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World’s most valuable team is now Real Madrid, not Manchester United

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For the first time since Forbes began producing their list of soccer’s most valuable clubs, Manchester United is not at the top,a  small irony the day after Premier League chief Richard Scudamore touted having the world’s biggest club. If the measure is value, then that’s not longer the case, because with an estimated current value of $3.3 billion, Real Madrid has ascended to the list’s top spot. Manchester United ranks second, while Barcelona sit third, the world’s three kings sitting atop a $1.3 billion gap to team number four.

How does a team become a $3.3 billion franchise? Here are some of the points Forbes picked out about El Real:

  • Revenue of $650 million during 2011-12, most in the soccer world.
  • Operating income of $134 million, second in the sports world to only the Dallas Cowboys.
  • New kit deal with adidas worth $40 million/year.
  • $39 million/year kit sponsorship with Emirates Airlines.
  • A revenue increase of 62% over the last three years
  • An average operating margin of 28% over the same time.
  • Oh, and having massive on-field success thanks to various transcendent stars.

Forbes has been compiling these rankings since 2004, so it’s not exactly like Real Madrid is ending an epic run of dominance. And it’s not like the Red Devils have fallen on their collective faces, either. As the magazine puts it, “It is not that the Red Devils have faltered. It is just that Los Merengues are simply bigger, more profitable and growing faster than Manchester United.”

The full list, below, includes six English Premier League clubs in the top 11, the product of lucrative television deals, not the least of which is NBC’s new pact with the circuit, set to kick-in this fall. Elsewhere on the list, Europe’s other big leagues are still well represented. Though Spain only have the big two, Germany and Italy place four clubs on the list. France has two, and encouragingly, Brazil’s league has one: Sao Paulo titans Corinthians.

Also is the range, in dollars, from top to bottom. The gap from first to 20th is “only” about $3 billion. Between Real Madrid and Newcastle, you can slot in a Barcelona.

Be sure to check out the whole piece, which goes into how the rankings were compiled. It also includes an interesting video with Mike Ozanian, the man in the byline.

Forbes’ Most Valuable Soccer Clubs – Top 20

1. Real Madrid ($3.3 billion)
2. Manchester United ($3.165 billion)
3. Barcelona ($2.6 billion)
4. Arsenal ($1.326 billion)
5. Bayern Munich ($1.309 billion)
6. AC Milan ($945 million)
7. Chelsea ($901 million)
8. Juventus ($694 million)
9. Manchester City ($689 million)
10. Liverpool ($651 million)
11. Tottenham Hotspur ($520 million)
12. Schalke 04 ($498 million)
13. Borussia Dortmund ($456 million)
14. Inter Milan ($401 million)
15. Olympique Lyonnais ($368 million)
16. Corinthians Paulista ($358 million)
17. Napoli ($330 million)
18. Hamburg SV ($300 million)
19. Olympique Marseille ($285 million)
20. Newcastle ($263 million)

Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on January 6, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi has won every individual award imaginable, but now he can add another trophy to his shelf.

For the first time in his career, Messi was named La Liga’s Player of the Month for January.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings, Vol. VIII ]

It’s hard to believe, but somehow the Barcelona superstar had never won this honor before. Despite winning a record five Ballon D’or trophies as the best player in the world, this trophy had eluded Messi since its inception in 2013.

Messi scored six goals in six January matches as Barcelona sit atop the La Liga table, currently holding a three-point lead over Atletico Madrid.

Despite their dominance in La Liga, this is only the second time a Barcelona player has won this monthly award, as Neymar took home the honor in November of 2015.

USWNT-Mexico preview: Energized Yanks look to keep rolling toward Rio

FRISCO, TX - FEBRUARY 10:  Team USA poses for a photo before play against Costa Rica during 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying at Toyota Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The United States women’s national team looks to keep rolling through CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying with a match with Mexico on Saturday.

Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, is again the scene after the Yanks battered Costa Rica 5-0 on Wednesday.

[ MUST WATCH: Christen Press’ dazzling first touch, spin, goal ]

A win over Mexico would move the USWNT into the all-important semifinal, where a win would gain them entry into this Summer’s Olympic Games.

Mexico staged a blowout of its own on Wednesday, cruising past Puerto Rico 6-0 thanks in large part to a hat trick from Maribel Dominguez.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

Mexico has only beaten the USWNT twice in history, and only the 2010 Gold Cup semifinal is considered official.

In recent history, the USWNT beat up Mexico 5-1 last year, and thrice in 2014 by a combined score of 15-0. Expect very little to change with an energized, impressive U.S. side on Saturday.

[ SATURDAY: Watch USWNT vs Mexico live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Big boys to turn up

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Week 26 of the Premier League season is here. This will be a lot of fun with massive games at both ends of the table.

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live online ]

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out.

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Arsenal 3-2 Leicester City – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Norwich City 0-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, USA) –  [STREAM]

Man City 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur – (Sunday 11:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United – (Saturday, 7:45 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Everton 2-1 West Brom  – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Swansea 1-1 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM] 

Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Chelsea 3-2 Newcastle – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Bournemouth 2-1 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Ranieri on Leicester City’s dream season: “Nobody wake us up please!”

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.
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There’s plenty to like about Leicester City’s run to the top of the Premier League, but perhaps nothing is more enjoyable that its manager’s musings.

Claudio Ranieri, the Tinkerman himself, has provided some of the best quips of the season.

[ MORE: Top 5 storylines to look for in PL ]

From “I want to be the crazy man in the Premier League” to “It’s like nobody wants to win the league“, the 64-year-old Italian has offered plenty of beauties.

Make way for some more gems, from LCFC.com:

“I think we work so hard to achieve this level. We want to stay at this level. It’s no pressure for us. The pressure was at the beginning to start well, to carry on and maintain the standard of our performance.
“Now we are safe and we want to fight with respect with all our opponents. Face to face, we play with our strength and they play with theirs. If we win, fantastic. If we lose, next match.
“I think the pressure is on the other teams. We have pressure for our little gap. We continue to dream with our fans and we want to continue to dream. Nobody wake us up please!”
We love this man. To go from a short-lived run in Euro qualifying with Greece to this remarkable roll with Leicester has to be a bit dream-like. We get it. And we love that he’s going with it.