South Africans target Portsmouth buyout

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The Independent Football

A group of South African businessmen, being advised by the agent Pini Zahavi, are in advanced negotiations to buy Portsmouth. Detailed talks have been taking place since Friday with the club's owner Alexandre Gaydamak, who has been looking for a buyer for several months, keen to sell.

An outline agreement has been reached on a price for Portsmouth – thought to be around £70m – although that includes taking on the club's debts which are believed to amount to more than £30m with various other liabilities pushing that figure far higher. The process of due diligence, with the South Africans given access to the club's books and accounts, is about to start.

It is hoped that a deal may be announced within the next two weeks with the South Africans – who are not linked to the bid previously mooted for Newcastle United and are understood to be wealthy industrialists – then going public with their identity and intentions for Portsmouth.

"They are now talking and negotiations are going well," a source close to the deal said last night. "I think there is a very good chance of something happening. Both sides are on the right track."

Gaydamak's representatives have been casting around for a buyer for some time, despite public denials, but some investors have been deterred by the need to build a new stadium and training facility and the high wage bill at Fratton Park which, it has been claimed, amounts to as much as 90 per cent of the club's turnover.

Portsmouth's future has come under greater scrutiny following the departure of manager Harry Redknapp to Tottenham Hotspur. He claimed that the £5m compensation package paid by Spurs was needed by Portsmouth and that he had been told he would have to sell players in the January transfer window.

Indeed two of Portsmouth's most valuable assets – Lassana Diarra and Glen Johnson – are wanted by Redknapp at White Hart Lane, while there would be no shortage of interest in other players such as Jermain Defoe and Niko Kranjcar.

Zahavi's involvement in the proposed takeover of Portsmouth is in an advisory role. It had been claimed that the Israeli agent, who was instrumental in Gaydamak's purchase of the club almost three years ago, was mounting a rival offer to the South Africans but The Independent can confirm that he has, in fact, played a key role in helping their bid.

Zahavi has also convinced the South Africans that he should take an important role in how the club operates on its playing side. He has been looking for a club for some time – having hoped it would be West Ham United a couple of years ago – where he can bring in young, developing players from around the world.

That would appear to suggest that he envisages a role for his client – and friend – the former Chelsea manager Avram Grant who could be employed as a director of football and who started his career in England at Portsmouth.

There would also be intense scrutiny over the future of manager Tony Adams who hopes, today, to announce the appointment of the rest of his backroom staff.

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