Man U Coin It In As Europe's Champions
For 22 men in shorts running around in the Russian rain kicking a muddy ball, there was a lot of cash on the line--and billionaire bragging rights.
In the final winner-take-title-and-all tie of the European Champions League, Manchester United, owned by U.S. billionaire Malcolm Glazer and his family, beat Chelsea, which is owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
The match, played in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, was decided by a penalty-kick shootout after the teams stalemated at one goal apiece in regulation and overtime. The mandatory five rounds of kicks left the sides level at four penalties scored each. John Terry, for Chelsea, and Manchester United's Christiano Ronaldo, two players whom we rate among the 10 highest earners in the game, both failed to score.
In the single-elimination rounds, a full-stretch save to his right by Man U's Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Saar made Chelsea's French striker Nicolas Anelka the goat. Man U's 6-5 victory gave the club its third Champions League title and a "double" for the season, having already won the English Premier League. The match was the fourth consecutive Champions League final to feature an English team, but was the first ever between two of them.
In terms of raw prize money on the night, Man U picked up 7 million euros ($11 million) and Chelsea 3 million euros ($4.7 million), but that is only the final gloss on their earnings from the tournament.
UEFA, European football's governing body, has a complex formula for distributing the estimated 824.5 million euros ($1.3 billion) this year's Champions League will generate from media rights and sponsors like Ford Motor (nyse: F - news - people ), MasterCard (nyse: MA - news - people ), Sony (nyse: SNE - news - people ), Vodafone (nyse: VOD - news - people ) and Heineken (other-otc: HINKY - news - people ). The 32 clubs participating from the group rounds onward share 75% of the total. Half a club's payout is determined by how far it gets in the competition and the other half mostly by the value of the commercial market the club comes from.
Final numbers won't be known for a couple of months, but UEFA is in the second year of its current three-year marketing deal for the Champions League, so last year's tournament, while earning a little more than this year's, provides a reasonable benchmark of what to expect this year. The 2006-07 winners, AC Milan, owned by another billionaire, Silvio Berlusconi, received 39.6 million euros ($62.5 million), followed by Chelsea, which only got to the semifinals last season, at 34.7 million euros ($54.8 million). The losing finalists, Liverpool, owned by Thomas O. Hicks, yet another billionaire, and George Gillett Jr., merely wealthy, were the third-highest earners at 32.2 million euros ($50.8 million).
Success in the Champions League is important to the financial success of Europe's top clubs. Six of the eight teams that made the quarterfinal rounds of this year's tournament are among the top 10 in our our most recent ranking of the World's Most Valuable Soccer Teams. Manchester United ranks first and Chelsea eighth.