x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Abramovich will be a hard act to follow

£120m (Dh882m) man Ronaldo could be next on the Abu Dhabi group's Manchester City hit list.

ABU DHABI // The man who is fronting the takeover of English Premier League club Manchester City, believes his group's arrival could have as big an impact as Roman Abramovich's did at Chelsea five years ago. Dr Sulaiman al Fahim, the spokesman for Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment (ADUG), the private equity group led by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, said: "I think it will be the same. We would like to see Manchester City fighting for trophies in every tournament.

"We don't just want Manchester City to be challenging for trophies in England, but also in the Champions League. We want to be in for every trophy available." ADUG have already funded the £32.5million (Dh213m) signing of Brazilian striker Robinho on Monday night and Fahim insists there is more to come, setting his sights on the Champions League player of the year Ronaldo, who plays for city rivals Manchester United.

"Ronaldo has said he wants to play for the biggest club in the world, so we will see in January if he is serious," Falim told Arabian Business. "Real Madrid were estimating his value at US$160m (Dh588m) but for a player like that, to actually get him, will cost a lot more, I would think $240m . "But why not? We are going to be the biggest club in the world, bigger than both Real Madrid and Manchester United.

"Ronaldo has said he wants to play for the biggest club in the world, so we will see in January if he is serious." One of the problems Chelsea found when the wealth of Abramovich was unveiled, was that they paid inflated transfer fees, and that is something Fahim is aware of. "We are not just going to spend money on anyone, but if we can get the biggest players in the world and, of course, if the manager wants them, then we will get them," he said.

In the five years since Abramovich took over, Chelsea have won the Premier League title twice, lifted the FA Cup once and reached the final of the Champions League. City have not won a trophy since picking up the League Cup in 1976, but Fahim hopes to change that soon. Ironically, City face Chelsea at their Eastlands home in the first match since the takeover on Sept 13 and Fahim aims to be there to hold talks with the club and the Premier League.

"I will come to the UK in a few days to meet the manager," he said."We will sit down with him and see what it is he needs now." But manager Mark Hughes will be expected to make an improvement on last season, where City finished ninth, and Fahim is hoping for a top-four position and qualification for Europe's top club competition. "A place in the Champions League is quite a jump from last season, but we are ready to sit down with the manager, find out the players he would like, and bring the right players into the club. This season we would like to be a lot better team than last season, and we are eager for trophies next season.

"We would also like to bring in extra revenues by introducing new marketing ideas. "They have a lot of fans, they are loyal fans, and there is the opportunity to grow there. It was all very attractive to us." sports@thenational.ae