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Abu Dhabi group makes $354 million bid for English soccer team

The move to buy Manchester City is expected to trigger a new spiral in player costs and a fresh backlash to foreign ownership.

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A bid by an Arab consortium for one of England's most prominent but underachieving soccer teams has amplified a noisy debate about the astronomical finances of the game – and the deepening divisions between the industry's haves and have-nots.

The Abu Dhabi United Group – an investment vehicle for the emirate's royal family – has put forward a £200 million ($354 million) offer for Manchester City, the perennially weaker opponent to metropolitan rivals Manchester United, and promised to make it the richest and best team in the world.

The takeover would be the first of an English soccer team by an overseas Arab owner. It would multiply the bidding stakes for the world's best players, probably triggering a new spiral in player costs. The newcomers would eclipse Chelsea's Roman Abramovich as British soccer's richest owners.

From Russia's Abramovich to US sports moguls like Malcolm Glazer and Randy Lerner, foreign tycoons are gradually taking over English soccer. The attraction for the investor is the wealthiest league in the world, with revenues topping $3 billion a year, much of it derived from television broadcast rights. Nine Premier League clubs have foreign owners. Arsenal is the only club that consistently challenges for the league title without having a rich foreign owner.

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