Virgil van Dijk has complete confidence Liverpool will remain a force in world football regardless of who owns the Reds.

It was confirmed last month the club's Fenway Sports Group (FSG) are exploring the possibility of selling up or seeking outside investment as they aim to keep up with the Premier League's big spenders.

Reports suggest Liverpool are valued at an eye-watering £3.7billion with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs said to be overseeing the process.

Van Dijk, speaking to reporters after helping the Netherlands defeat the United States 3-1 to reach the World Cup quarter-finals, says Liverpool will continue to thrive whoever is in charge at Anfield.

"I have full trust in Liverpool that they will be fine. We are a very established club, one of the biggest in the world and that will stay that way," he said.

"Whoever comes in to fill in those roles, they will do very well. I am aware of everything that is happening.

"Whether I am taking it in and doing something with it right now, I don't think so because the full focus is on the World Cup but hopefully everything will be sorted and clarified when I am back. At this point, I am definitely not thinking about it."

Liverpool struggled for consistency prior to the World Cup and sit sixth in the Premier League, 15 points off leaders Arsenal and seven back of Spurs in fourth.

They did win five of their six Champions League group-stage games but finished second behind Napoli on goal difference and face Real Madrid in the last 16 in a repeat of last season's final, which they lost 1-0.

Jude Bellingham is expected to leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of this season, with numerous clubs lining up to sign him.

The England international, who has impressed during the World Cup, is contracted with Dortmund until 2025.

It has been speculated that Bellingham will cost English clubs more than £100million to fund the deal.

TOP STORY – CITY TO USE GREALISH IN DEAL FOR BELLINGHAM

Manchester City will dangle Jack Grealish to Borussia Dortmund as part of a deal to land Bellingham, claims Football Insider.

Grealish, who City signed for £100m from Aston Villa 18 months ago, has not fully convinced since his switch to the English champions.

According to the report, City are intensifying their interest in Bellingham and are willing to use Grealish.

Le10Sport have also reported French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain are also interested in 19-year-old Bellingham.

 

ROUND-UP

Liverpool are plotting a surprise move for Juventus forward Dusan Vlahovic, reports Calciomercato. The Serbian striker has scored six Serie A goals this term.

– Mundo Deportivo reports Borussia Dortmund's Thomas Meunier is willing to listen to offers from Milan, Juventus, Manchester United and two other Premier League clubs if Barcelona do not bid for him.

– Atletico Madrid forward Joao Felix is open to a Premier League switch amid interest from Chelsea, claims GiveMeSport transfer expert Dean Jones.

– Calciomercato reports that Arsenal are interested in a January move for Real Madrid's Marco Asensio.

Leeds United are interested in a January move for Newcastle forward Chris Wood, claims Football Insider. Wood left Leeds for Burnley in 2017.

Once every four years players from across the globe get a chance to perform on the world stage and force their way into the football zeitgeist.

Whether it is a young midfielder from Ghana who has been battling injuries the past couple of seasons, or a mercurial Dutch forward trying to push his way out of the Eredivisie, it is the perfect launchpad to alter the course of a player's career.

Stats Perform has identified four players who have lit up Qatar and, in turn, have seen their profile and transfer stock skyrocket, opening the door to a new world of possibilities come the January transfer window.

Take a look at these young leading lights...

Cody Gakpo, the Netherlands

Cody Gakpo has perhaps been the breakout star of the tournament, finding the back of the net in all three of the Netherlands' group matches.

Having spent his entire career with PSV, the 23-year-old six-foot-four forward took a huge step forward in the 2021-22 season when he shattered his best goal return, following up his 11 goals in the 2020-21 campaign with 21 last time out.

While those in the Netherlands set-up were waiting to see if he could replicate his terrific 12 months, he has taken another leap, with 12 goals and 14 assists in 19 combined Eredivisie and Europa League contests this term.

There were rumours in the most recent transfer window that Leeds United were among the clubs looking to lure Gakpo away from PSV for a fee in the range of €30million, but he opted to reject their contract offer in the hope of landing at one of Europe's biggest clubs.

That bet on himself has proven to be a masterstroke, with his performances on the Qatar stage well and truly putting him on the radar of Champions League sides including Real Madrid, Liverpool and Bayern Munich, per Dutch journalist Marco Timmer.

He became the first player from any European nation since 2002 to score in each group match, while he also became only the second player to put his side 1-0 up in all three group fixtures.

Enzo Fernandez, Argentina

Just over six months ago, Enzo Fernandez was playing for River Plate back in Argentina, but just half a season after arriving at Benfica for a deal worth up to €18m, the attacking midfielder could be moving on to greener pastures.

Fernandez, 21, broke into the Argentina squad while still with River Plate, but did not receive his senior debut until September 24 this year.

His lead-up to the World Cup was strong enough to book his ticket to Qatar, and after coming off the bench in Argentina's first group-stage loss to Saudi Arabia, he came on and scored against Mexico, forcing his way into the starting XI before contributing an assist against Poland.

His rapid rise has not gone unnoticed, and Marca is reporting Benfica have slapped a €100m fee on their new star if any team wants to pry him away while his contract still has another four seasons locked in.

Real Madrid are one side said to be accepting of that figure, with Marca claiming they now view him as an alternative option to Borussia Dortmund and England prodigy Jude Bellingham.

Mohammed Kudus, Ghana

Ajax's Mohammed Kudus had begun to break out at the club level this season heading into the World Cup.

The 22-year-old central midfielder scored four goals – including one each against Liverpool and Napoli – while adding two assists in six Champions League fixtures.

After being awarded his first senior international cap for Ghana back in 2019, he was spotted at Danish side Nordsjaelland and brought over to Ajax for a €9m fee in 2020.

He missed extended stretches of both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns through injuries, and still has not been used as a guaranteed starter this season, but his emergence on the World Cup stage has been undeniable.

Against South Korea, Kudus delivered Ghana their only win of the group as he found the back of the net twice in a 3-2 triumph, and it was a performance that is said to have caught the eye of European powerhouses.

Fichajes named Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain as interested parties, and Sports Illustrated believe his price will be around £90m.

 

Harry Souttar, Australia

Australia have now qualified for five World Cups in a row, but after not winning a game at both the 2014 and 2018 editions, they had centre-back Harry Souttar to thank for finally taking three points against Tunisia.

Souttar, 24, stands at a towering six-foot-six and showed off an impressive ability to cover ground in a hurry when he was called upon for a potentially game-saving, last-man challenge to defend Australia's 1-0 lead.

It was one of the most spectacular defensive efforts of the tournament so far and one that will go down in Australian football folklore, and it is even more significant when taking into account his recent history.

Tipped as a potential £20m transfer target late in 2021, Souttar then tore his ACL and missed 12 months of action, returning to the field in time to get three games under his belt with Stoke City before jetting off to the World Cup.

While he could be forgiven for needing time to work his way into form, he has instead started all three group games and been the Socceroos' top performer, including his stellar efforts in a second clean sheet against Denmark to help his side through to the knockout stage.

Clearly back to the player he was before his injury – at least – Souttar's showings on the world stage have been the kind that can take a career to a new level.

Sofyan Amrabat has been at the centre of Morocco's surprise success at the World Cup, and his performances have put the Fiorentina midfielder on the radar of several Premier League clubs.

Amrabat, 26, had his first taste of Serie A football when he was loaned from Club Brugge to Hellas Verona for the 2019-20 season, catching the eye of Fiorentina, who scooped him up the following year.

The defensive midfielder has steadily increased his role at Fiorentina, making 10 starts and three substitute appearances in the league this season.

He played every minute of Morocco's three group games, guiding his side to an undefeated record (W2 D1) with clean sheets against both Belgium and Croatia, and now he is reportedly wanted by the English elite.

 

TOP STORY – AMRABAT EMERGES AS LIVERPOOL AND TOTTENHAM TARGET

According to Sky Sports Germany, Liverpool believe Amrabat can address their midfield depth issues, and could be available for €30million in January.

An earlier report from La Repubblica claimed Tottenham had enquired about a potential deal last January, and his terrific tournament has only strengthened their interest. 

With a blockbuster last-16 clash booked against Spain on Tuesday, another standout performance could have Amrabat packing his bags for an impending move to England.

 

ROUND-UP

– Calciomercato is reporting 23-year-old Barcelona target Martin Zubimendi is also on Manchester United's radar, although the Spaniard's contract ties him to Real Sociedad until 2027.

– Calciomercato is also reporting Cristiano Ronaldo is "very interested" in joining Chelsea if the Stamford Bridge side will have him.

– According to Fichajes, Inter would like to bring Barcelona midfielder Franck Kessie back to Serie A, but cannot afford to purchase him outright in January, while the Spanish side are not willing to let him leave on a loan deal.

– 90min is reporting Real Madrid would need Kylian Mbappe to agree to certain conditions – including a pay cut and significantly less behind-the-scenes influence – if he wants to come to the club in the near future.

– Newcastle United are not planning any moves in January, and are open to parting ways with 28-year-old winger Ryan Fraser, according to the Telegraph.

Jordan Henderson is convinced England's experience of coming within touching distance of glory can make them better equipped to go the extra mile – because it is a process he knows all about from playing for Liverpool.

Defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley was a crushing blow to England, who felt they were on the brink of a first major title in over 50 years.

Gareth Southgate's team also went mightily close to reaching the 2018 World Cup final, missing out after losing to Croatia in the semi-finals.

They are getting close repeatedly, and this is relatable for Henderson given his 11-year Liverpool career has seen its ups, downs and close calls.

The Reds finished as runners-up in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League during Henderson's time at Anfield before laying their hands on each of those trophies, and he can see why England's situation is comparable.

"I suppose you could see similarities in terms of getting so close and just failing at the last bit until we ended up winning," Henderson said.

"I don't like to make comparisons with other teams, and especially club football, but I do feel like when you go through experiences together, especially good ones, but at the end you don't get what you want, that can make you really stronger as a team.

"I keep my runners-up medals. Not many players get to cup finals so I'll always respect the process of getting there. But when you just miss out on your dream then it can hurt a lot and that is what drives you to get better."

Henderson, an FA Cup and EFL Cup winner as captain of Liverpool last season, said complacency "won't be a danger" when England tackle Senegal in a last-16 tie on Sunday.

His former Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane was ruled out by the Africa Cup of Nations champions just before the tournament began, after a cruel injury blow, but Senegal still beat Ecuador and Qatar in the group stage.

They are a team to be taken seriously, and Henderson, quoted in the Guardian, said: "We can say they are missing Sadio Mane, but they got into the knockout stages without him and they will be feeling confident.

"They are used to winning. We have just got to keep focused on what needs doing, not get too carried away, not look too far ahead."

Jurgen Klopp's agent has ruled out the prospect of the Liverpool manager replacing Hansi Flick as Germany boss following their surprise World Cup exit.

Kai Havertz's brace, as well as goals from Serge Gnabry and Niclas Fullkrug, ensured Germany secured a 4-2 win over Costa Rica on Thursday, but their efforts were in vain as Japan staged a remarkable comeback to beat Spain and join them in escaping Group E.

Germany's group-stage elimination – their second in as many World Cup tournaments – has led to stern criticism of the side, with some questioning Flick's suitability for the role of head coach.

Former Germany international Dietmar Hamann has called for Flick to depart after overseeing a "pathetic" campaign in Qatar, and Liverpool boss Klopp – as well as former Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel – has been touted as a potential replacement.

However, Klopp's representative Marc Kosicke told Sky Sports in Germany his client would not be interested in the role, saying: "This is a media topic. 

"Jurgen has a contract at Liverpool until 2026 and he intends to fulfil it."

Flick signed a three-year contract to lead Germany last year, which is set to run through their Euro 2024 campaign on home soil.

The former Bayern Munich boss will be cursing Germany's finishing after they were eliminated from the World Cup despite generating the highest expected goals (xG) tally at the tournament (10.4), three more than the total managed by the competition's second-most creative side (France with 7.4 xG).

Liverpool favourite Steve Heighway has called time on his Reds career at the age of 75, with Jamie Carragher hailing him as "a huge influence".

Former winger Heighway has spent 25 years working at the club's academy, across two spells, and Liverpool announced he has decided to retire.

Heighway played for Liverpool from 1970 to 1981, winning a string of league titles and two European Cups with the Reds, while scoring 76 goals in 475 games.

His youth coaching role proved hugely significant too, with Heighway helping to nurture talents such as Robbie Fowler, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and Carragher.

He was head of youth development from 1989 to 2007 before initially retiring, but Heighway returned to the club as a full-time consultant in 2015, after being invited back by academy boss Alex Inglethorpe.

That saw him work closely with Inglethorpe with a view to bringing through youngsters capable of challenging for places in Jurgen Klopp's first-team squad.

Carragher, who made 737 appearances for Liverpool, was quick to thank Heighway on Thursday.

He wrote on Twitter: "What a contribution from Steve Heighway @LFC as a player who won Leagues & European cups.

"Then heading up an academy that produced McManaman, Fowler, Owen, Gerrard……amongst a few others!

"A huge influence on me as a young player and still to this day. Thank you Steve."

Inglethorpe told Liverpool's website: "Steve has decided it is the right time to retire from his coaching role at the club."

He described Heighway overseeing "the development of some of the most iconic players to have played for Liverpool Football Club".

Real Madrid have reportedly pivoted away from Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham and are now treating Benfica's Enzo Fernandez as their top transfer target.

Bellingham, 19, was considered the top priority for the Spanish giants, but a report from Marca claims they now believe he is destined for the Premier League and will instead focus their resources on 21-year-old Fernandez.

Fernandez arrived at Benfica in June after they were able to pry him away from River Plate for a deal worth up to €18million including add-ons, but his exploits on the Champions League stage – including assists against Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus – have that price looking like a steal.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID SET THEIR SIGHTS ON ARGENTINA'S NEW STAR

Fernandez was handed his international debut as a 20-year-old back in November 2021, and his continued growth on the European stage earned his spot in Argentina's World Cup squad.

Not content to purely come along for the ride, Fernandez was brought on as a substitute in each of his side's first two group games, and against Mexico he became Argentina's youngest goalscorer at a World Cup since Lionel Messi in 2006.

His ability to both break into and perform for such a quality international side – entering the tournament on a 35-match unbeaten streak before falling to Saudi Arabia – has reportedly sent Fernandez's transfer value through the roof.

Marca's report claims he is now viewed as a €100m talent by Benfica, and they expect to field offers in that neighbourhood soon.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to Relevo, Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag views the Netherlands' World Cup hero Cody Gakpo as his ideal replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo.

– Fichajes is reporting Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are all showing interest in 22-year-old Ajax midfielder Mohammed Kudus amid his excellent performances for Ghana.

Bayern Munich remain interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane and are working on an offer between €80-100m, per Sky Sports Germany.

– The Sun is reporting Chelsea are not happy with both Edouard Mendy and Kepa Arrizabalaga and will look to bring in a new first-choice goalkeeper.

– With Rafael Leao likely leaving Milan at the end of the season, Gazzetta dello Sport claims they will try to fill the void with RB Salzburg's 22-year-old Swiss international Noah Okafor.

Manchester City will face Chelsea in the pick of the FA Cup third-round ties, while Manchester United meet fellow Premier League side Everton.

Pep Guardiola's top-flight champions visit Graham Potter's side in the league on January 5, just a matter of days before hosting the Blues at Etihad Stadium in the prestigious cup competition.

Everton will be another side travelling to Manchester as Frank Lampard's side face Erik ten Hag's United, with current holders Liverpool drawn at home to Wolves in another all-Premier League tie.

Arsenal make the trip to League One's Oxford United, while the in-form Newcastle United visit another third-tier side in Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.

Tottenham will also face League One opposition when they host Portsmouth, with Brighton and Hove Albion going up to Middlesbrough and Bournemouth facing a home tie against Championship leaders Burnley.

Two more all-Premier League clashes see Brentford at home to London rivals West Ham and new Southampton manager Nathan Jones will have to get past an away game against top-flight rivals Crystal Palace.

Aston Villa will welcome Stevenage, who are second in League Two chasing promotion, with Fulham and Leeds United visiting Championship sides Hull City and Cardiff City respectively.

Dagenham and Redbridge will invite Leicester City to Victoria Road if the National League side can defeat Gillingham in a December 6 replay.

All ties are scheduled to be played between January 6 and January 9.

FA Cup third-round draw in full:

Preston v Huddersfield Town
Middlesbrough v Brighton and Hove Albion
Chesterfield v West Brom
Manchester City v Chelsea
Charlton or Stockport County v Walsall
Boreham Wood v Accrington Stanley
Tottenham v Portsmouth
Derby County v Barnsley
Cardiff City v Leeds United
Brentford v West Ham
Bournemouth v Burnley
Coventry City v Wrexham
Norwich City v Blackburn Rovers
Aston Villa v Stevenage
Luton Town v Wigan Athletic
Oxford United v Arsenal
Fleetwood Town v Queens Park Rangers
Liverpool v Wolves
Grimsby Town v Burton Albion
Blackpool v Nottingham Forest
Dagenham and Redbridge or Gillingham v Leicester City
Forest Green Rovers v Birmingham City
Bristol City v Swansea City
Hartlepool United v Stoke City
Hull City v Fulham
Crystal Palace v Southampton
Millwall v Sheffield United
Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland
Sheffield Wednesday v Newcastle United
Manchester United v Everton
Reading v Watford
Ipswich Town v Rotherham United

Manchester United "are a better buy" than Liverpool for potential investors and will generate more interest, according to former Red Devils defender Gary Neville.

England's two most successful clubs are on the market, with United and Liverpool's American owners open to offers.

The Glazer family have been in charge of United since 2005, while fellow Americans Fenway Sports Group have owned Liverpool since 2010.

Liverpool may have enjoyed far greater success than United over the past decade, but Neville insists his former side will be considered the more attractive club to purchase.

"I don't want to be disrespectful to Liverpool at all because they're a massive football club," Neville told Sky Sports. 

"When you look at the height of English football when it comes to viewing figures, fans, and commercial revenues – it's Manchester United and Liverpool at the very top.

"Forget Manchester City at this moment in time create a higher revenue. Through traditional means, United and Liverpool are the two biggest clubs in the country by a mile.

"United will be more sought after and will fetch a higher price than Liverpool. Unless Liverpool have got something sorted, I think they're going to have to wait a little bit.

"I think the buyers will go to Manchester United first – unless there's a Liverpool fan who is very wealthy somewhere and has an allegiance to Liverpool.

"But I think if you were looking at both, as an asset side by side, you'd choose Manchester United and that's not me being biased as a Manchester United fan."

United are valued by Forbes at $4.6billion (£3.8bn), while Liverpool are valued at $4.45bn (£3.68bn), and Neville is adamant they can continue to generate more income.

"Liverpool are in a better position on and off the pitch at the moment, but you can't deny the scale of United," said Neville, who made more than 600 appearances for United. 

"When you look at commercial revenues, Manchester United as an asset are a better buy.

"I think the owner will think if Manchester United get it right on and off the pitch and Liverpool get it right on and off the pitch, Manchester United will be bigger."

Cristiano Ronaldo's exit will not be an issue for any potential Manchester United buyers, believes football finance expert Kieran Maguire.

The Portugal forward has departed the Red Devils by mutual consent following an disappointing homecoming spell with the Old Trafford outfit.

Having been the face of the club since his return last year, Ronaldo's abrupt farewell - though likely in line with Erik ten Hag's vision for the club - sees United lose one of their prior assets, as the Glazer family mull a sale.

But speaking to Stats Perform, Maguire does not feel his exit will be a stumbling block to future investors mulling a takeover, particularly from a commercial standpoint.

"[The] club's bigger than the player," he said. "Cristiano Ronaldo thought he was bigger than the club. His management teams was more concerned about his brand tie-up than Manchester United products.

"Success hasn't existed at Manchester United for many years. If you've got Ronaldo on the back of your shirt, it simply means you've switched from having [Marcus] Rashford or [Bruno] Fernandes."

"You've still going to be one Manchester United shirt [even without Ronaldo], you're simply going to go and change a bit on the back of it."

News that the Glazer family - long opposed by a large section of supporters - are selling the club has been welcomed with open arms by the fanbase.

Maguire believes it has been a prosperous ownership period for them, if not the club, and that he understands the frustration felt by those who follow United.

"I think we're seeing an opportunity for some legacy owners to withdraw at a tidy profit," he added. "They can leave on a significant multiple of the original investment.

"[But] when they acquired the club, they did commit it to financial jeopardy. [Also[, when a club is no longer successful, you look for scapegoats.

"The Glazers are a lightning rod. They've got not connection historically to Manchester. Their relationship was purely financial.

Maguire concedes on-field success would paint a different picture however, adding: "If Manchester United had won the Premier League for four years out of the last five... I'm not saying that fans are fickle, but fans are fickle."

PSV's Cody Gakpo has become one of the early breakout stars at the World Cup, and will reportedly be courted by some of the world's biggest clubs in January.

Gakpo, 23, has spent his entire career with PSV after arriving at their youth academy back in 2007, and has risen through the ranks to become one of the Netherlands' top attacking options.

He has racked up nine goals and 12 assists in his side's first 14 Eredivisie fixtures, and has started his World Cup campaign with goals in each of the first two group stage matches against Senegal and Ecuador.

Having been linked to Leeds United before the season, he reportedly opted to remain with PSV to secure a move to an even bigger club – and now Champions League teams are said to be calling.


TOP STORY – EUROPEAN POWERHOUSES SET SIGHTS ON GAKPO

According to Dutch journalist Marco Timmer, the clubs who will make an attempt to sign the Dutch talent include Liverpool, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

Having previously said he would be happy to remain in the Netherlands until the end of the season before exploring a move to the Premier League, Gakpo's value is said to have soared past the £50million mark.

There were reports early in the season that PSV's financial situation would force them to accept any further bids around £30m, so if a team with deep pockets comes with a serious offer in January, it will likely be hard to turn down.
 

ROUND-UP

– According to Fichajes, United have added 23-year-old Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby to their list of forward targets. 

– 90min is reporting Milan are considering another bid for Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech in January after testing the waters in the previous transfer window.

Memphis Depay could return to former club United in January as Barcelona are considering terminating the 28-year-old's contract to get him off their books.

– According to Sky Sports Germany, United are not considered a realistic destination for Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham.

– CBS is reporting multiple Premier League clubs, including Everton, Leeds and West Ham, are interested in 26-year-old Senegal forward Boulaye Dia, with the Villarreal-contracted player scoring against Qatar on Friday.

Manchester United have a bigger potential of profitability than Liverpool, who may have reached their peak as an investment.

That is according to football finance expert Kieran Maguire after both owners of the two Premier League giants recently confirmed they are seeking new investment or potentially a full sale, with rumours abound as to who could potentially take the reins at Old Trafford and Anfield.

The Glazer family have been in charge of United since 2005, while fellow Americans Fenway Sports Group have owned Liverpool since 2010.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Maguire explained how United and Liverpool are likely to be viewed by potential buyers.

"I think Manchester United is a bigger ship to turn round," he said. "It's going to be more expensive, but it probably does have the bigger potential in terms of profitability. 

"Liverpool is slightly more oven ready in the sense that the expansion at Anfield has taken place, and FSG [Fenway Sports Group] has invested significantly as far as [the training complex] is concerned. 

"I think Manchester United will be more expensive because it generates higher revenue, it's got a bigger stadium, it's got a bigger fan base, is going to be more expensive to turn round. If you get that right, you could make a very significant return on your investment.

"Liverpool, I think is more of a challenge. Because there's an argument for saying that Liverpool are already at a peak, and where can they go further? In terms of being a global brand that is certainly in the top 10 of the world, there's no doubt about that. But I think FSG have done a very good job to date, and that's baked into the price."

United are valued by Forbes at $4.6billion (£3.8bn) while Liverpool are valued at $4.45bn (£3.68bn), and Maguire believes interested parties are likely to emerge from the United States, the Middle East and possibly India.

"I think we're in an interesting position at present trying to work out where the demand for investment is going to come from," he added. "China is definitely out of the market. That's very much become a diktat from the Chinese government, it doesn't feel comfortable with conspicuous consumption, the development of the Chinese game has not accelerated to the degree that they'd hoped. So I think that they're leaving football aside.

"Private equity is very keen on football, we've seen what's happened in Milan. We've seen Chelsea and therefore I think we've got a new potential tranche of owners.

"And you couple that with heightened Middle Eastern interest. I think the comments from one of the Saudi senior people [Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal] that they would not object to having Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle owned by citizens from the country.

"And I've been talking to Forbes in India earlier this morning and they seem to think that an Indian acquisition could not be ruled out, given the size of the country."

Cristiano Ronaldo's club future could yet be in Saudi Arabia despite rebuffing a previous offer, with the nation's sports minister hailing him as a "role model".

The Portugal captain is without a domestic team after mutually agreeing the termination of his contract with Manchester United in the wake of a controversial interview.

It brings to an end an ill-fated second spell with the Premier League club, yet it could have been curtailed even earlier after the forward fielded bids from other teams during the off-season.

One of those was from an unnamed Saudi club, and now the country's minister of sports, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, has backed the possibility of another move to bring him to the nation.

"Anything is possible," he told BBC Sport. "I would love to see Ronaldo play in the Saudi league.

"It would benefit the league, the sports ecosystem in Saudi, and it will inspire the youth for the future. He's a role model to a lot of kids and has a big fan base."

Ronaldo's exit prefaced news the Glazer family, long-term owners of United, are reportedly considering a sale, after years of protests over the direction the club has headed under their watch.

Coupled with Fenway Sports Group, the owners of fellow Premier League team Liverpool, exploring their options, the door is open for potential further investment into the English top-flight from the gulf state.

Newcastle United are already owned by Saudi Arabia's state-backed Public Investment Fund (PIF), but while Abdulaziz has ruled out another bid from the government, he has suggested private investment could still be explored.

"It's the most-watched league in Saudi and the region, and you have a lot of fans of the Premier League," he added.

"From the private sector, I can't speak on their behalf, but there is a lot of interest and appetite and there's a lot of passion about football.

"We will definitely support it if any [Saudi] private sector comes in, because we know that's going to reflect positively on sports within the kingdom. If there's an investor willing to do so and the numbers add up, why not?"

Saudi Arabia's sports minister says the government "will definitely support" any private sector bids for Manchester United and Liverpool.

Fenway Sports Group (FSG), the owners of Liverpool, announced earlier this month it would welcome new investment at the club, while the Glazer family said they will explore a sale of United.

With fellow Premier League club Newcastle United taken over by Saudi owners in October 2021, there has been talk that Liverpool and United could also attract interest from the region.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, the kingdom's sports minister, believes the government would be extremely interested in the possibility of taking over two of the biggest clubs in Europe.

He told BBC Sport: "From the private sector, I can't speak on their behalf, but there is a lot of interest and appetite and there's a lot of passion about football.

"It's the most-watched league in Saudi and the region and you have a lot of fans of the Premier League.

"We will definitely support it if any [Saudi] private sector comes in, because we know that's going to reflect positively on sports within the kingdom.

"If there's an investor willing to do so and the numbers add up, why not?"

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