LONDON: Manchester United, better late than never and with the rigours of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play around the corner, are moving onto the attack against the club’s debt mountain.
The Glazer family, United’s American owners, have applied to become a listed company on the United States stock market with a sale of shares aimed at raising £64m. This follows the exploration, last September, of a proposal to ‘float’ the club on the Singapore stock market.
United have said the club would use the revenues not to strengthen the squad or renegotiate the contracts of top players but to repay debt. The nature of the shares will ensure that the Glazers maintain majority control of the club.
The Glazers, billionaire sports investors who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American football franchise, borrowed £525m to buy the club in 2005 and then guaranteed the loans against the value of a club which had been one of the most profitable in the Premier League.
In 2010, the owners converted these loans into a bond to reduce the enormous interest payments but the club currently owes £423m. This has clearly become a concern not only in economic terms but of the complications in fulfilling Financial Fair Play demands. United, for the sake of the club’s day-to-day financial health, needs to compete regularly in the Champions League.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has invested thus far this summer in Shinji Kagawa and wants to strengthen midfield further. United have considered bids for Luka Modric of Tottenham and the Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho who was outstanding for Portugal in their run to the semi-finals of Euro 2012.
In both cases Ferguson faces competition from Tottenham and their new manager Andre Villas-Villas.
The former Chelsea boss was appointed formally on Monday as new manager of Spurs in succession to Harry Redknapp knowing that one of his first tasks will be trying to persuade Croat playmaker Modric to stay for a further season.
Last summer Modric had appeared on the brink of joining Chelsea – then managed by Villas-Boas – but was persuaded to stay at Tottenham in the hope the club would return to the Champions League. This hope was ultimately dashed by Chelsea.
Villas-Boas, who has signed a three-year contract at Tottenham, is believed to have recommended a bid for Moutinho who is keen to test himself in the Premier League. The possibility remains open then of Modric going to United and Moutinho filling his place at Tottenham.
Villas-Boas is being accompanied to Tottenham by first-team fitness coach, José Mário Rocha, and head of opposition scouting Daniel Sousa – his staff both in success at Porto and nine months of failure at Stamford Bridge.
Tottenham have won the race for Hoffenheim midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, who had rejected offers from Swansea City and Liverpool. They also hope to complete the £9.5m signing of the Ajax defender Jan Vertonghen, despite problems over his release from the Amsterdam club, and the Internacional midfielder Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior.
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