1571: Premiership: Keep an eye on MS
by : David Hulott
It might seem a little unlikely that the transfer of a player between an Argentinean and a Brazilian club could have any significant impact on the Premiership, but the recent deal that took Carlos Tevez from Boca Juniors to Corinthians for a fee of close to £12 million (a Brazilian record) is one that bears closer examination.
Corinthians, mired in debt after years of mismanagement and corruption (as is seemingly obligatory in Brazilian football), entered into a partnership with Media Sports Investments (MSI), a London-based investment group, in December 2004, with a 10-year deal between the two consisting of a £20 million investment from MSI in return for 51% of future profits.
The last month has seen Corinthians, with the help of their new-found backers, also recruit the services of other top players, with Carlos Alberto (scorer of Porto’s first goal in last season’s Champions League final), CSKA Moscow striker Vagner Love and centre-back Sebastian Dominguez from Argentine table-toppers Newell’s Old Boys all moving to Sao Paulo.
The President of MSI is 33-year old Kia Joorabchian (believed to be Iranian), but a certain Russian billionaire and an Israeli agent, Pini Zahavi, are both thought to be involved. Joorabchian has denied Abramovich’s involvement, although he admits that the Russian billionaire is a friend (they also have business links through another Russian billionaire, Boris Berezovsky). Abramovich has also denied having any financial interest in CSKA Moscow, but there is enough evidence to suggest this is dubious at best - a US$54 million three-year deal to have their shirts sponsored by Russian oil company Sibneft, of which Abramovich is still the major shareholder; club president Yevgeny Giner being another “close friend” of Abramovich; the recent controversial signing of Jiri Jarosik (CSKA coach Valeri Gazzayev was furious at the deal).
Whoever is behind the company (and it’s difficult to believe that the aforementioned speculation isn’t without some substance), MSI have wasted little time in making their mark elsewhere, having also signed the River Plate trio of Javier Mascherano (one of the most sought after young players in the game), Maxi Lopez and Lucho Gonzalez. The company are now negotiating where their three amigos will be playing their football in the immediate future, with Benfica having already signed Lopez and Gonzalez said to be interesting Porto.
The suspicion is that MSI is being used as a front to buy players in order to keep them out of the hands of Chelsea’s big-money rivals. This also enables them to farm players out to the likes of Corinthians, where the London club can monitor their progress, safe in the knowledge that they have first shout on their futures if and when they see fit to take them to Stamford Bridge. In doing so, Chelsea are taking the concept of feeder clubs to a whole new level.