Premier League rivals Manchester United and Liverpool FC are competing for more than just titles this year, as the owners of both clubs look for potential buyers.
The clubs, the two most successful in English football and whose twice-yearly clashes a staple of the country’s football derbies, have reportedly attracted interest from the Middle East.
This weekend, the Mail on Sunday outlined that a joint Saudi Arabian-Qatari consortium is looking into the possibility of buying 19-time top-flight champions Liverpool for around £3bn.
Meanwhile, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s Sports Minister, has encouraged business interests in the country to look into the prospects of buying both or either club.
“From the private sector, I can’t speak on their behalf, but there is a lot of interest and appetite and there’s a lot of passion about football,” he said.
“We will definitely support it if any [Saudi] private sector comes in because we know that’s going to reflect positively on sports within the kingdom.”
Should Saudi, Qatari or joint businesses buy either club, it would mark a significant enhancement of both countries’ involvement in international football.
Qatar is currently hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which has been attracting record viewership despite the widespread controversy surrounding allegations of corruption as well as criticism of the nation’s human rights record.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Kingdom’s sovereign investment fund, entered the spotlight earlier this year by acquiring Newcastle United.
Other figures and firms are interested in purchasing Manchester United and Liverpool, such as Mukesh Ambani, an Indian businessman who is the world’s eighth richest man with an estimated fortune of £80bn.
Ambani had previously expressed interest in taking over Liverpool in 2010 but was beaten to the punch by current owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG).
Reports of Fenway’s desire to sell the club, which the firm purchased for £300m but is now valued at around £4bn, first began to circulate earlier this month.
A statement from Fenway two weeks ago read: “FSG has frequently received expressions of interest from third parties seeking to become shareholders in Liverpool.
“FSG has said before that under the right terms and conditions, we would consider new shareholders if it was in the best interests of Liverpool as a club.”
Meanwhile, Manchester United owners Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer, who purchased the team back in 2005 for £790m – in a deal surrounded by an air of controversy both at the time and in the 17 years since – began a ‘thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives’ last week.
The announcement followed the news that Cristiano Ronaldo would be leaving the United squad after giving a scathing interview in which he criticised manager Erik ten Hag and club officials.
United, the most successful team in English football ahead of their regional rivals Liverpool by one league title, have reportedly attracted Apple and Sir Jim Ratcliffe as potential bidders.