It’s a report that will keep Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward up at night. United are losing relevance to football fans across the world.
United have become the third biggest club in the world on the back of its commercial success. But Woodward is finding out that lack of success on the pitch will impact revenues from the clubs commercial revenues.
Between 2009/10-2013/14, only Real Madrid sold more shirts than Manchester United, an average of 1,580,000 a year for Madrid versus United’s 1,490,000.
During that time period, Sir Alex Ferguson was still in charge for parts of it, United dominated its Premier League rivals in shirt sales, with Chelsea selling an average of 875,000 shirts a year and Arsenal 825,000.
But fast-forwarded to today and Woodward can count the cost of the failed Louis van Gaal era. According to data from sports marketing company Euromericas, United are not only no longer the most attractive shirt for Premier League fans, that honor has fallen to Chelsea who now sell more replica shirts worldwide than any other Premier League club.
It is a huge increase for Chelsea, whose sales have grown by almost 40 per cent despite a poor season defending their Premier League title.
Barcelona lead the way with 3.6m shirts sold between the start of the season and April this year. With stars like Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar leading them towards another La Liga title, the reigning European champions are the world’s most marketable club.
And it is the lack of marketable stars that is hurting United at the moment. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have not yet captured the attention of fans worldwide, leaving an aging Wayne Rooney as United’s most marketable star.
Which is why Manchester United need to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic this summer. Short of bringing Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford, Ibra is the most marketable player available. Despite being 35, Ibra showed this season at PSG with that he can still play at the highest level for another couple of seasons.
The signing of Ibra will give United fans around the world to buy the shirt. When David Beckham signed for Real Madrid they reportedly made his transfer fee back on short sales. United’s new deal with Nike give United a percentage of every replica shirt sold. Those additional sales would go a long way to paying a significant part of Ibra’s wages.
Global Shirt Sales 2015/16