Spanish soccer giant FC Barcelona generated a record revenue of $959.3 million between 2018 and 2019, making it the sport's biggest cash-generating club for the first time ever, according to a new report.
Published Tuesday, Deloitte's Football Money League 2020 ranked the world's wealthiest soccer clubs based on their revenue in the 2018/2019 football season.
Barcelona overtook Spanish rival Real Madrid to take the lead, with the latter raking in revenues of $864 million. At more than $95 million, the revenue gap between the top two clubs was the highest in the 23-year history of Deloitte's Football Money League.
While FC Barcelona's revenue increased from $823 million the previous year, Real Madrid's fell from $896 million, the data showed.
The boost in FC Barcelona's earnings also marked the first time any club had crossed the $900 million threshold, according to Deloitte.
Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain rounded out the top five. According to the report, the five richest clubs collectively generated more revenue than the 11 clubs ranked in 10th to 20th place.
Researchers found that the 20 wealthiest clubs made a total revenue of $10.6 billion throughout the season — the highest combined revenue on record.
Broadcast remained the largest revenue stream, generating 44% of the top 20's total revenue for the season, while 40% was made from commercial deals and 16% from matchdays. However, Deloitte pointed out that the clubs at the top of the ranking were far less reliant on broadcasting revenues than smaller teams.
FC Barcelona's huge revenue increase could largely be attributed to overhauled operations, the report's authors noted, such as its decision to bring merchandising and licensing activities in-house.
"Barca is a clear example of a club adapting to changing market conditions, reducing the reliance on broadcast revenue and focussing on growing revenues within its control," Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, said in a press release Tuesday.
He added that the club's commercial operation alone generated $437.6m of revenue between 2018 and 2019, which was more than the total revenue of the 12th placed club in the 2020 ranking.
"With the club expecting further growth in commercial revenues, we expect them to retain the top spot in next year's edition, and Barca is on course to be the first $1 billion Money League club in years to come," Jones said.
Speaking to CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" on Tuesday, Alan Switzer, director of Deloitte's Sports Business Group, said the rich were getting richer in the sport.
"What you've seen in the last couple of years is that transition away from the billionaire model – which still exists – but you're seeing the likes of Silver Lake investing in the City Group, so you're seeing some of that private equity money entering as well," he said, adding that he believed this was happening because the sport had become more profitable.
Private equity firm Silver Lake bought a $500 million stake in Manchester City owner City Football Group last year.
Switzer added that some clubs were also capitalizing on the "star power" of individual players — such as Juventus, which signed Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018 in a deal worth 112 million euros ($124.5 million).
"He was in large part responsible for Juventus moving back into the top 10," Switzer told CNBC. "Ronaldo is such a huge name — he's got more Instagram followers than any individual football club, and particularly in Asia you find that fans are not only supporting the team but they're supporting the player, and as that player moves, they'll move teams."