Saudi Arabia sports minister HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal has not ruled out a potential takeover of Manchester United. The Middle Eastern country’s royalty have been linked with a takeover bid for United over the last year only to largely rebuff those claims.
But Prince Abdulaziz showed a willingness to the proposition when speaking to BBC Sport this week.
“Anything is possible towards future,” he said, speaking at the Diriyah Arena which will host Anthony Joshua’s rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr this weekend.
“Now we are focused on developing the local scene and we have invested a lot of money in football clubs within the kingdom.”
The Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud has been the man chiefly linked to the acquisition of United with Red Devils fans disgruntled with the current regime at the club.
United owners the Glazers bought the club via a leveraged buyout in 2005 which plunged the club into £790million of debt.
Since then, the American family have lined their pockets through the club’s commercial value while failing to dip into their own for investment.
As a result, the prospect of a £3bn takeover from Saudi Arabia has been welcomed by some United fans but the Glazers have already reportedly turned down two offers from the country’s elite.
There are concerns around the club regarding the human rights records in Saudi Arabia, however, which were particularly brought to prominence following the death of Washing Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
The country has been accused of sportswashing its image to foreign countries to which the sports minister replied defiantly.
“No, we’re using sports to enhance sports within the kingdom, to invite anyone who wants to come and visit Saudi Arabia, to come and see what Saudi Arabia really is, and to showcase the ambition and talent of the Saudi population,” Prince Abdulaziz said.
Although the Glazers have ostensibly refused to engage in negotiations with the Saudis as yet, football finance expert Kieran Maguire believes the Americans are not fussed about dealing with the country due to its reputation.
“Everything is available for a price,” he told Express Sport.
“My understanding is that Malcolm Glazer’s shares were split between his six children, of whom some – at least a couple – would be happy to get rid of Manchester United.
“They do not like the level of abuse that anyone with the Glazer name gets, they’re not interested in what they refer to as ‘soccer’.
“Whereas a couple (Joel and Avram) of them are very, very keen; they have become United fans even though they don’t go to matches.
“And, therefore, they’re reluctant to sell. But if the price is right, then they will.”
He added: “Finance is quite agnostic when it comes to doing deals. The world of finance does not peer too closely at the private lives of people taking over a company.
“So long as they have got the funds and the seller is happy with the price then that’s as far as it goes. I can’t see the Glazers turning down an offer on moral or cultural reasons.”