A Saudi prince was set to become the latest Arab investor to inject millions into the English Premier League as he prepared to buy a massive stake in league giants Liverpool in a multi-million-dollar deal, press reports said Sunday.
Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah was reportedly in London preparing a deal of up to £350 million (around $560 million) with the club's debt-ridden American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Saudi's al-Riyadh paper reported.
"We are currently seeking to buy 50 percent of the shares in the club which is now suffering of debts worth £245 million (around $390 million)," the prince, who chairs private firm F6 and a Saudi-based holding firm called Fama Group, was quoted as saying.
The prince said a deal for the takeover would be reached soon and added he had already signed a memorandum of understanding with Liverpool on setting up football academies in Saudi Arabia and North Africa.
"We signed a contract with Liverpool on Saturday after visiting the club and attending the game against Hull City," he told the paper, referring to Liverpool's 6-1 thrash in yesterday's match that comes in week seven of the season.
The prince added that he was investing in the Premier League "because we are trying to serve our country through these contracts which will benefit Saudi sports in a way that will make us proud and we hope we get lucky to finish the purchase."
Liverpool failed to clinch a buyout deal in talks with a company owned by the ruler of Dubai last year and more recently a Kuwaiti businessman expressed interest in the club but a deal was never reached.
Last year, Forbes Magazine estimated Liverpool to be worth $1 billion, excluding debt, placing it as the fourth-most valuable football team in the world after Manchester United, Real Madrid and Arsenal.
"Bring on Arab money"
If the deal goes through, Liverpool will become the third Premier League club under Arab ownership after last year's buyout of Manchester City by Abu Dhabi United Group and this summer's deal between Dubai business man Sulaiman al-Fahim and Portsmouth.
But despite the bargaining taking place in club offices, Premier League fans seem to think the owners have lost sight of what really matters, which is love of the game.
For Chelsea fan Ismail Yafi the million-dollar deals take away from the greatness of football.
"It has become a business more than a game," the 29-year-old who lives in Dubai told Al Arabiya. "The best thing about British clubs is the fact that they train young players to be great and not buy them."
Liverpool supporter Raj Singh, 26, agreed and said football is becoming more like entertainment than sport.
"If you look at the likes of Manchester United or Liverpool they have developed their players through the youth system but a club like Manchester City that has not been as successful is now trying to buy its success," the personal trainer who lives in London told Al Arabiya.
But when asked what he would think if Liverpool was injected with cash like Manchester City and went on a major spending-spree, Singh said: "That would be great. The thing we are lacking at the moment is the financing. We are a great team but we need financial support."
On the other hand, some league fans see the big money deals as a benefit.
"I say bring on the Arab money. The more they spend on our team the more success we are likely to see," diehard Liverpool supporter James Spencer told Al Arabiya.
Spencer, 31, explained that more money means the best players, stadiums and even the best jerseys and said after all "there is no better feeling than when your team wins a title."
"That's one of the main reason men watch football, for bragging rights," the London social worker joked.
Liverpool is England's most successful club with 18 English league titles and five European Cup triumphs.