Chinese billionaire to buy stake in Atletico Madrid

<p>Wang Jianlin is set to purchase a 20 per cent stake Atletico Madrid.</p>

A Chinese billionaire is set to purchase a stake in Spanish football club Atletico Madrid.

Wang Jianlin is looking to buy a 20 per cent share in the reigning La Liga champions in a deal worth €45 million (£34 million). Owner of Chinese property company Dalian Wanda, the largest of its kind in the Asian country, Mr Jianlin has been looking to expand and diversify his business empire with a number of key purchases in foreign markets.

Prior to the Atletico Madrid approach, the billionaire has bought up US cinema chain AMC as well as luxury British yachtmaker Sunseeker. Mr Jianlin has an experience working with football teams in the past after owning one of China's most successful teams, then called Dalian Wanda FC, between 1994 and 2000. During his time, the club won five league titles and one Chinese Super Cup.

The purchase of Atletico Madrid is designed to boost the Spanish side's profile in the lucrative Asian market. Despite winning La Liga and reaching the final of the UEFA Champions League last season, the club still has significant financial constraints. It has racked up over €500 million in debts in recent years, preventing it from competing with likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona for signings.

Despite the lack of financial muscle, Diego Simeone's team has performed well in recent years and currently sit in third place in the league, just three points behind leaders Real. They also knocked out their cross-city rivals in the Copa del Rey, thanks to two goals from returning forward Fernando Torres.

Should Mr Jianlin's purchase go ahead, it will represent the first time a Chinese company has invested in a top European football club. It also follows a trend of Asian billionaires purchasing into football clubs.

In recent years the likes of Malaysian Vincent Tan and AirAsia head Tony Fernandes have invested in British football, purchasing Cardiff City and Queens Park Rangers respectively.

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