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Southampton in no rush over potential Chinese takeover

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SOUTHAMPTON — Ahead of one of the biggest games in club history, it has been reported that Southampton is at the center of interest from a Chinese company about a potential $250 million takeover.

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Southampton host Italian giants Inter Milan at St Mary’s in a crucial Europa League Group K clash on Thursday, but plenty of talk in the buildup to that game has been about a possible change in ownership at the club.

According to a report by Bloomberg news agency, a six week period of exclusivity has already begun between current owner Katharina Liebherr with Chinese company Lander Sports Development. It has been reported that a $250 million price tag has been put on the club, however it is believed Liebherr is keen to find out more about Lander’s intentions.

ProSoccerTalk understands that Liebherr is not openly looking to sell the club and will not offload Southampton in a hurry. We also understand that no deal for the club is imminent and no more news should be expected in the next 7-10 days.

[ MORE: 7,000 Saints fans take over Milan ]

It is also clear that Liebherr won’t sell the ambitious Southampton unless she believes it can move forward substantially under any new ownership. However, like any Premier League team, if significant investment is promised from an outside source then it would be in the best interests of the club to find out more details.

In recent years Katharina has turned down many opportunities to sell the club to foreign investors which would’ve made her a huge profit. Yet every time an opportunity arose to cash in, her reason for not selling up was simply because she felt it wasn’t in Southampton’s best interests.

As of right now it is unsure whether or not Liebherr would instead consider investment from Lander, which could see her sell shares in the club to the Chinese investors, rather than selling up completely. But with the club rising to the upper echelons of the Premier League and money pouring in via lucrative TV and sponsorship deals, many other potential investors will sit up and take notice.

Liebherr was left the club by her late father Markus who saved Saints from the brink of extinction back in 2009. After Markus passed away in 2010, Katharina’s heart has remained with the team and at a club awards dinner last season she was emotional as fans paid tribute to her father (one fan even had Markus’ face tattooed on his arm, which  Katharina loved) and the connection is incredibly strong as she often jets in from her home in Switzerland to attend games.

MILAN, ITALY - OCTOBER 20: (L-R) Marcelo Brozovic of FC Internazionale competes for the ball with Oriol Romeu of Southampton FC during the UEFA Europa League match between FC Internazionale Milano and Southampton FC at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Milan, . (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
(Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

Southampton has come a long way since Liebherr purchased them as a third-tier team for around $22 million in 2009 with significant investment in the playing squad, infrastructure and the marvelous training facilities at the Staplewood campus nestled in The New Forest. They are likely to be a very valuable proposition after finishing in sixth-place last season in the Premier League and are competing in the UEFA Europa League this campaign, plus their famed youth academy had made them tens of millions of pounds in profit over the years. Taking all of that into account, the valuation of $250 million seems a little low.

As for potential investors, foreign money has poured into English soccer in recent years with Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Swansea City and Bournemouth either fully owned or part-owned by wealthy American investors, plus Manchester City is owned by Abu Dhabi based Sheikh Mansour, reigning PL champs Leicester City are owned by Thailand’s Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and Chelsea is owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

Premier League side West Bromwich Albion (plus Midlands rivals Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Birmingham City who are in the second tier) are all now owned by Chinese companies and Hull City is currently in the final proceedings of a Chinese takeover.

So, who is the investor said to be lining up a bid for Saints?

Gao Jisheng is the leading man at Lander. The founder, chairman and CEO built the company on property deals and along with his daughter Jingna he owns a 59 percent stake of Lander. The company was valued at $1.4 billion last June by Forbes and over the past year it has switched from being a company focusing on real estate to one focusing on sports.

The rhetoric of China’s president may have something to do with that change in business direction.

President Xi Jinping of China has called on the nation to embrace the global game and become a “world football superpower” after putting the game on the national curriculum for schoolchildren.

He has also pumped plenty of resources into soccer infrastructure in the nation, the Chinese Super League is attracting star players from around the world with huge pay checks and the likes of Manchester City have also sold a stake in the club to Chinese investors plus plenty of other European teams (Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, Nice, Espanyol and Granada to name a few) have seen a sudden influx of investment from China.

It seems like Southampton may be the latest to benefit from China’s growing soccer obsession.

LIVE — USMNT seeks ‘payback’ v. Canada in CONCACAF Nations League

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The USMNT’s CONCACAF Nations League hopes are on the line when it meets Canada in Orlando at 7 p.m. ET on Friday.

[ FOLLOW: USMNT on Twitter ]

The Yanks seek to avenge a 2-0 loss to the Canucks in Toronto last month, one that heaped pressure on coach Gregg Berhalter.

If the USMNT fails to win on Friday, a match Canada also needs for its World Cup qualifying hopes, it will bow out of the tournament before the semifinal round.

There’s no place for DeAndre Yedlin in the back line, as Tim Ream‘s been chosen to play right back with a center back pairing of John Brooks and Aaron Long. Sergino Dest starts on the right.

The midfield will have Jackson Yueill lying deep, with Weston McKennie and Sebastian Lletget also getting the call.

Gyasi Zardes starts at center forward with Jordan Morris and Paul Arriola on the wings.

EURO qualifying wrap: Sweden joins Finland in qualifying

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Finland and Sweden have qualified for EURO 2020 after posting big wins on Friday, the former doing it at home to relative minnows Liechtenstein while the latter scored an impressive win away to Romania.

[ WATCH: G. Jesus’ comical penalty miss ]


Romania 0-2 Sweden

Marcus Berg and Robin Quaison scored first half goals as Sweden qualified for its sixth-straight EURO. Both are having decent starts to the club season. The veteran Berg has scored five times for Krasnodar, while the 26-year-old Quaison has scored four times for Mainz this season.

Spain 7-0 Malta

The Spanish had seven different goal scorers beginning with Alvaro Morata and Santi Cazorla providing a 2-0 halftime lead. Spain out shot Malta 25-1, with Pau Torres, Pablo Sarabia, Dani Olmo, and Gerard Moreno also scoring for an experimental squad.

And what if we told you Jesus Navas scored? Cause he did.

Denmark 6-0 Gibraltar

Christian Eriksen scored twice in the final five minutes after Robert Skov’s brace came sandwiched around Christian Gytkjaer and Martin Braithwaite goals. The Danes climbed to the top of Group D, one point better than the Swiss and three better than Republic of Ireland (who it meets on the last match day).

Switzerland 1-0 Georgia

Granit Xhaka went 90 minutes and Cedric Itten scored the game’s lone goal as the Swiss joined the Danes in climbing above Republic of Ireland.

Bosnia and Herzegovina 0-3 Italy

The Azzurri were clinical on Friday, with Francesco Acerbi, Lorenzo Insigne, and Andrea Belotti bagging

Elsewhere
Norway 4-0 Faroe Islands
Finland 3-0 Liechtenstein — RECAP
Armenia 0-1 Greece

WATCH: Gabriel Jesus comically misses penalty; Messi pots winner on Argentina return

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As long as Lionel Messi is on the field, Argentina and Brazil is going to be must-watch no matter the location.

Messi converted a rebound of his own won and saved penalty to score his 69th international goal in Argentina’s 1-0 win in a Saudi Arabia-hosted friendly on Friday.

[ MORE: Finland makes history ]

It was Messi’s first match with Argentina since the summer, when he was banned three months for claiming the 2019 Copa America tournament was fixed for hosts Brazil.

Let’s be real, though: You should be here for this terrible penalty miss from Gabriel Jesus.

The Brazilian also won his penalty, but his miss was a dreadful dribble wide of the frame. It clicked three boxes of terrible: no direction, no conviction, no technique.

Pique: Griezmann growing into Barca role “little by little”

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This summer, there was plenty of talk that Barcelona’s players wanted Neymar in town and quite the opposite regarding Antoine Griezmann.

The Atletico Madrid star was the player purchased by Barcelona.

[ MORE: Finland makes history ]

Griezmann, 28, has four goals and three assists in 15 matches, but the bulk of that outlay came in two matches and he’s without a goal or assist in the UEFA Champions League.

A bit different from his 21 goals and 10 assists in 48 matches last season, at least on the goals end, but the Frenchman is settling into a new club and city.

While it’s not like his new teammates think he’s garbage, they aren’t sugarcoating their opinion of his transition nor downplaying their lofty opinion of Barca.

Here’s Gerard Pique, via AS.com:

“Real Sociedad and Atlético were teams who played for Griezmann. That’s not the case at Barca, because the level is higher and he has to find his place in the side. Little by little he’s finding it. He’s got the quality and talent for it.”

Pique also blew off Barca’s extra rest before the new El Clasico date, and talked about Leo Messi’scontract talks as well as his relationship with Sergio Ramos. It’s all here.