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Sat 17 Jan 2015 01:58 AM

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What makes a football club truly global?

Is it revenue sales, title success or star players, asks Neil Halligan

What makes a football club truly global?

AC Milan and Real Madrid, two of the world’s most attractive clubs in terms of global appeal, recently played in Dubai at the Sevens Stadium.

An enjoyable contest, as friendlies go, the event was a sell-out, with somewhere in the region of 2,000 of the paying patrons not getting in owing to safety fears.

The organisation and access to the ground issues aside, the level of interest in the match was exceptional.

Tickets were sold out well in advance, which goes some way towards supporting Nick Peel’s assertion that there are only four football clubs that have true global appeal – Manchester United and Barcelona being the other two.

The recently-appointed Marka CEO, who joined the retail start-up in November, is a former retail director of Arsenal FC, so he knows a thing or two about football and its mass appeal to fans around the world.

It’s an interesting debate and certainly fans of clubs considered to be ‘big clubs’ would argue the toss and say their team also should be included.

How about Liverpool, winners of five European Cups, three UEFA Cups and 18 league titles in England? Chelsea – the nouveau-rich of English football, Juventus – the grand old lady of Italian football, Bayern Munich – the German giants, or even Paris Saint-Germain?

In economic terms, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United would certainly fit the bill, occupying the top three slots in terms of revenue earned and club value, as ranked by Forbes. In that same list, Milan sits in eighth position, so what makes a football club global in terms of branding appeal?

Success and history, I would argue, are the most important.

All four of the clubs have been historically successful, but, in order to maintain that global appeal, the success has to be maintained. Therefore, is why Milan are in real danger of sliding out of that top four list?

When you look at Milan, and where they have been – former European champions, winners of national titles – their success has dwindled considerably in recent years.

Despite being the second most successful club in the world in terms of number of international titles, Milan last won the title in 2010-11 season and the European Cup in 2007. Their current squad contains very few of the Galácticos (superstar players) that other clubs have. And when they do, they’re very often sold on.

The Champions League, where all the big clubs and the massive financial rewards are, is where clubs heighten their profile and where Milan have grown it’s in stature. They finished eighth last season, outside any of the European places, and if they are to maintain their place among the global elite, they’ll need to regain their place among Europe’s top clubs.

The profile of their national competition Serie A hasn’t helped, and it’s where the English Premier League has excelled.

The Premier League teams are reported to earn around $3.4 billion from the sales of all their overseas rights to live games for the three-year period, 2013 to 2016, with Asia contributing the major share of $1.4 billion.

When Manchester United endured a torrid season last year, in the wake of Sir Alex Ferguson stepping down, Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said it damaged the global appeal of the League.

Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, or even Liverpool, who had a remarkable season last year, wouldn’t have been able to have that effect on the competition. And maybe therein lies why United remain one of the truly global football clubs.

It’s an interesting debate. One that will run and run, and evolve, but only when another club has created an era and an aura.

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Anil Bhoyrul 5 years ago

With all due respect, I think Neil Halligan is finding it hard to accept the truth, which is that Manchester United has past its sell by date and can no longer be considered a global club. Who is it playing in the next round of the Champs League? Nobody. Carling Cup? Nobody. Premier League title race? Nowhere to be seen. Conversely, clubs like Arsenal have attracted global sponsors such as Emirates and have completely redrawn the soccer map thanks to their merchandising, branding and superb stadium facilities. I think you will find BEIN sports 11 has covered more Arsenal games than Man Utd this season. Ask yourself why Neil.