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Tue 4 Apr 2017 09:48 AM

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Man City strikes 10-year South America deal to find new football stars

Pact means Abu Dhabi-owned City will take control of Uruguayan club Club Atletico Torque

Man City strikes 10-year South America deal to find new football stars
Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan has become one of the biggest spenders in soccer, turning the middle-sized English team into a global giant. (Getty Images)

Manchester City’s quest to enlarge its global footprint and find new stars has led to the billionaire-owned Premier League soccer team signing a 10-year accord with a little-known Uruguayan club, an official for the South American team said.

The pact means City will take control of Club Atletico Torque for a longer period than the second-division club has been around. The deal was a year in the making as City scoured countries across South America before alighting on the Montevideo-based team, according to Torque’s club secretary Pablo Nikitov.

Nikitov said Torque officials had agreed not to disclose financial details, and City declined to comment on the agreement. Torque would be the smallest member of the City family of clubs. Since buying the Manchester team in 2008, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan created City Football Group and added clubs in New York, Australia and Japan.

Sheikh Mansour has become one of the biggest spenders in soccer, turning the middle-sized English team into a global giant. He’s spent more than 1 billion pounds ($1.25 billion) on recruiting players and hundreds of millions more on creating a sporting complex around City’s Etihad Stadium. The club, now led by former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, is currently fourth in the Premier League.

Even before luring Guardiola, who was credited with developing young players during his time at Barcelona, City has invested in improving its youth academy. The relationship with Torque is part of that push, Nikitov said. City will use the club as a base to develop players from across South America before taking the most promising ones to England, he said.

In addition to its first team, Torque has five developmental squads. The investment in Torque could help City save millions in transfer fees and help the club get around restrictions on signing non-European athletes and juniors.

City’s investment will help Torque, formed in December 2007, with its push to reach the top division. It currently plays before a crowd of around 250 people, about 200 times fewer than the number that flock to watch City’s first team in the Premier League.

It’s not the first time Uruguay has been used as a staging post to take players to Europe. A group of British investors took control of another second division team, Deportivo Maldanado. They recruit South American players, usually from Brazil and Argentina, to the team and try to sell them on at a profit. Many of the players never set foot in Uruguay.

City last year signed Argentine goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli from Maldonado before immediately selling him to Spain’s Real Sociedad. Rulli had never appeared for Maldanado.

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