Some of the continent’s richest people have invested in football clubs in the region heavily.
Football clubs are no doubt a huge prospect for investment. The sport is at the crossroads of entertainment and commerce and therefore football clubs, especially the famous European ones have become prized commodities to possess for plenty of rich businessmen and oligarchs from all over the world – including and especially Asians.
Over the last two decades, plenty of clubs have changed ownership to either find themselves at a better place or to become commercially visible and viable. Some of these ownership deals have been highly successful while some have ended in disaster. Among these owners, Asian investments have been the most prominent with rich consortiums and individuals laying down the marker for buying football clubs and increasing the brand visibility of the global game and popularize it in areas beyond the European landmass.
Here are five European football clubs who currently have Asian owners.
5. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolverhampton Wanderers are a club with a sizeable history in English football. The West Midlands club were purchased by the Chinese conglomerate Fosun International headed by the trio of Guo Guangchang, Liang Xinjun, Wang Qunbin. While the price that they paid to purchase the majority stake is unknown, the move has certainly transformed the club from mediocrity in the lower tiers to now challenging the top teams in the Premier League.
Wolves were purchased by the Fosun Group in 2016 and returned to the Premier League the following season. They have since stayed in the Premier League and have also made it to the Europa League quarterfinals where they lost to eventual champions Sevilla.
However, the investment by the group and the development of the team under Nuno Espirito Santo has been controversial due to rumours spreading that Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes influences transfer activity due to the high number of Portuguese players in the Midlands outfit. But there is no doubt that the deal to switch ownership has proven to be a masterstroke for Wolves.
4. Valencia CF
Spanish club Valencia CF was purchased by Singaporean business magnate Peter Lim in the summer of 2014. Lim purchased more than 70% of the club’s shares from the Valencia Foundation and set about revamping the club from its eighth place finish the previous season.
The first season saw Valencia finish in fourth place and thereby make it to the UEFA Champions League. But since then, the club has endured a rocky path every season. Inconsistent results on the pitch and the frequent changing of management personnel off it haven’t sat well with the fans who have been at constant loggerheads with the management. Since his purchase, Valencia have hired and fired more than six managers and sporting directors.
But Valencia nonetheless had a dream season in 2018-19 when they finished 4th (qualifying for the Champions League) and also lifted the Copa Del Rey after defeating FC Barcelona in the final. But once again the downturn started with reckless change of management. The club also mismanaged its finances resulting in them to constantly lose plenty of promising players to other clubs in order to get money and balance their books.
3. Leicester City
We once again return to the Premier League with Leicester City FC. The Foxes are a fairytale story in the Premier League and in their time under the management under the Thai business family of the Srivaddhanaprabhas, the Foxes have scripted some memorable moments since their return on the Premier League, none of which obviously tops their miraculous feat of winning the Premier League title in 2015-16.
Leicester scripted history by winning the league title with odds of 5000-1, under the management of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. The Thai businessman heads the King Power group, a Thai-based travel retail and duty free consortium with a net worth close to US$4 billion.
Previously, the Foxes were owned by Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha under whom they won the Premier League title and made it to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals the following season. But “Khun Vichai” as he is fondly remembered tragically passed away in a helicopter accident – a news that shocked and saddened the global footballing community.
After his death, the club is currently owned by Vichai’s son Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha who continues the legacy left by his father.
2. Paris Saint-Germain
When we talk about Asian owners in European football clubs, one of the first examples to quote is Paris Saint-Germain. The French club remained in obscurity despite being based in arguably the most iconic city in the world. All that changed when in 2011, the Qatar Sports Investment Group, led by Nasser Al-Khelaifi bought the club.
The QSI group paid more than £100 million to buy the majority stake and since then, Paris Saint-Germain have rocketed into the stratosphere and become one of the biggest clubs in European football. The financial impetus provided by the owners has helped the club challenge for trophies with signings of players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Angel Di Maria, Edinson Cavani, Thiago Silva, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
PSG are currently the 11th most valuable football club on earth with a value of £1.075 billion.
1. Manchester City FC
Another name that automatically comes to mind when talking about Asian owners in European football clubs is Manchester City. The Cityzens were purchased by the Abu Dhabi United Group – a group that works under the foreign investment arm of the UAE Royal Family. The group headed by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan brought the club for a fee of £210 million.
The switch catapulted the Cityzens into the limelight with players like Robinho, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and others calling it their home. Under the Abu Dhabi Group, Manchester City won their first Premier League title on the final day of the season, edging rivals Manchester United on goal difference.
Since the the Cityzens have added three more Premier League titles to their kitty, with two of them coming under current boss Pep Guardiola. They also lifted the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup five times and twice respectively.
City also have put up numerous records in their current iteration under Pep Guardiola. Consisting of world-class players like Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Ederson – City are the first and only team to amass 100 points in the Premier League and to also lift the domestic quadruple of the Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and the FA Community Shield.
Their continued success on the pitch and their brand image off it has seen them become the fifth most valuable club in the world as ranked by Forbes with a value of over £2.5 billion. If they can try and win the elusive UEFA Champions League crown that figure is bound to escalate even further.