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Volume 10 No. 25


China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, "is ready to add to the boardroom intrigue" at EPL side Southampton with a takeover bid, according to the London DAILY MIRROR. The move "could see Nicola Cortese returning to his role as the club’s executive chairman." Manager Mauricio Pochettino was demanding talks with ­Southampton Owner Katharina Liebherr Friday "as the dust settles on Cortese’s departure on Wednesday night." But Pochettino is believed to be aware of interest from Wang, boss of the Dalian Wanda group, "who could make the Saints the richest club in the Premier League." Wang's property development company is worth £19B ($31B) "and his own personal fortune around half that figure." Now, Wang, 59, "wants to break into English ­football to add to the company’s incredible portfolio" and is believed to be lining up a £175M ($287M) bid for Saints that Liebherr is ready to accept (DAILY MIRROR, 1/18).

PLAN B: METRO's Chris Rann wrote talk of Southampton being taken over by Wang "is not a new rumor." It has been "bubbling under the surface for a while." Cortese spoke of his "Plan B" when former Owner Markus Liebherr died, and that "he knew people with money who would be interested in investing in the club." Since then, Saints "signed a commercial partnership with the South Coast luxury yacht maker Sunseeker." The story has now broken in the national media, and "the name of Nicola Cortese is all over it." So "is this his Plan B kicking into effect?" It would be some comeback from the former Saints CEO "if he rode back into town with the level of financial backing that would make Saints richest club in the Premier League." In many ways the links are all there, "but perhaps that is wishful thinking." Sunseeker is already a partner of the club and the Dalian Wanda group is run by Wang, "who has a keen interest in investing in football." They also own a luxury hotel brand, "which would fit Cortese’s vision of complex on the St. Mary’s site to cater for all needs" (METRO, 1/19). 

Bundesliga club Hamburg SV members "have voted to separate the club's professional football department from the main club at its annual general meeting on Sunday," according to SPIEGEL ONLINE. A total of 79.4% of the members "voted for restructuring the club." However, the decision "is not yet binding, and there will be another vote on the restructuring proposal during the summer." The restructuring proposal, "HSVPlus," calls for separating the football department from the main club and turning it into a public holding company. This would allow the football department to sell up to 24.9% of its shares to strategic partners. Former Exec Board Chair Ernst-Otto Rieckhoff, who created "HSVPlus," said, "We could generate up to €100 million ($136M) in the next several years" (SPIEGEL ONLINE, 1/19).

FC Barcelona paid €95M to sign Neymar, "not €57M, which is what Barcelona President Sandro Rosell claimed that the club spent," according to Inda & Urreiztieta of EL MUNDO. This €38M difference is "according to contracts being reviewed in court that El Mundo was able to access." The "contractual evidence consists of six documents including, among other information, three bank charges for millions designated for Neymar's family in documents that had been previously unavailable." The €95M that Barcelona spent includes €40M to Neymar's family, €17M to Brazilian side Santos, Neymar's former club; €7.9M for rights to three "further young Santos players," €9M for two Barcelona-Santos friendlies, €8.5M in commission to Neymar's father, €2.6M in other agents' fees and a €10M signing bonus. If Barcelona did pay €95M, Neymar "would be the world's most expensive player ahead of Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, who cost €94M" (EL MUNDO, 1/20). ESPN's Dermot Corrigan reported FC Barcelona sources on Monday told Barcelona-based Mundo Deportivo that the "El Mundo story was false." The club "previously said the investigation into the Neymar deal is 'unjustified' and 'strange' and that they remained 'calm' about it," insisting the move had been "complex but skilfully negotiated." Spanish judge Pablo Ruz has reportedly "asked for copies of documents from Santos and FIFA" as he investigates a complaint by Barça member Jordi Cases. Barca may not be "legally obliged to disclose all their business dealings to members and could claim that items such as the friendlies or options on other Santos players were independent agreements and nothing to do with the transfer." Spanish and Brazilian tax authorities and other observers, including "third-party investors who previously held a stake in Neymar's rights, are likely to be following developments closely" (ESPN, 1/20).

SANTOS CONSIDERING LAWSUIT: In Madrid, David Sanchidrián wrote ESPN Brasil "added that Santos and footballer investment group DIS Esporte could sue Neymar for receiving millions in commission." Now Santos and DIS, which "have clashed for months, could come together against Neymar and Rosell." Santos is "likely to decide in its next council meeting whether to take legal action" to fight for the €38M supposedly related to the Neymar signing. Santos President Odilio Rodrigues said that "he will investigate whether Barcelona paid commission to Neymar's family outside of the Barcelona-Santos agreement" (AS, 1/20).

The Polish city of Wroclaw "has sold a majority stake in troubled football club" Slask Wroclaw to local companies Hasco-Lek, Supra Invest and Inter-System, according to Jaroslaw Adamowski of INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL. The new owners acquired a combined 50.63% stake in the club which plays in the Ekstraklasa, the top division of Poland's professional football league. Four bids were made for Slask, but only the three offers "were in compliance with all formal requirements laid out by the city." Each of the companies will hold close to 16.88% of the shares. Slask said in a statement that the Polish city will obtain about 4M zloty ($1.3M) from the sale. Hasco-Lek "is active in the pharmaceutical industry, Inter-System is a construction company, and Supra Invest is a financial services provider" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 1/20).