Who is this Sheikh Mansour character?

“Trillion dollar man” screamed the headlines as Abu Dhabi moneybags Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan took control of Manchester City, blasting the Blues' bank balance into the stratosphere, and the fans moods even higher.

Overnight, City went from Premier League also-rans to the richest club in the world. Robinho arrived in the blink of an eye, even as Dr Sulaiman al Fahim, who brokered the deal, was busy declaring that Ronaldo and Kaka would be at Eastlands sooner rather than later.

And now, after five years at the summit, Roman Abramovich has been knocked off the top spot of the FourFourTwo Football Rich List.

Our new No.1 has pockets twice as deep as the Chelsea owner and has already begun outspending the Russian in the transfer market.

Yet one question lingers – who is Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan?

Here’s what we know. One of 19 sons sired by the UAE’s founding father Sheikh Zayed, City’s owner (through his investment company Abu Dhabi United Group) is the brother of the ruler of Abu Dhabi state and holds the post of Minister for Presidential Affairs in the UAE cabinet.

His family’s fortune and that of Abu Dhabi have been interlinked since oil was discovered in 1958, turning a nation of fishermen into a global financial powerhouse.

He is married to Sheikha Manal, daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the ruler of nearby Dubai, and English football now looks set to become a playground for the long-standing rivalry between these two minted neighbours.

Where Sheikh Mohammed failed – for now – to get a piece of the Premier League pie last season with a bid for Liverpool through Dubai International Capital, Sheikh Mansour succeeded. The £200m purchase of City in September wiped out the club’s £154m debt and turned them into the Prem’s biggest spenders.

A sport lover (he’s already chairman of Al Jazeera FC in his homeland), Sheikh Mansour’s personal wealth is estimated at around £15bn – he recently bought a 16 percent stake in Barclays Bank for £3.5bn – while the assets of Abu Dhabi emirate are almost inestimable.

As the world’s second richest royal family, reports suggest they have access to an oil fortune worth £400 billion to £1 trillion. Either way, it’s enough to make the previously impenetrable ‘Big Four’ look nervously over their shoulders and City manager Mark Hughes fear for his job.

Despite talk of “patience” and even a 10-year plan from the new chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, that will soon change if £32.5m signing Robinho is joined by other football A-listers this year.

After a run of poor results, Sheikh Mansour certainly didn’t fly Sparky out to Abu Dhabi in mid-November to show him around his yacht.

Some reports suggest City’s new owner has already decided to dispense with Hughes at the end of the season, with Jose Mourinho and Frank Rijkaard among those being mooted as replacements.

Whoever’s in charge looks set to have a limitless transfer kitty and wages good enough to lure Robinho, rumours of bids for Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Kaka don’t sound so ridiculous.

Heady days indeed in the blue half of Manchester. Providing their new owner sticks around longer than the last one…


For the full Rich List, see FourFourTwo magazine, out now. If quoting, credit FourFourTwo magazine and link to FourFourTwo.com.

The new issue of the magazine includes exclusive interviews with Robinho, Dimitar Berbatov, Russell Brand and Woking boss Phil Gilchrist, among many others.


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