Manchester United's commercial director insisted last night that the club do not need to buy players from a continent in order to sell shirts there, as they put the loss of the £32m-rated Eden Hazard behind them and moved towards the €22m (£17m) acquisition of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund.
An initial €18m bid for the 23-year-old forward, right, was rejected last week, though Dortmund's sporting director, Michael Zorc, has said the player now has only "some details" relating to his contract to agree with United.
United's commercial director, Richard Arnold, said Park Ji-sung, who could leave the club this summer, is the player selected more than any other by Koreans who want the image of a player on the million United credit cards sold in that country. In United's January 2010 £500m bond document, it was stated that "our popularity in certain countries or regions may depend, at least in part, on fielding certain players from those countries or regions".
But Arnold said: "When you look at the success we've seen in that part of the world it's not down to any one player. Ji's obviously been a very successful player, captain of the [South] Korean team. But for Manchester United it's more than any one player. He's picked for his merits, not marketing."
The 23-year-old Kagawa's movement and passing have marked him out but the failure to sign Hazard, Samir Nasri, Wesley Sneijder and Karim Benzema in a four-year period points to greater financial firepower among their rivals.
The club sought to demonstrate their commercial power last night by publishing the findings of a survey, by a market research company, Kantar, which shows United to have a support base of 659 million people worldwide – making them the most popular club in the world.
Though many United fans are concerned by Manchester City's greater financial muscle, Arnold said competition was helping to drive better deals.
"These close competitions are what make Manchester United," Nelson said. "We thrive on that competition. When you look at this last season, [it] would have been great if it had turned out differently in that last 90 seconds. But the uncertainty that comes with having strong competitors is really, really good for the fan base..
"Everybody's interested in us being the most successful club in the world, on and off the pitch. In well-run clubs the virtuous circle [is] of being successful on the business side, off the pitch, enabling you to be successful on the pitch."
- More about: