Sun, Jan 25, 2009 - Page 18 News List

City deal breaker has his sights set on Chelsea: report

AFP , PARIS

Sulaiman al-Fahim, who was part of the Abu Dhabi takeover of Manchester City, is working in conjunction with a group of German investors to put together a bid to buy Premiership rivals Chelsea from Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich, an Arabian business Web site reported on Friday.

The report claims the mega-rich Abu Dhabi businessman has met with five potential German partners from Swiss based company Falcon Equity in a bid to wrest the club from Abramovich, who is rumored to have seen his interest in the club wane. The Russian, who lost a large chunk of his fortune during the financial crisis, has been less in evidence in his seat at Stamford Bridge this season.

“We have looked before at some European clubs before to see if the numbers add up, and now we are doing the same with Chelsea. I can’t go into more details at this stage,” Falcon Equity boss Holger Heims told Arabianbusiness.com.

“I don’t believe anything is ever not for sale if you come up with the right price. It’s not about trying to buy a football team but about a business,” he added.

Abramovich took over the club in 2003 and has since invested around £500 million (US$688.2 million) as he turned the Londoners into a European force by first bringing in Jose Mourinho as manager as well as a string of world class players.

They won back to back Premiership titles in 2005 and 2006 and a string of domestic cups but have yet to win the Champions League trophy Abramovich craves, despite coming within a successful penalty kick of glory in last year’s final against Manchester United in Moscow. However, the club has racked up massive debts and encountered a number of problems on and off the pitch that have fueled rumors Abramovich is on the verge of pulling the plug.

The reclusive 42-year-old rarely gives interviews and these latest reports are unlikely to inspire the Russian to declare his intentions in public.

“Given that Roman Abramovich has invested over £500 million into the club, it would not be cheap [to buy Chelsea], and with the current credit crunch, nobody wants to be over exposed on one deal. But through a number of investors, there is money available to put together a deal,” Heims said.

The report was immediately denounced by Chelsea assistant coach Ray Wilkins.

“It is no, no,” said Wilkins. “Roman is very keen to continue his support of Chelsea and what Peter Kenyon said last week is the bottom line. It’s not for sale.”

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