Trillion-dollar wealth of new Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Published 00:00 03/09/08 By By Graham Hiscott
This is the trillion-dollar man behind the mega-rich Arabs promising to build a global super-team at Manchester City.
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the brother of the ruler of Abu Dhabi, the biggest of the United Arab Emirates.
Within an estimated family fortune of $1trillion (£555billion) he is set to make the £11.7billion spending power of Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich look like chicken feed.
The club's new owners are set to bankroll a mind-boggling £540million spending spree - including an audacious £135million swoop for Cristiano Ronaldo from arch rivals Manchester United.
Oil-rich Middle East business group Abu Dhabi United's spokesman says they will try to snatch the World Player of the Year in January.
And we can reveal the staggering wealth of the tycoon behind the group whose sensational developments threaten to turn football on its head.
His mega-deep coffers have been boosted by the surge in oil prices - for it is said every time the price of a barrel goes up a dollar, Abu Dhabi makes another $500million a day.
The Sheikh has spent £210million buying a 90 per cent stake in Manchester City - fired into action by the intense rivalry Abu Dhabi has with its smaller yet even more successful Emirate neighbour Dubai.
In a similar competitive move into the sporting world, Abu Dhabi splashed out £91million for a five per cent stake in Ferrari three years ago in the hope Formula One will give it a Grand Prix.
And the Emirate has also bought one of New York's best-known skyscrapers, the Chrysler Building, for Û800million last year.
Now Sheikh Mansour plans to take City to dizzy heights and put even mighty Manchester United in the shade by turning his new plaything into the biggest club on the planet.
Other big-money transfer targets are thought to include Liverpool's Fernando Torres and Arsenal's Cesc Febregas.
Former Arsenal legend Thierry Henry and Valencia's goal-getting Spanish Euro 2006 striker David Villa are also believed to be on City's shopping list. It follows the stunning £33million transfer-deadline signing of Real Madrid's Brazilian superstar forward Robinho from under the noses of high-rollers Chelsea.
But a deal to lure Ronaldo from arch rivals Manchester United in the next transfer window would prove the biggest scalp - despite his wish to move to Spain.
Dr Sulaiman al-Fahim, frontman of the Abu Dhabi United Group, said: "Ronaldo has said he wants to play for the biggest club in the world, so we will see in January if he is serious. Real Madrid were estimating his value at Û160m but to actually get him, will cost a lot more. But why not? We are going to be the biggest club in the world, bigger than both Real Madrid and Manchester United."
The deal could spark a wave of similar takeovers by oil-rich foreign backers. Financial advisor Amanda Stavely, who brokered the Abu Dhabi deal, explained why the Middle East consortium were keen.
"The Premier League without doubt as a sporting brand is a great opportunity," she said. "We should be very proud of British football. "Any outside or foreign investor can only be excited to get involved in a world-class league. Manchester City sells itself."
The Abu Dhabi United Group is among of a new breed of investors known as sovereign wealth funds.
These off-shoots of governments, mainly from the Middle East, have grown massively wealthy on the back of soaring oil prices. And with oil rising from 23 a barrel in 2002 to $147 this year, they are running out of things to buy at home.
There is concern that countries with undemocratic political systems, as well as human rights records, are able to buy our prized-assets.
But with the credit crunch leaving many in the West strapped for cash and oil prices still high, the trend is only set to continue
GULF RIVALS RICHES
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates but it lives in the shadow of its bigger and richer neighbour Dubai - the Persian Gulf's jewel in the crown.
Population: 1.3 million
Top Hotel: Burj Al Arab - the world's only 7 star
Oil production: 2.9 million barrels a day
Trophy asset: Travelodge. Tried to buy Liverpool FC
Tourists: 7 million last year
Top Hotel: Five star Al Raha Beach
Oil production: 2.7 million barrels a day
Trophy asset: NewYork's Chrysler Building
Tourists: 1.5 million last year