Man City's oil-rich buyer gets a wary welcome

But the club's Jewish fans may not be too impressed
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The Independent Online

Perhaps the quiet purchase of the glitzy Hakkasan and Yauatcha restaurants in London a few months ago should have been the sign. Both are on the footballers' WAGs circuit and the individual who bought them was anticipating being the talk of circles like that.

The buyer was Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the same man whose money should secure a 90 per cent share of Manchester City FC in the next month for £210m, give or take the cost of the odd Brazilian striker. (He bought one of those last week, too.) Sheikh Mansour, one of the 19 sons of Abu Dhabi's founding father, remained in the shadows in a week during which his representative, Abu Dhabi millionaire property developer Sulaiman Al-Fahim, announced plans to buy the club and pretty much every footballing superstar going. But he might not be there for too long.

One of six closely knit sons born to the late Sheikh Zayed by his favourite wife, Sheika Fatima, Mansour is not just the turbaned Arab characterised by the Manchester City fans who have congregated in fancy dress at their Eastlands ground (or Middle Eastlands as they now like to call it). Mansour is 38; a US-educated, sports-mad member of the Al Nahyan family who as, head of the First Gulf Bank and his government's International Petroleum Investment Company, is just as accustomed to a business lifestyle, investing the fruits of the riches endowed on Abu Dhabi 60 years ago by the discovery of oil. "We've seen some of these guys in London," said one Abu Dhabi observer. "They've got the suits; they've got the mobile phones. They fit in."

For all their billions, not all of the Al Nahyan clan would be welcome among the strong Manchester Jewish contingent of the club's fan base. One of Mansour's half-brothers was responsible for setting up the Zayed Centre for Co-ordination and Follow-Up which sanctioned publication of anti-Semitic material and hosted anti-Semitic speakers a few years ago.

But the fervent hope is that the club will nurture interest in the sport and make Abu Dhabi a footballing force to be reckoned with. Seasoned observers of this state are not surprised by the wild pronouncements about buying Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and every star going. "Sometimes they just launch into things without doing the planning. You might say it's a bit like Terminal 5," said an observer. "Then they get proper people in and get it organised." City manager Mark Hughes, who needs a level-headed approach for the top-four finish he is expected to deliver, will also be hoping that life settles down again.

Additional reporting by Robert Lee

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