City Sheikh Up as Arab Investment Begins

 
 

Manchester City’s recently-found welath could provoke a new world order, writes Fearghal Kerin.

Few would have thought that events at Manchester City could have gotten more bizarre than those that the fans of the Eastlands side had gotten used to over the past twelve months.

Two takeovers in addition to previously unheard of new signings, as well as three managers in little over twelve months have made the City soap opera the most compelling in the Premier League.
Yet the purchase of the club by the Abu Dhabi United Group at the end of August has made their future every bit as unsure as it is exciting.

When previous owner Dr Thaksin Shinawatra, himself a former Thai Prime Minister, was forced to offload the club after having his assets seized amidst corruption charges, the club were left with owners that will likely prove every bit as mysterious as the previous one.

Previously unheard of on these shores, the Abu Dhabi United Group are owned by the royal family in the United Arab Emirates (one of the world’s richest countries and getting richer as the oil crisis continues), and seem to see their ownership of Manchester City as a useful public relations tool.

Owning a club in the most high profile league in the world and transforming them into one of Europe’s powerbrokers would doubtlessly gain the group massive recognition on a global scale, but one would assume it is a very expensive PR stunt.

City have a lot of work to do before they can achieve their dream of being the biggest club in Manchester, let alone Europe

However, the group, fronted by Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim, popularly known as the Donald Trump of Abu Dhabi, have more money than just about anybody on the planet.

Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich’s projected wealth of around £15 billion pales in comparison to the royal family, who have access to around £1 trillion.

Baring in mind how Abramovich’s rubles transformed Chelsea from a team who hadn’t won a league title in fifty years to a post’s width away from a Champion’s League title, it is obvious how much could be achieved with ten times that wealth.

Taking over the club with just 24-hours left of the summer transfer window, the new owners postured in a way never before seen in football with their unparalleled wealth. It was reported that in just one day, the club made bids of over £250 million for some of the world’s top names, including such luminaries of the game as Ruud van Nistelrooy, Dimitar Berbatov, Mario Gomez and David Villa.

Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich’s projected wealth of around £15 billion pales in comparison to the royal family

While many of their bids on deadline day were doomed to failure, both by overly ambitious targeting and a lack of time to conclude deals, the one that was finalised has had effects of seismic proportions in how City are seen on the European stage.

Managing to outbid Chelsea for Brazilian superstar Robinho, after he had already declared his dream of leaving Real Madrid, City were able to convince him to join a perennially midtable (at best) club that had only qualified for the UEFA Cup as a result of their good disciplinary record last season, albeit with wages of around £160,000 a week, making him the world’s highest paid footballer.

All the money in the world, however, does by no means guarantee success for City. While Robinho’s comments about his then employers in Madrid had made his position at the club untenable, not all players will be as desperate for a move or have their heads turned by such lavish wages as the little Brazilian.
Even before the recent takeover, City had offered double the wages AC Milan were offering for former World Player of the Year, Ronaldinho, yet still found their offer turned down by a player who at least has some shred of ambition left before the end of his career.

For the moment, City have a lot of work to do before they can achieve their dream of being the biggest club in Manchester, let alone Europe. The lack of football knowledge from the new owners is glaringly obvious with their pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the world’s finest player, who, for an abundance of reasons will never ditch the red half of Manchester for their blue neighbours.

Dreams of assembling a dream team as mooted by the new owners, involving luring Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas from England’s “Big Four” clubs are destined for failure, at least in the short term while City build a reputation as a stable and successful club.

In essence, one would expect City to challenge for major honours in the short term. However, this will require stable management – with Kevin Keegan and Alan Curbishley leaving their clubs this month after interference by their respective foreign owners, in addition to José Mourinho last season – which is not necessarily a guarantee.

The players aren’t at the club just yet to make it likely that this will be the season of City’s potentially imminent breakthrough into the Champions League, but the January transfer window will tell us a lot about whether City’s dream of ending a thirty year wait for a trophy is about to end.

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