Even 24 hours earlier, few would have believed that Manchester City would be the name on everybody’s lips on transfer deadline day.
But City, rather than their more illustrious neighbours Manchester United, dominated much of the gossip and discussion yesterday, in the increasingly bizarre world that is modern football.
First came the unexpected news of a takeover from the oil rich state of Abu Dhabi and then – related, of course, to the resources of the new owner – followed by reports of an audacious bid for Spurs’ sulky star striker Dimitar Berbatov and the even more sensational signing of Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Robinho.
City fans, so used to being in the the shadow of United, will be rejoicing that their concerns over the financial stability their owner, former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have been so emphatically answered by the appearance of a seemingly richer owner. There may be a credit crunch affecting these shores right now, but that will not stop foreign investors being put off the attractions of our top football clubs.
One foreign owner, Thaksin, gets into a financial and legal pickle at home, and another foreign owner is quick to step into the breach.
Should the bickering couple at Liverpool (US businessmen George Gillette and Tom Hicks) see eye to eye for long enough to decide to sell the club that they are accused of not being properly focused on, there would surely be another foreign owner or sovereign wealth fund willing to stump up and take the club off their hands.
England’s Premier football clubs, despite their colossal wage bills, remain the focus of foreign investors’ appetite. Domestic owners, once the most likely helmsman at a football club, find it hard to compete.
The League is the dominant one in Europe, commands high television revenues and has the history and atmosphere at most stadia to match. Matches, despite the current economic uncertainty, continue to draw crowds that are near capacity at most venues.
The Emirates, whether it be in the form of Dubai or its neighbour Abu Dhabi, have been keen to do a deal for ages.
Dubai tried to buy Liverpool and there has been talk of previous attempts by Emirate states to buy other clubs, including Arsenal, as it diversifies out of oil assets. Football may not be a certainty in terms of profitability, but the possibility of making money is there – and, if youdon’t, there’s always the fun that can be had along the way.
Manchester City fans, who had their hopes raised when Thaksin first bought the club just more than a year ago, will be living the dream again this morning. As other clubs have discovered, sufficient funds aren’t the only requirement for success on the field, but it certainly helps (just ask Chelsea). And if a new cash-rich owner also enables the club to match their rivals in the bidding war for a star player or two, that’s heaven.