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City Football Group to buy Palermo FC?

Report: Majority stake in historic but troubled team to be sold for €6 million

Palermo FC v Potenza - Serie C
Ciao ragazzi!
Photo by Francesco Militello Mirto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Like many wealthy jet-setters, City Football Group are looking to buy a place on the Italian coast.

La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that CFG are in the last stages of negotiating a controlling interest in Palermo FC, the legacy football club that has been mismanaged in recent years and currently competes in Italy’s Serie C. According to the article, CFG will purchase an 80% share of the club for just €6 million ($6.3 million). The parties are said to be in the due diligence phase that precedes finalizing and signing the agreement.

Palermo date their founding to 1900, when a group of Italian and English amateurs established the Anglo Palermitan Athletic and Football Club. In 1907, the team took the name Palermo Foot-Ball Club, and first wore their distinctive pink-and-black kit.

Palermo spent the following century bouncing between Italy’s top two leagues. The club were in the Europa League in 2011, and competed in Serie A as recently as 2017: Andrea Belotti, Edison Cavani, and Paulo Dybala all played for I Rosanero during this heady period. But former owner Maurizio Zamparini’s erratic behavior was legendary—he went through 35 managers in 15 years, and “once threatened to slice off his players’ testicles and eat them in his salad,” according to The Guardian. After Zamparini sold the club in 2018, Palermo went through six directors in two years. In 2019, Mismanagement saw the team relegated to Serie D, the highest level of amateur football in Italy.

Palermo were promoted to Service C, the 60-team third tier of Italian football, and finished the 2021-2022 season in third place in Group C, which qualifies them for a promotion battle that makes the EFL Championship playoff look like a stroll in the park. While the top team in Groups A, B, and C are automatically promoted to Serie B, the next-best nine clubs in each group plus the winner of the Coppa Italia Serie C compete in a 28-team home-and-away tournament to earn the final spot.

Palermo’s third-place finish means they enter the playoffs in the third round. The opponent and date for that match have yet to be announced.

It’s not the first club CFG have been linked to in recent months. Early in March, Brazilian news organization ge reported that CFG made an offer of almost $200 million to buy 51% of Club Atlético Mineiro, winner of Brazil’s Série A in 2021. A few weeks later, Dutch national broadcaster NOS reported that CFG was in the “final phase” of buying Dutch side NAC Breda FC for close to $8 million, but that deal reportedly fell apart after supporter backlash scuttled the takeover.

CFG currently own ten teams, including Manchester City in the English Premier League and New York City FC in MLS. The other teams in order of acquisition are 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.

Benvenutti alla famiglia, Palermo.