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Arms Race Gets Second and Larger Arm

Michael Bertin writes regularly about soccer for Deadspin Meet the new world power in soccer, the United Arab Emirates. Actually as people, they suck at the game. The national side is currently 104th (out of 208) in FIFA's World Rankings. But the Emirates have something more important than athletic skill. They have money, obscenely large piles of it. And while clubs across Europe were scrambling to get one or two player moves finalized before the Monday night close of the summer transfer window—think of it as roughly the equivalent of the MLB trade deadline—the Emirates' Abu Dhabi United Group made the biggest move by buying 30 players in the form of Manchester City FC.They also bought Robinho. Yeah, sorry we messed that one up, but it's hard to fault us when Chelsea were so confident they would land the Brazilian that they started selling his shirt on its website. To most Americans, the biggest news in all of this might be, yes, there is another team in Manchester beside United. Think of City as a bit like the L.A. Clippers. They were in the second tier (what's now the Championship) as recently as 2002, and haven't won anything of consequence since 1970. This analogy is a bit imperfect as, until Sir Alex Ferguson showed up at Old Tratford in the mid-Eighties, United were also a bit like the Clippers. The sale of City, though, wasn't a total shock seeing how the previous owner, former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was a fugitive from justice in his homeland and had at least $1.5 billion in assets frozen this summer. Worst case, City might have been following in the footsteps of Leeds on a freefall down the divisions. Best case, they miss a few (more) payroll payments. Now, that's not really going to be a problem. In fact they'll probably start installing fountains in the front office lobby that dispense printer ink. The Abu Dhabi United Group is part of the larger Emirates state-held investment fund Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA). And that guy above, Dr. Sulaiman Al-Fahim (soon to be known as Dr. Evil) is the new face of City. And evil. Al-Fahim is being referred to as the "Donald Trump of Abu Dhabi." He's the CEO of a real estate development group (his Doctorate is in Real Estate Investment). He's got his own reality show and he likes hanging out with Hollywood stars. The difference is Al-Fahim is only 31 and—guessing here—he doesn't have a shitty toupee under that keffiyeh. Oh, and he has upwards of $1 trillion at his disposal. Sort of. With assets rumored to be over $1.2 trillion (the equivalent somewhere north of the GDP of Canada but south of that of Italy) ADIA is the world's second largest institutional investor. How much of that Al-Fahim will have access to for running City is TBD. It'll be a small fraction of that number, but it's still going to be more than enough to make things fun. In less than 12 hours of ownership he broke the record for a British transfer fee by ponying up £32.5 million to snatch Robinho from Real Madrid and from underneath Chelsea. This seemed to be little more than an ante, though, as Al-Fahim immediately singled out Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry, and David Villa as potential City targets for when the next transfer window opens in January. Think of it like Mr. Burns putting together the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant soccer team. Just for the fun of showing how much ludicrous cash he has to spend Al-Fahim said he'd be willing to drop £135 million (~$240M) for Cristiano Ronaldo, dwarfing the already ridiculous £90 million valuation that Real Madrid put on the Portuguese queen of the queers. But ridiculous is relative as that money represents about .016% of the total funds under ADIA control. Put another way, say you're an I-banker with a spanking new MBA and a first year gig making $150K, that's the financial outlay equivalent of you taking your girlfriend to a movie, about $25. If you live someplace besides New York or L.A. you can probably splurge for the popcorn. With a net worth estimated at about £16 billion (~$29B), Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, the previous standard for over-inflated spendgasms, might suddenly find himself feeling relatively poor. And soon his ridiculously stupid transfer sums might seem quaint by comparison. And Abramovich knows stupid. He dropped £30 mil—the previous transfer record—for Andriy Shevchenko, who scored all of nine times in two seasons (that's not good) at Chelsea before being shipped back to Milan this season on loan. Not that spending equals winning, but as Abramovich (and the Steinbrenners) have figured out, it sure fucking helps. It's only one player acquisition (so far) and a questionable one at that for the price—Robinho's a nice player and all, but he's only got 25 goals in 100 games at Madrid—so while order among the Big 4 of the Premier League hasn't been upset yet, there could be one fewer Champions League spot to go around, and soon. [Ed. Note: While ADUG was set up by ADIA (actually still trying to confirm this for certain), the former is a private equity company that is largely funded by outside investors. So, ADUG proper might not have access to the bottomless pit of Emirates state money. However, where Al-Fahim is the face of the deal, the main player behind the scenes is Sheikh Mansour, a member of the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi. So the new City ownership will still likely have access to as much money as they wish to spend.] Manchester City to Bid £135 for Ronaldo [] The Donald Trump of Abu Dhabi []

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