SHANGHAI: Manchester City’s owners City Football Group announced the purchase of Chinese third-tier club Sichuan Jiuniu on Wednesday – in partnership with a Chinese investment fund and a company that makes robots.
The rare swoop for a Chinese team, after Sheffield United bought Chengdu Five Bulls in 2006, expands CFG’s portfolio to seven clubs and follows the rapid growth of Chinese football in recent years.
Few details were revealed about the deal, which partners Abu Dhabi-owned CFG with China Sports Capital and UBTECH, Chinese artificial intelligence and humanoid robotic company.
Investment fund China Sports Capital was jointly established by Sequoia China and Chinese state-linked CMC, which bought a 13% stake in CFG in 2015.
CFG also owns New York City and Melbourne City football clubs, but chief executive Ferran Soriano said it had been a long-held “dream” to become part of China’s growing football scene.
“We want to be part of the initiative… even just a small part,” he told a press conference in Chengdu.
“We will be patient. We are here for the long-term.”
CFG is also the owner of Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay and has stakes in La Liga outfit Girona FC and Yokohama F Marinos in Japan’s J-League.
Sichuan Jiuniu, its latest addition, is based in the western Chinese metropolis of Chengdu and play their home games at the Chengdu Longquanyi Football Stadium.
Chinese football was buoyed by an influx of funds and foreign stars after President Xi Jinping, who visited Manchester City in 2015, outlined ambitions to turn the world’s most populous nation into a global soccer power.