Alisher Usmanov ready to fund Arsenal spree  

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Alisher Usmanov ready to fund Arsenal spree
Russian-based billionaire Alisher Usmanov, a major shareholder at Arsenal, has said the squad is not strong enough to compete with Manchester United and that he is ready to give Arsene Wenger funds to invest in the transfer market.

Usmanov attended the 3-1 Champions League semi-final defeat to United last Tuesday and spoke afterwards about the need to strengthen the squad.

“Of course, to be first in the world, to be first in Europe you must have a much stronger bench,” Usmanov said. “Today you have seen with Manchester at least £100 million in talent on the bench.” Farhad Moshiri, Usmanov’s business partner, who also attended the game, described it as “boys against men”.

Usmanov first bought shares in 2007 and has now built up his shareholding to 25 per cent through his investment company Red and White Holdings, but it is understood that he is unhappy with the way he is being treated at Arsenal. Usmanov still finds himself shut out from the boardroom because of a 'lockdown’ agreement, led by Danny Fiszman, which gives other board members first option on shares that become available. But despite Arsenal insisting they would resist foreign ownership, American investor Stan Kroenke was invited onto the board and at the beginning of the month he increased his shareholding to 28.3 per cent.

The Takeover Panel are investigating Kroenke’s earlier purchase of 5,000 shares from Fiszman in March. Telegraph Sport also reveals today another businessman, Stephen Perry, is hoping to buy a stake in the club to ensure a foreign takeover does not happen.

Usmanov feels that there has not been sufficient recognition of his co-operation with helping the club develop and his offer to strengthen the squad. Moshiri claimed that they “don’t understand anything” about Kroenke’s growing shareholding and the intentions of the board. “We read the papers to find out,” he said.

Wenger’s Arsenal have gone four seasons without winning a trophy and Usmanov believes significant investment in the team is required if that run is to be stopped. A spokesman for Red and White said: “We originally decided to invest in Arsenal based on the manager and the ability of Arsenal to compete at the very highest levels. If the manager and the board decide that the club requires additional funds to invest in the squad then we stand ready to support them.”

Wenger has been criticised for failing to invest in the squad, although it is debatable how much money he has had available. The club are still paying off the debts incurred by building the Emirates Stadium and while they have an impressive turnover, they have to spend a significant portion of their profits on servicing those debts. But in signing Andrei Arshavin for a club record £15 million in January, Arsenal have shown there is money available and that Wenger is prepared to move for expensive players at the peak of their game. Whether he gets to spend heavily in the summer might well depend on how the ownership issues are resolved.


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