By 90Min
January 17, 2018

Foreign ownership of European football clubs has exploded in recent years, but there is now one country in particular that is taking over: China.

Finding from UEFA's latest European Club Footballing Landscape can reveal that as many as 40 clubs have been taken over by foreign investors since 2010. That includes American purchases of Liverpool (pictured below, John W. Henry), Roma and Arsenal, as well as Thai investment in Leicester, Russian investment in Bournemouth and Italian investment in Watford.

OLI SCARFF/GettyImages

But there has been a noticeable and sharp trend regarding Chinese investment since 2016.

In the last two years, 14 clubs in Europe's 'top 15' leagues have been taken over. For Everton, it was Iranian-born businessman Farhad Moshiri, who holds British citizenship anyway. For Marseille, it was American, for Nottingham Forest it was Greek, while it was Italian for Leeds.

10 of those clubs who have been taken over since January 2016 have Chinese owners. That is 70% of all foreign takeover deals among Europe's 'top 15' leagues during the time period.


The only Chinese takeover in the previous seven years prior to 2016 was the purchase of Dutch club Ado Den Haag in 2014.

The explosion in the last couple of years began when Chen Yansheng completed a takeover of Espanyol in January 2016. Before the end of 2016, Aston Villa, Inter Milan, Nice, Wolves, West Brom and Birmingham all found themselves with new Chinese owners or majority shareholders.

In fact, Marseille's was the only European takeover in 2016 that wasn't Chinese.

Harry Trump/GettyImages

Picture: Tony Xia completed his takeover of Aston Villa in June 2016

In 2017, AC Milan, who had earlier seen a 2015 deal fall through to sell to Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol, were formally taken over by Li Yonghong. Reading are now Chinese-owned, while Southampton are the most recent club in Europe's 'top 15' leagues to have gone through a takeover after Gao Jisheng bought an 80% stake to become new majority shareholder.

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