Chapter 9Buenos Aires to Manchester

Investment funds were emerging across Europe to service the demand for credit among clubs. Ray Ranson, a former Manchester City defender, had flirted with the business of transfer rights before the scandal involving the oligarchs and West Ham. From an office in Manchester, he was making a new push. “There are hundreds of millions of euros of demand out there” from European clubs, Ranson said. “The banks are shut.”

His company, R2 Asset Management, could not operate in the English Premier League because of the ban that Richard Scudamore had implemented, but there were clubs willing to sell him the transfer rights of players in France, Spain, Denmark and Switzerland.

Other financiers followed suit. In Germany, banker Kai-Volker Langhinrichs raised €1 million to invest in the Bundesliga and hired Hamburg midfielder-turned-scout Harald Spörl to advise on which players to take a bet on. In Paris, Laurent Pichonnier, a partner of Fairplay Capital, sounded out the 20 clubs in the French first division. He said that all but Paris Saint Germain and Monaco were interested in doing business.

These fledgling funds, which were more sophisticated than many of the informal investment groups that operated in football, could trace their roots back to an initiative by Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires. La Boca, or “The Mouth”, is the opening of the Riachuelo River and was the arrival point of many Spanish and Italian immigrants to Argentina. Its brightly painted ...

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