The sale of Manchester United is firmly up and running with four bids expected to be tabled by the end of next week.
The Glazer family have set a soft-sale deadline of 17th February for interest to be made concrete.
According to The Telegraph, the four leading parties come from across the globe, with confirmed interest from Qatar investors, American consortia and English billionaire Jim Ratcliffe and partners.
The initial bids are expected to come in at around £5 billion with the Glazer family hoping for north of six.
Avram Glazer has been regularly spotted in Qatar, with state investors rumoured to be the favourites to acquire the club.
With Qatari backing would come a huge war chest for Erik ten Hag to improve the playing squad, with the upgrade to facilities and the overdue redevelopment of Old Trafford also believed to be no issue for the state backers.
However, with Qatar comes the baggage. The human rights, the sportswashing, the ethical issues. Would United lose a touch of its majesty if it was owned by Qatar?
Then come the Americans. The mega rich consortia will no doubt be able to fund the on and off field projects, but will United forever remain a business before a football club? Two of the four bidders are expected to come from the States.
New Chelsea owner Todd Boehly has shown how investors from across the pond can transform a playing squad in no time but after the Glazers’ handling of United, fans will be wary of any U.S. investment.
Then comes Sir Jim Ratcliffe, boyhood United fan and multibillionaire in his own right, who looks to be the favourable option on first viewing.
Ratcliffe has acquired the the financial backing of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase and Co. to help to help fund his bid and would appear to have the club’s best interests at heart.
However, despite his obscene wealth, Ratcliffe falls way short of the funds in the pockets of the state backed bidders. Is this a project that Ratcliffe and his band can invest in long term, without leaving the club in debt. His company has also been subject to criticism from environmental organisations.
There seems to be a downside to every option, but it’s almost impossible to find a party with the disposable funds needed to buy a commodity like Manchester United free of any baggage.
Wealth of this kind is perhaps not acquired without some form of exploitation of human rights or of the world’s less rich and powerful people.
Whoever is successful in the acquisition of the club will have the biggest football club in the world in the palm of their hands and the message from the fans is clear: handle with care.