The group is also working to rope in former Spain international David Villa as the Islanders’ marquee signing for the upcoming ISL season.
City Football Group (CFG), the Abu Dhabi-based owners of Premier League champions Manchester City, are close to buying a controlling stake in Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Mumbai City FC, Khel Now can reveal. It is understood that the group is in advanced talks to buy stakes in the club that is currently valued at around ₹250 crores. The outfit is co-owned by chartered accountant Bimal Parekh and Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor. The Chief Operating Officer at the club is Indranil Das Blah.
Interestingly, in as early as 2014, when the ISL first began, the duo had expressed their keenness to rope in an international partner. On their part, CFG had hinted at an investment in India as recently as earlier this year, with a view to completing their portfolio of affiliate clubs in key global markets, in line with their objective of strategic expansion.
Khel Now sources, close to the development, stated that, “The CFG is very close to buying a stake in Mumbai City FC and talks are at the final stage. This deal is set to change the dynamics of Indian football.”
Speaking in March, Chief Executive Ferran Soriano had said, “We have some interest in some markets and countries where there is a genuine football passion and opportunities, like China, but also India. So there might be other opportunities in Asia.” To keep their word, they recently bought Chinese football club Sichuan Jiuniu FC in February, widening their reach to the Asian market.
He further added, “We’ve been looking at India for nearly two years now. I’d say this year we’ll end up doing an investment in India.” In summer 2018, two City football clubs, Girona FC and Melbourne City FC, had participated in a pre-season tournament featuring Indian club Kerala Blasters FC in Kochi.
It has also come to light that before approaching the metropolis club, CFG had been in talks with their league rivals Jamshedpur FC. However, the same failed to materialize. Subsequently, Spanish giants Atletico Madrid themselves proceeded to seal a tie-up with the Men of Steel, with the club leveraging the technical and personnel expertise of the Spanish bigwigs from last season onwards.
The association could prove a game-changer not only for the Islanders, but also for Indian football at a broader level. For knowing the might and financial strength of CFG, the investment will be a substantial one.
Not only will the association bring a brand name and spotlight for MCFC, there’s also the chance for them to help improve the grassroots level of Indian football.
It is important to point out that CFG have been long-time admirers of India’s new age, cash-rich league with Soriano first speaking of the possibility of an investment in the subcontinent, after he visited the country to watch Jamshedpur’s home game against Mumbai in January 2018.
“We think India is a major opportunity for football because there is talent and passion and we are very positive about the development of football in the country. “That is why we are here,” The Spaniard had said at the time.
Apart from the Manchester club, the group already has some well-known clubs under its portfolio, having shares in New York City FC (USA), Girona FC (Spain), Melbourne City FC (Australia), Yokohama F. Marinos (Japan) and Atletico Torque (Uruguay).
David Villa celebrates winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup with teammates
In keeping with their trend of bringing a global superstar to every new market they break into, the CFG are working to rope in former Spain international and World Cup winner David Villa as a marquee signing for Mumbai City in the upcoming ISL campaign.
The frontman has had a prolific career in European football, representing Spanish heavyweights like Valencia, Atletico, and Barcelona. He was also capped 98 times for his country, scoring 59 goals and is the highest goalscorer in the Latin country’s international story. Villa, who is currently playing for Japanese side Vissel Kobe. has also previously turned out for CFG’s American affiliate New York City FC.