Brazilian news outlet ge reports that City Football Group made an offer of almost $200 million to buy 51% of Club Atlético Mineiro, winner of Brazil’s Série A last year. Journalist Rodrigo Capelo wrote that a meeting took place “between representatives of Atlético Mineiro and Ferran Soriano, CEO of the British group, two weeks ago,” but that bid was rejected as low.
According to ge, City Football Group made no comment. Reuters reports that City Football Group “refuted the report and said no bid has been made...and no bid will be made in the future.”
But the story doesn’t end there. Capelo reports that the board of Atlético Mineiro are looking for outside investment and debt relief. Until last year, most Brazilian teams were owned by their members and run by non-profit associations. But a new law that allows for private ownership of clubs is drawing wealthy individual investors and investor groups to a league that has been under-financed in recent years.
Like other Brazilian clubs, Atlético Mineiro is looking for outside investment. Capelo reports that while the board of Atlético Mineiro are “in no hurry” to strike a deal with the City Football Group, they are looking to arrive at a non-binding agreement in “12 to 16 weeks.”
NYCFC’s new position in a growing empire
Established in 2008, City Football Group now owns ten senior men’s clubs worldwide, including Manchester City and New York City FC. (The group also owns five senior women’s teams, six men’s development teams, and one women’s development team.) If City Football Group successfully buys a controlling share of Atlético Mineiro, it could have a significant effect on NYCFC’s standing within the organization.
If you look at the Our Clubs page of the City Football Group website, you'll first see Manchester City, current title holders for the Premier League and one of the biggest clubs in the world. Then you see NYCFC, current title holders for MLS. The teams follow in order of acquisition: Australia’s Melbourne City, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos, Uruguay’s Montevideo City Torque, Spain’s Girona FC (which plays in the second division), China’s Sichuan Jiuniu FC (which plays in the second division), India’s Mumbai City FC, Belgium’s Lommel SK (which plays in the third division), and France’s ES Troyes AC.
If Manchester City is the prize of the City Football Group, NYCFC is the best of the rest: The marquee club in the largest city in the United States, it’s a solid investment in the future of the sport.
The teams in the group respect the pecking order. Montevideo City Torque has functioned as something like a Latin American feeder team for NYCFC, sending players such as Taty Castellanos, Santi Rodriguez, and Nicolás Acevedo to New York. In the biggest signing of the offseason, NYCFC brought star central defender Thiago Martins over from Yokohama F. Marinos, where he was considered one of the best defensive players in Japan. Talent scouted by other City clubs has a way of ending up in the Bronx.
That might change if Atlético Mineiro joins the family. Founded 113 years ago in Belo Horizonte, the capital city of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, Atlético Mineiro is one of the most storied and popular teams in Brazil: The front office doesn’t need to fight for name recognition or column inches. The team plays in the 62,000-seat Mineirão, a midcentury masterpiece of a stadium that was upgraded for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Transfermarkt values the Atlético Mineiro lineup at nearly $117 million, while the deeply flawed FootballDatabase Club World Ranking lists them as the best in South America, and #19 globally — just behind Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund. By comparison, the NYCFC squad are valued at nearly $55 million, while FootballDatabase ranks them as the 21st-best in North America and #377 overall — just above Championship side Sheffield United.
If Atlético Mineiro join City Football Group, will they outshine NYCFC and make it difficult for the Pigeons to sign rising players such as Castellanos or Talles Magno in the future? Will Montevideo City Torque continue to move talent to NYCFC? Surely Atlético Mineiro will be the organization’s flagship operation in South America.
Or does a rising tide raise all boats? NYCFC now has a quartet of Brazilian players in Héber, Talles Magno, Thiago, and Thiago Martins; a recent rumor links City to 20-year-old Corinthians right-winger Gabriel Pereira. If the Uruguay-to-New York link dries up, Atlético Mineiro’s scouting operation could open the floodgates of a Brazil-to-the-Bronx pipeline.
Good thing Los Templados know their way around a samba beat.
City in Brail: It’s just a matter of time
While these reports are just rumors, it’s notable that they are published in Globo Esporte, the sports arm of one of the most important media operations in Brazil. They also point to a larger trend of what might become a land-grab in Série A: Now that foreign investors are allowed to purchase controlling stakes in domestic clubs, it’s just a matter of time before the investment groups that now dominate global football extend their reach to Brazil.
Even if City Football Group doesn’t reach an agreement with Atlético Mineiro you can expect that they will find another club to buy in Brazil, and that will likely change the intramural relationships within the organization. How that will effect NYCFC remains to be seen.