MUMBAI (Reuters) - The owners of Premier League champions Manchester City are considering investing in a club in India as part of an effort to increase their presence in Asia, chief executive Ferran Soriano has said.
City Football Group (CFG), which owns seven clubs including Major League Soccer’s New York City FC, Spanish side Girona, Japan’s Yokohama F Marinos and A-League’s Melbourne City, hope to complete a deal for a club in India by the end of the year.
“We have some interest in some markets and countries where there is a genuine football passion and opportunities, like China, but also India,” Soriano was quoted as saying by the BBC.
“There might be other opportunities in Asia. 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.”
Soriano attended the Indian Super League (ISL) match between Jamshedpur FC against Mumbai City FC in early 2018. He was invited by Tata Steel, who own the Jamshedpur club.
ISL side Mumbai City FC have been in touch with CFG since last season, a club source told Reuters.
“Preliminary talks were held with Mumbai but Manchester City are in discussions with couple of clubs in India,” the source added.
Mumbai City, which is co-owned by Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor, had the likes of Freddie Ljungberg, Nicolas Anelka and Diego Forlan as their marquee players in the past.
They have sealed their spot in the two-legged semi-finals of the fifth edition of the ISL.
“We have no comments on Manchester City tie-up reports,” the club’s CEO Indranil Das Blah told Reuters.
“We have the ISL semi-finals coming up shortly and we are fully focussed on that.”
Jamshedpur FC chief executive Mukul Choudhari confirmed the club had held talks with CFG in the past but no agreement has been reached.
He said Soriano’s comments proved Indian football was in the right path towards development.
“I think it’s very positive that clubs in United Kingdom are looking at India,” Choudhari told Reuters.
“They are coming to India with investments and not just to leverage. I am sure there will be more.”
ISL side Kerala Blasters FC have also been linked to Manchester City in local media reports. The club did not respond to Reuters’ request seeking comment.
Cricket-mad India, home to 1.3 billion people, is a massive underachiever as far as football is concerned and the country has yet to make a single appearance at the World Cup finals.
A number of European clubs have come to India over the last few years to set up academies on a franchise basis to establish a foothold in a potentially huge market.
CFG recently bought a stake in Chinese third-tier side Sichuan Jiuniu FC and Soriano said they were looking to add at least two or three more clubs to their stable.
“I cannot see 10 years ahead but the group might have two or three teams more,” Soriano added. “Is this going to change in five years and we’re going to have more? Maybe, I don’t know that.
“But to complete the vision that we had six years ago, I think we will have maybe two or three clubs more.”
Additional reporting by Simon Jennings and Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Amlan Chakraborty