Sulaiman Al-Fahim finally completed his long-awaited takeover of Portsmouth yesterday, much to the surprise of club officials, including chief executive Peter Storrie, who were expecting the latter's own consortium to assume control.
Instead Alexandre Gaydamak concluded a deal thought to be worth £35-40m, including the club's £20-£25m debt, with Fahim. The timing is exquisite. The Dubai property developer's first match will be on Sunday, against Manchester City, whose fellow Arab owners he represented in their takeover last season.
The timing would also appear to facilitate a much-needed recruitment drive by Paul Hart, the club's beleaguered manager. However, it is understood while some cut-price deals, such as those proposed for Watford's Tommy Smith and Aruna Dindane, of Lens, may go through, there will be no lavish transfer spree before the window shuts at 5pm on Tuesday.
This will leave Portsmouth with a thin squad, but it is believed Hart, assuming he is still manager, has been assured he will be able to spend in the January transfer window. His task until then is to keep the club, which is yet to secure a point this season, within reach of safety. Then he, or a successor, may have to reprise the remarkable escape engineered by Harry Redknapp after a January transfer splash when he returned to the club four seasons ago.
The proposed timing of Portsmouth's transfer assault suggests the sudden intervention of Storrie, who is understood to have put together his consortium in response to a request from Gaydamak, prompted Fahim to speed up his takeover. This is thought to have stalled over difficulties with the guarantees to be provided to the banks over the club's debt. It may be Fahim was able to rustle up enough to buy the club – he insists he is the sole owner, via Al Fahim Asia Associates Ltd – but not, yet, to invest in players.
Fahim's spokesman stressed he was in it for the long haul and would help the club to "secure its Premier League future." This will doubtless please Gaydamak who said, in a brief statement, that he had "every faith it would enable the club to move forward".
Whether it does so with Storrie, or Hart, aboard remains to be seen. As one club employee said: "all will become clear in time". For the moment the waters remain muddied.Reuse content