Spanish football giants Real Madrid retained top spot on a list of the world's most valuable football teams for a fourth consecutive year, according to a Forbes poll released on Wednesday.

The value of the 10-time European champions rose 12 percent to $3.6 billion (2.5 billion pounds), making them the world's second most valuable sports team, surpassed only by the National Football League's Dallas Cowboys ($4 billion), Forbes said in a statement.

Barcelona were second on the list with a value of $3.5 billion, also up 12 percent from last year. Manchester United ($3.3 billion), Bayern Munich ($2.7 billion) and Arsenal ($2 billion) rounded out the top five.

According to Forbes, the 20 most valuable football teams are worth an average of $1.44 billion, a 24 percent jump from last year that was driven by new lucrative television deals.

Rafa Benitez's horrible year ends with relegation

Just over five months on from his sacking as Real Madrid boss, Rafael Benitez has been relegated from the Premier League with Newcastle United.

Los Blancos came calling in the summer of 2015 after the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti, but poor results and unpopularity with fans saw Benitez replaced by Zinedine Zidane in January.

Since then, Real have excelled, taking the title race in La Liga to the final day and reaching the Champions League final, while Benitez, who took over at Newcastle in March with the club in the bottom three, has failed to save them from the drop.

It was always going to be a tough task, but one that the Spaniard, who had professed a desire to return to England where he had enjoyed a successful spell with Liverpool, would relish.

The Magpies had 24 points when he arrived with ten games to go, and a further ten points from a possible 27 has not proven enough.

Local rivals Sunderland relegated them to the Championship with victory over Everton on Wednesday night.

Having signed a three-year contract, the former Real Madrid coach is free to leave after a 'break clause' was included, and few would blame him as it has been a tough season on Tyneside which has culminated in their second relegation in seven years.

Gaspart: Real Madrid harm football

Joan Gaspart, ex-President of Barcelona, has claimed this week that Real Madrid are detrimental to football.

The Catalan has hit out at claims that Barcelona may try to bribe Granada ahead of their crucial game this weekend, which decides who will win La Liga, and also denied that Barcelona used illegal means to procure the title in the 90s when he was at the club.

"The only thing Real Madrid do is harm football. If I was a Granada player I'd be offended, because it insinuates that I could be bought, it's an indecent campaign," said the 71-year-old.

He added that he doubts such things could happen in the game, but that if that were the case, then proven action would have to be taken.

"I believe in football and its honesty. If such things are discovered, though - through secure investigations - then the clubs involved will have to be punished," Gaspart stated.

The ex-Blaugrana chief also spoke about allegations that Barcelona rewarded Tenerife with millions of euros in the 1990s, after they beat Real Madrid on the final day to give his club the title.

"Whoever says that is a liar.

"All Barcelona did was invite Tenerife to [pre-season trophy] the Gamper, not a euro was paid," remarked the businessman.

Gaspart said that he is confident both Granada and Deportivo La Coruna, who face Real Madrid this weekend, will be trying as hard as they can to prevent their respective opponents from lifting the silverware.

Zidane earns belief from Real turnaround

Zinedine Zidane may have been a surprise appointment at Real Madrid earlier this season but his spell in charge so far has shown there are reasons to believe in the Frenchman.

After the defeat to Atletico Madrid in late February, Los Blancos were in freefall with supporters unsure of Zidane's managerial attributes.

It was his first defeat as manager yet it looked to be a damaging one with Barcelona so far ahead in La Liga at the time.

Defeats against your local rivals are never received well and even the 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture earned by Rafa Benitez early in the season piled pressure on the former coach.

Benitez was eventually dismissed and there was a fear Zidane may go the same way after the disastrous trip to the Estadio Vicente Calderon.

Yet what has happened since that defeat has taken everybody by surprise as Real Madrid have put themselves back into contention for both the Champions League and La Liga titles.

After the Atletico defeat, the Frenchman began to string together results with 11 consecutive victories taking full advantage of Barcelona's collapse in March.

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