Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin yesterday bought a 20 percent stake in Spanish league champions Atletico Madrid, his company announced, the first Chinese investment in a top European football club.
The deal was worth 45 million euros (US$52 million), the real-estate tycoon’s Wanda Group said on a verified account on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo.
It would provide “all-round support for the development of Chinese football,” the statement said, adding that both sides would spend 30 million euros on a youth training center in Madrid to foster young talent, including players from China.
Wang is No. 42 on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s richest people, with a fortune estimated at US$18 billion, and was named as China’s second-wealthiest man last year. The flotation of one of his firm’s subsidiaries might have since propelled him into first place.
He is a diehard football fan and Wanda became a household name across China after Wang bought a Dalian football club in 1994, renamed it after the firm and transformed it into the strongest team in China.
However, Wang sold Dalian Wanda in 2000 after he became disillusioned with widespread corruption in the Chinese game at that time.
More recently, Wanda has been looking to diversify away from the real-estate sector — which is facing considerable challenges in China — by investing in an ever-expanding portfolio of companies, including cinema chain AMC and yacht-builder Sunseeker.
Atletico, last year’s La Liga champions, have racked up debts in recent years, despite their success on the field.
Chairman Enrique Cerezo agreed the deal with Wang in Beijing, Xinhua news agency said.
Xinhua said Wanda Group is currently funding a youth training project which sent 90 young Chinese footballers to Spain, with the number expected to reach 180 by 2017.
“What we are doing is to raise the level of [the] Chinese game,” Wang was cited by the news agency as saying.
“Hopefully, three to five among those 90 young players will play for top European clubs in the future, and in five years, Spain-trained players will fill the Chinese team in the Asian Cup,” he added, referring to the continental championship, which is currently being played in Australia.
The two sides are to collaborate on setting up three football schools in China, the Wanda statement said, and Atletico might tour China later this year.
KEY GOAL: Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is now free to focus on taking her fourth doubles title of the year with Barbora Strycova; they are due to face Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei on Monday returned to the court for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the WTA Tour, falling to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, who made a solid transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. “I’m not sure how well I adapted, to be honest,” Mertens told the WTA Web site. “I just feel like I might still be struggling a little. It was also [Hsieh’s] first match of the week, so that was a bit of an
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7
‘GREAT COMPETITOR’: Former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza was tested by American teenager Coco Gauff, before the Spaniard advanced in three sets Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Thursday cruised into the quarter-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia by handing their Japanese opponents a rare “double bagel,” a feat matched by US Open losing finalist Victoria Azarenka in the women’s singles. Top seeds Hsieh and Strycova took just 49 minutes to see off the challenge of Japanese duo Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya 6-0, 6-0 on the clay courts at the Foro Italico in Rome. The Taiwanese-Czech duo saved both break points they faced and converted six of 14, winning 62 percent of their first