My money is my own, not my father's, Gaydamak reassures Portsmouth fans

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The Independent Football

"I tell you one very interesting fact," said the smartly suited young man whose multi-millionaire father has been investigated for alleged arms dealing and is currently being questioned by Israeli authorities over tax evasion. "The first goalkeeper of the club was [Arthur] Conan Doyle."

Sherlock Holmes' creator - who did indeed turn out for Pompey in their earliest days - would have been hard pushed to determine the exact nature of Gaydamak's introduction alongside the chairman who rescued the club from bankruptcy seven years ago, Milan Mandaric.

Asked how much he had paid to gain his new footing in the Premiership, the 30-year-old joint French and Russian passport holder who maintains he has earned his own money through "brokerage and banking" replied that the specific financial details of the transaction were a private matter between himself and his partner.

He ruled out any reverberations from the Israeli investigation of his father, Arkady, who left Russia and established a brokerage business in France that has made him worth a conservatively estimated £465m.

"My father's dealings, my father's businesses and my businesses are completely separate issues and therefore I don't foresee any links that can be done with them," he said as he sat alongside Mandaric in front of the club's trophy cabinet.

How soon that cabinet might be accommodating new silverware was something Gaydamak was unwilling to commit to. Asked to outline his vision for the next three or five years, he said: "At this stage it's clear we have to remain in the Premiership and that's our first objective. For next season we will start playing in the summer and see what we want to achieve. My approach to this kind of venture is to consider it as a step-by-step process, so if in three or five years' time we reach something big I will be extremely happy."

Gaydamak has certainly been more venturesome in his financial dealings, according to reports this week that seven of the companies for whom he has been a director in this country have dissolved, with one of them, Monarch Fiduciary, reportedly owing £250,000 to HM Customs and Excise.

"I'm aware of this situation and my lawyers are dealing with it," Gaydamak said when asked about the matter. "If that's the case then we will deal with it. It's not me owing. You phrased the question very interestingly. You said 'are you aware if you owe money to somebody?' Not that I know. If Monarch Fiduciary owes to the Customs, then it has to be dealt with."

Gaydamak said he had considered buying into a number of English teams, adding that the agent Pini Zahavi had mentioned Portsmouth to him in December. He watched the 1-1 draw with West Ham at Fratton Park and described the home fans as "unbelievable, probably the best in the country".

As a youngster in Paris he supported Marseilles for the same reason - the commitment of the fans. Other issues will become clearer as the new man establishes his relationship with the Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp.

"I met Harry for the first time yesterday," Gaydamak said. "We had a very pleasant conversation." Asked if he would try to influence his manager over transfer decisions, he replied: "I have my opinions about things but he is a professional for many years. Definitely I would like to speak to him but I do not impose."

On the subject of his favourite Pompey player, he opted for a new arrival - the Zimbabwe striker Benjani Mwaruwari, signed yesterday from Auxerre for £4.1m.

The suggestion that Gaydamak might now see himself in the same light as Roman Abramovich, another wealthy Russian emigré, was dismissed. "I have a tremendous respect and admiration for this man," he said. "But he is a different league to me."

Mandaric, who remains as chairman, was predictably enthusiastic.

"You have a very bright, sensible person in front of you and a guy that, as he says, made money on his own as a young man. I can relate to that because I went through the same thing when I was 17, 18-years-old and and at 29 I was running a big company.

"He has got tremendous common sense, he is somebody that is a normal human being, if you will, and in this football world it's very important. If I decide, when I decide one day, to leave and finish my mission and go and buy Southampton - ha, ha, ha, ha - then I don't have to worry about what hands I have left my beloved club in."

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