Arsenal prepare for derby amid talk of £1.5bn takeover
• Unnamed group would make substantial investment in team
• Arsenal debts would be wiped out and ticket prices reduced
The extraordinary flow of money into European football from the Middle East could be set to accelerate dramatically after an unnamed consortium revealed plans to pay a record £1.5bn to transform Arsenal into a "world force".
The group, who did not want their identities revealed, have made their tantalising proposals public on the eve of Sunday's north London derby. They have issued a series of promises apparently designed to appeal to Arsenal's increasingly frustrated fan base – including "substantial transfer funds", wiping out the club's debts, reduced ticket prices and even an attempt to recreate "some of the feel of the old North Bank" at the Emirates Stadium.
A bid source, talking to the Sunday Telegraph, said the proposal involved making a cash offer for all 62,217 shares, the bulk of which are currently held by the majority shareholder, the American Stan Kroenke, and Alisher Usmanov, who has a 29.96% stake.
Kroenke would reportedly be offered around £830m for the 66.83% shareholding he has built up since 2007. Though understood to be reluctant to sell, the prospect of an approximate £400m profit could change his view.
Any deal, which would follow the recent takeovers of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain by Middle East backers, would raise more doubts over the future of Arsène Wenger, though the manager is reported to be "highly regarded" by the consortium.
A bid source told the paper: "Arsenal is at a pivotal position at the moment. The fear is that the club is facing a cycle of decline like Liverpool. From our point of view it is the perfect moment to make this bid because at this moment in time you can still genuinely justify this extraordinary valuation on the club.
"We will not bid for Arsenal if they go into decline. Kroenke and Usmanov will not get this kind of valuation if Arsenal do not succeed and will not get this kind of valuation ever again. We think that bidding now is the key because it is going to give every shareholder maximum value. We are giving them peak valuation.
"The amount of capital required to pump into Arsenal to make it competitive within England, Europe and the world means that the valuation cannot go any higher. "
The source said the group had identified the detached approach of Kroenke and his son Josh as the reason for the club's inability to step up to the next level. "The biggest problem with Arsenal is that it has no owner, no face and there is no one to report to. The management of the club at every level is not put under scrutiny and does not have to report to anyone." The group would also seek to maintain the club's approach of developing young players, and was confident, the source said, of complying with the coming Financial Fair Play rules.
"It is still open to us, but I am realistic and we cannot drop points," Wenger said of today's derby. "If we drop points we can fall quickly behind. So there are two things we cannot do – drop points and also speculate over the weaknesses of our opponents, because that can be deadly as well."
Should Arsenal lose at Tottenham on Sunday, leaving them seven points behind their local rivals and five behind Chelsea, the pressure on Wenger will increase and a bid designed to appeal to supporters will hold even greater attraction.
Filed under: Euro 2012
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