Manchester City’s billionaire owners are braced to add a second division Uruguayan team to their growing global stable of clubs and could follow that by expanding their presence in China.
The City Football Group (CFG), which is owned by City’s wealthy Abu Dhabi benefactor Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, are expected to announce the purchase of Club Atletico Torque within days.
The Montevideo based club would become the smallest member of the portfolio of clubs controlled by City’s parent company, which also includes Major League Soccer side New York City FC, Australian outfit Melbourne City and Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan.
Ferran Soriano, the chief executive of City and CFG, has been a driving force behind the purchase of an array of clubs. There is a belief that the impending tie-up with Torque could be beneficial commercially as well as offering a permanent foothold in talent rich South America.
Uruguay has come under scrutiny from Fifa in recent times with clubs fined for acting as go-betweens for larger teams in Brazil and Argentina to trade players through a lower tax rate, although Torque have not been named in the world governing body’s investigations.
CFG’s global expansion is unlikely to end there, though. The company sold a 13 per cent stake in its business for £265 million in 2015 to private equity groups China Media Capital (CMC) and CITIC Capital, since when they have been exploring the option of purchasing or acquiring a controlling stake in a Chinese Super League club.
Football has boomed in China over the past two years and, while a tie-up with a club would be a complex process, it is an option being actively explored.