As per usual, the club came out and denied all claims. The club is not for sale and we continue to be bled dry by incompetent American businessmen. Despite the dismissive attitude from the club to all these types of stories, they’re not going to disappear any time soon. Looking past the club’s statements, there are most certainly links, coincidences and truths which only reinforce the notion that Malcolm and his boys may just be thinking about selling up.
Qatar Holding is an investment group for the Qatari royal family who have been celebrating their unsurprising success in being chosen to host the 2022 World Cup. As part of the festivities they have decided to branch out and slowly make their presence known in world football. Using the idea of other royal family and state-backed sovereign wealth funds like Abu Dhabi and Dubai, they plan to buy out or at least invest in European clubs, making us all sit up and take notice. The Spanish side, Malaga, have been acquired by Sheikh Abdullah Ben Nasser Al-Thani who is from the Qatar ruling family for a reported €36 million. Noises on the transfer front have been made and marquee signings in the form of Martin Demichelis, Enzo Maresca and Julio Baptiste have shown ambition to say the least.
There are also strong rumours that Qatar Holding are going to make an ‘investment’ into Paris Saint Germain. President Sarkozy’s links with Qatar cannot be dismissed, his pressure on Platini to vote for their bid is no secret, the numerous energy and industry deals that have been done and his recent defence of Qatar 2022 bid. He is also a football fan himself, often being seen at the VIP box at Parc des Princes supporting none other than PSG. Really, when you look at it, it’s no suprise that there have been reports of an investment to come in the near future.
So far the biggest coup in terms of recognition in world football for Qatar has been the successful sponsorship deal with Barcelona. The ‘sacred shirt’ of Barca will now be tainted with the logo of the Qatar Foundation for the sum of £125 million. The foundation, chaired by Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, the wife of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (the main man) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to education projects in the Middle East. It has caused much stir with Barcelona firstly never allowing a sponsor logo in their history and then finally only doing so to promote the charity, Unicef. It goes to show that money troubles are unavoidable even if you are apparently ‘more than a club’. This deal also proved much easier with Barca manager, Josep Guardiola, being an official Qatar 2022 bid ambassador. Guardiola spent two years earning some serious money whilst playing for Qatar’s Al Ahli Club so his links with them as a footballing nation have been there since 2003.
The official ambassadors for Qatar’s 2022 bid included such names as Zinedine Zidane, Gabriel Batistuta, Ronald De Boer, Roger Milla, Sami Al Jaber and Bora Milutinovic as well as Josep Guardiola. Another big name on that list was the one and only Sir Alex Ferguson. So here we have a link, just like the others who have had Qatar’s money waved at them. Speaking at the Aspire4Sport Congress, Fergie praised Qatar’s infrastructure and even claimed that the climate wouldn’t be a problem,
“If Johannesburg and Durban with freezing weather conditions can organise Wold Cup matches, why can’t Qatar do it?”
Now there is obviously the possibility that Fergie lavished the praise upon the bid in exchange of a hefty sum in his back pocket and I, for one, would not blame him. However, it does seems a tad coincidental that as soon as Fergie’s out doing the rounds we suddenly hear that back at Old Trafford the Glazers are paying off £220 million in the form of payment-in-kind (PIK) loans. It can’t be just me that thinks this may have Qatari involvement somewhere along the line?
The facts are there for all to see.
Qatar want to make some moves and become major players in world football, with their deals so far and almost unlimited financial backing to take it further still, nothing could really stop them as such. You can only imagine how relentless they will become as their time to host draws closer. If they’re at the helm of Manchester United during that time then who knows what could happen. One thing that is clear; Qatar aren’t going anywhere until we all take notice.
After all is said and done, is there a better way to announce yourself as a footballing nation than to buy the biggest club in the world?