Manchester United, have maintained their position as the world’s wealthiest football club, a survey showed.

Research into the world’s biggest football clubs, by income, shows the top 20 are set to break the £2bn income mark in 2005.

The survey, formerly known as the Deloitte Rich List, found that Manchester United had an income of £171.5m, giving them the top spot for the eighth year in a row.

“There are a number of different methods of defining a large club – in terms of fanbase, attendances, TV audiences, or success on the pitch,” Deloitte said.

“However, for the purposes of this publication, we look at the best publicly available measure of financial muscle – income from day to day football business operations. We dont consider a clubs budget for outgoings or what someone might pay to buy a club.”

Spanish giants Real Madrid came second, up two places on the previous season, with income of £156.3m, while and Milan stayed third with £147.2m.

Meanwhile, Chelsea broke into the top five of football’s highest-earning clubs for the first time in their history last season, despite recording an operating loss of £87.8m. The club bankrolled by Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, climbed six spots to fourth after earning 143.7 million.

“Our commitments ongoing are to break even by season 2009-10,” said a Chelsea spokesman.

“We hope our losses, largely caused by player trading [£175m in 2003-04], will begin to reduce year on year and we are aiming for a positive operating profit by the end of this season.

“We hope to achieve that with increased merchandising, sponsorship and matchday revenues and from our football activities. But it is a gradual process.”

Though the £50.6m increase in Chelsea’s revenues was the most notable rise, they are just one of 10 British clubs in the top-20 rich list. Other English Premiership teams to feature were Arsenal (sixth place), Liverpool (10), Newcastle (11), Tottenham Hotspur (14), Manchester City (16) and Aston Villa (20) as well as Scotish clubs Celtic (13) and Rangers (19).

Italy had five entries, with Milan being joined by Juventus (5), Internazionale (8), Roma (12) and Lazio (15).

Making up the remainder of the top 20 were Barcelona (7), Bayern Munich (9), their German rivals Schalke 04 (17) and French outfit Marseille (18).

Top 20
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