Usmanov had meetings with Spurs and Liverpool before Arsenal

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The Independent Football

Alisher Usmanov, the Russian billionaire, held talks with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur before deciding to buy a 24 per cent stake in Arsenal, he revealed yesterday.

The metals magnate has sunk £120m into Arsenal and will continue building his shareholding, although his advisers insist he wants to be an investor rather than an owner of the club.

However he, and Farhad Moshiri, an Iranian-born businessman and fund manager, and his partner in a number of ventures, held discussions with Liverpool before the club was sold to the Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett. At that time Usmanov was planning to take a 30 per cent stake in Liverpool but the then chairman David Moores wanted to sell the entire club. There were also thought to be issues surrounding the financing of the new stadium.

Usmanov also considered making a move for Spurs, long regarded as a takeover target. Again, negotiations failed but this time they are believed to have faltered because of the price demanded by Spurs' chairman Daniel Levy.

The billionaire, the majority shareholder of Metalloinvest, the Russian mining and metallurgy company, is a fan of Arsenal, having developed an interest in the club over the last eight years. He is believed to hold the club's manager Arsène Wenger in high regard and has told friends he believes the club is on a par with Barcelona.

Usmanov became an investor after the shares belonging to Arsenal's former vice-chairman David Dein came up for sale for £75m. He and Moshiri set up a company, Red & White Holdings, with Dein as chairman. Usmanov has since acquired other pockets of shares, building up his holding, but there has also been praise for the way Arsenal currently operate.

Last Tuesday, the day after Arsenal announced that since their move to the Emirates Stadium turnover had increased to more than £200m a year, Moshiri met the chairman Peter Hill-Wood and managing director Keith Edelman. The latter said over the weekend that they had been given reassurances that Usmanov did not want to mount a bid for Arsenal.

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