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The one that got away: Colonel Gadafi and Manchester United

Manchester United fans experienced over the past 14 years could have been monumentally different if a certain Libyan autocrat had his way in 2004.

The fractious relationship between the United faithful and the Glazer family runs deep; it has spawned incessant scarf waving, demonstrations, a whole new football club and years of general unrest and distrust amongst supporters.

Fans qualms with the Glazer family are based firmly in financial disputes.

The Glazers bought the controlling shares in Manchester United for £790m in 2005 and in the fourteen years following the takeover have sapped more than £1bn from the club’s coffers, including mammoth dividend payments to the six Glazer siblings, amongst other financial benefits, and extensive interest schemes (The Guardian).

This is money United fans will surely feel could have been better spent elsewhere; on local infrastructure, additions to the academy, stadium renovations and stronger staff recruitment. Not filling the pockets of their owners.

We find ourselves in an unusual position – asking how could things have been different under Colonel Gadafi?

Colonel Gadafi – 2004

According to reports from the Telegraph, the former Libyan dictator Colonel Gadafi was ‘hours away’ from obtaining the controlling stake in Manchester United.

Mehmet Dalman, the man who later brokered the Glazer’s acquisition of the club, revealed to the Sunday Times (via the Telegraph) how he had travelled to Libya to negotiate a deal to buy-out John Magnier and JP McManus’s 29.9% shareholding with Gadafi’s advisors in 2004.

“People don’t realise how the [takeover] deal was a whisker away from going to Libya,” Dalman revealed. “Gadafi almost bought the club. That’s how close it got – literally, you’re talking about a few hours.”

Saadi Gadafi, son of former dictator, revealed more details about the collapsed negotiation to the Financial Times in 2005 (via the Telegraph).

He said: “Seven or eight months ago we were about to buy shares in Manchester United. We kept it secret because I thought we were going to do it. But now it’s impossible.

“I told my father it would be like buying the Church of England. It’s very hard, maybe impossible because of the fans and the history, very difficult.

“It’s a golden, golden, golden, golden club.”

Gadafi opted to buy Italian side Perugia instead, and if there form under his rule was anything to go by, Manchester United would have suffered a pretty disastrous period of football – let alone the ethical questions hanging over the rule of a ruthless monocrat.

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