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Foreign owners benefit English soccer, says Arsenal’s Alisher Usmanov

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Over the past decade in the Premier League a huge influx of foreign owners has helped transform many of England’s biggest clubs.

Some purists argue that foreign owners don’t understand the ethos of certain teams and are not sensitive to the needs of the fans, others believe the endless millions that wealthy benefactors, who hail from outside the UK, pour into the teams and the country itself is of huge benefit to the English people.

One of the largest shareholders in Arsenal Football Club, Alisher Usmanov, is of the latter opinion.

Mr. Usmanov has a personal wealth of over $20 billion and has tried to increase his 30 percent stake in Arsenal only for American majority shareholder Stan Kroenke to brush him aside. However, with the growing band of foreign owners in the PL set to increase in the future, Usmanov believes it is benefiting the league.

“Everyone who has legal right to buy something can perform this right,” Usmanov told BBC Sport. “We have Kroenke, [Aston Villa’s Randy] Lerner, many, many people and now many Asian owners. I think everyone is comfortable if the club are successful. If the club are not successful then, of course, everybody wants to find somebody guilty.”

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 and that started a wave of foreign investment in the PL as American Malcolm Glazer took over at Manchester United, Sheikh Mansour from Abu Dhabi bought Manchester City, Aston Villa were bought by American Randy Lerner and now the list goes on and on.

Usmanov wants that to continue and doesn’t think it’s doing anybody any harm as more money floods in from overseas.

source: Getty Images
Cardiff’s owner Vincent Tan changed the clubs color from blue to red to help sales in his homeland of Malaysia. Many loyal fans walked away.

“I’m sure it is good [for English football],” Usmanov said. “When investors come and invest in the economy, in British football, it is a big part of the entertainment economy in the United Kingdom. What’s bad?”

As it stands ten (Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Southampton, Cardiff City, Chelsea and Fulham) of the PL’s 20 teams are owned by non-British companies or individuals. Many fans of those clubs have claimed struggles with their identity as new owners try new ideas, re-brand the team in different ways and try to make their new ‘business’ as profitable as possible.

But can fans really complain about changes in color or traditions? After all, these wealthy individuals are allowing the side they support to thrive and compete in the most lucrative and most watched league in the world.

Something has to give and ultimately, money talks.

Whether that’s with finances from England or finances from foreign countries, the Premier League clubs involved are benefiting tremendously.

As Usmanov said, ‘What’s bad about that?’

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.