Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is reportedly interested in buying English soccer giants Manchester United and has stepped up his initial bid to $4.9 billion, reports Bloomberg.
If true, this would be a massive move in a soccer culture where European clubs are increasingly owned by foreign billionaires. The current English champions, Manchester City, has seen massive troves of cash injected into the club since the takeover by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi's royal family.
It is reported that Mohammed bin Salman intends to own Manchester United for this reason.
Arguably the most successful club in English soccer, Manchester United has a global fanbase and is consistently valued as one of the most expensive sporting teams in the world. It is currently owned by the American Glazer family, who also own the NFL team Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although reports suggest that the Glazers have no intention of selling, the Saudi crown prince will hope to check their resolve by offering an amount that might just be too much to resist.
But any such transfer of ownership will be subject to Manchester United qualifying for the Champions League next season, with the Sun reporting that a takeover before that remains impossible.According to the Sun, Mohammed bin Salman had first made a bid in October of last year, but following the murder of Saudi defector and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the same month -- widely believed to have been ordered by MBS himself -- any possible talk of takeover hit the brakes. Since the murder, MBS has been trying hard to appease European allies, but not to much avail. The U.K., France, and Germany have all rebuked the Saudi leadership in no uncertain terms, making the possibility of taking over one of the most followed clubs in the world by the crown prince even more difficult.
Even so, with money dominating European soccer more than ever before, it would be very interesting to see how the entire saga plays out. Manchester United fans will be certain that any investment by the royal family would bring almost guaranteed success for their club, but it would come at the cost of accepting money from a highly problematic source.
Moreover, the Glazer family have previously rebuffed offers for Manchester United and could be expected to restrain from selling if the offer is not too good. The next few months will tell us more about who might own one of the biggest clubs in world soccer at the beginning of the next season.