Forbes, Real Madrid boasted the highest revenues of any team in sports ($650 million in the 2011-12 season), and revenues jumped 62 percent over the last three years.

Manchester United fell back to No. 2, with a value of $3.17 billion. But don't feel sorry for Man U - their value surged nearly $1 billion from last year's $2.23 billion estimate.

European soccer teams earned a trifecta on the list as Barcelona came in third with a value of $2.6 billion, Forbes reported.

Two iconic U.S. teams round out the top 5 -- the New York Yankees are No. 4 overall at $2.3 billion while the Dallas Cowboys rank fifth at $2.1 billion.

As was the case last year, all 32 NFL teams made the top 50. Seven baseball teams and three NBA squads made the list - led by the New York Knicks ($1.1 billion put them at No. 23).

Ferrari, worth $1.15 billion, raced in at No. 21 on the strength of its sponsorship deals and 2.5 percent share of annual Formula 1 prize payouts, Forbes said.

The only NHL team to make the top 50 is the Toronto Maple Leafs - tying for 31st on the list with the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Lakers at a value of $1 billion.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for