Manchester United remain the world's richest club in terms of income - but Chelsea are closing the gap, according to a new report.
ANNUAL INCOME FOR 2003-04
1 (1) Man Utd £171.5m
2 (4) Real Madrid £156.3m
3 (3) AC Milan £147.2m
4 (10) Chelsea £143.7m
5 (2) Juventus £142.4m
6 (7) Arsenal £115m
7 (13) Barcelona £110.1m
8 (6) Inter Milan £110.3m
9 (5) Bayern Munich £110.1m
10 (8) Liverpool £92.3m
11 (10) Newcastle £90.5m
12 (11) Roma £72m
13 (18) Celtic £69m
14 (16) Tottenham £66.3m
15 (15) Lazio £65.8m
16 (-) Man City £61.9m
17 (14) Schalke £60.5m
18 (-) Marseille £58.3m
19 (-) Rangers £57.1m
20 (-) Aston Villa £55.9m Source: Deloitte
Previous season's position in brackets
In 2003/04 Man Utd's income was £172m, and Chelsea, who moved from 10th to fourth spot in the list, made £144m.
But the Deloitte report concluded: "Chelsea will not think that future overall leadership is beyond them."
The report also shows the world top 20 football clubs are set to break the £2bn ($3.8bn) income mark in 2005.
Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Celtic, Newcastle, Rangers, Manchester City and Aston Villa were the other British clubs in the top 20.
Chelsea made a pre-tax loss of £88m last year, but the Deloitte review does not include the cost of transfer fees or player wages, and concentrates solely on day-to-day income from football business.
Income includes money from ticket sales, corporate hospitality, merchandising, television revenues, and non-match day stadium use such as for weddings or conferences.
"United remain one of the most desirable sporting brands worldwide," says the report.
"With a significant lead over their nearest competitors, United are likely to remain the team to beat in future money leagues."
However, the club, currently trying to fend off a takeover from US businessman Malcolm Glazer, may soon be looking over its shoulder, as second placed Real Madrid are closing the income gap on them.
Real are on a marketing learning curve, as they try to utilise their worldwide asset of David Beckham, bought to sell club merchandise in Asia as much as for his football skills.
Meanwhile Chelsea are the table's biggest climber - with season 2003/04 the first in the ownership hands of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovic.
"Chelsea are really getting their act together and are an increasingly attractive proposition," observes Vinay Bedi, a football analyst at Wise Speke.
"Their revenues are up already this season."
Champions League riches
One sign financial success is becoming increasingly related to on-pitch success - despite Porto's victory during 2003/04 - is that the second round of this season's Champions League has paired eight of the top nine Money League clubs with each other.
"The results of these matches may have a big influence on the clubs' positions in the next Money League," says Dan Jones of Deloitte's sports business group.
"Competing in the Champions League can deliver an extra 10% to 20% of income for a club."
In fact the global top 20 is entirely filled by European clubs, with English clubs occupying eight of the positions.
Italian clubs have five positions, Germany, Scotland and Spain two each, and one club from France.
The UK clubs, who make up half the top 20, have a much more balanced spread of revenue than their European counterparts.
Spanish and Italian clubs, in particular, are more dependent on broadcasting largely due to their individual broadcast rights deals.
What puts UK clubs at an advantage over their continental counterparts is the money they bring in through effective use of their stadiums to generate revenue.
"In general, UK clubs have consistently managed, through focussed investment and targeted marketing, to achieve enhanced returns from their stadium asset," says Deloitte's Paul Rawnsley.
"Many of Europe's leading clubs have a great, and as yet relatively unexploited, opportunity to develop significant income streams from their stadia."
British clubs also have an advantage in having embarked on a programme of new stadium building roughly 15 years ago, in the wake of the Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster.
However, those grounds would be useless without fans, and the report's authors recognise the central role supporters still have towards a club's wealth.
"There are only so many endorsed products the fans will buy and there is a risk of affinity overload as official status and logos appear on more and more products," says the report.
"Those clubs which can get it right will climb the Money League in future years."
Nowadays the top clubs are increasingly looking beyond the domestic and European markets to realise further increases in income, and exploit potential fan bases.
Manchester United have tried to crack the Far Eastern and US markets, and Chelsea have also indicated they want to expand their presence in these regions.
"The international market has become increasingly important for more European clubs," says Deloitte's Dan Jones.
"However, 'gaining a fan' in another country is one thing; unlocking some value in a distant and, in all likelihood, less committed fan base is not easy. The key is to have a clear long term strategy. These are not quick wins."