Man. City's $61 Million Purchase of Mangala Faces FIFA Probe

Eliaquim Mangala

Eliaquim Mangala.

Photographer: Romain Perrocheau/Getty Images
  • Documents suggest Porto allowed an outside fund to negotiate
  • Porto could face fines or be blocked from buying players

The record 54 million euro ($61 million) transfer of defender Eliaquim Mangala to Premier League leader Manchester City from Porto may have explicitly violated a longstanding rule of global soccer.

FIFA, the governing body of global soccer, is investigating the 2014 trade to see if outside investor Doyen Sports played an improper role in negotiating the trade.

Doyen, which raised 50 million euros as part of its first investment fund, is the biggest investor in the $4 billion transfer market for soccer: It buys a share of the future trade value of a player, betting that whatever he might go for in the future will more than cover the initial investment.

Documents reviewed by Bloomberg included a letter between executives from Porto and Doyen in which the soccer club ceded power to the fund to negotiate the sale of its stake in Mangala. That agreement appears to fly in the face of FIFA’s rules at the time, which prohibited third parties from influencing teams’ transfer negotiations.

A FIFA spokesperson confirmed that the Zurich-based organization is “looking into the matter.” Doyen Chief Executive Officer Nelio Lucas declined to comment. In the past, he’s said the fund, which has invested millions of dollars in dozens of players across the globe, has acted within the rules. Porto didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Manchester City spokeswoman Vicky Kloss didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment. FIFA is not investigating the club’s involvement in the trade, only Porto’s engagement with Doyen.

If FIFA’s disciplinary committee decides that Porto broke the rules, the club could be fined or blocked from buying players.

Mangala struggled in his first season at City, playing 25 times in the league, collecting seven yellow cards and being sent off once. City, owned by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed al Nahyan, the billionaire deputy president of the United Arab Emirates, struggled as Chelsea won the English title. He’s fared better this year -- playing in seven of City’s eight league matches -- amid increased competition for defensive places at the Premier League leader following the signing of Nicolas Otamendi.

In a press release announcing Mangala’s transfer, Porto said it received 30.5 million euros for its 57 percent ownership of Mangala’s contract. Lucas said at the time Doyen got a similar valuation for its 33 percent stake, bringing the total fee to about 54 million euros, the highest amount ever paid for a defender in the Premier League. The remaining 10 percent stake in Mangala was owned by a London-based company called Robi Plus. Doyen paid Porto 2.6 million euros when it acquired its percentage of Mangala’s transfer rights in 2011.

The timing of FIFA’s investigation comes at a sensitive moment for Doyen, which is waiting for a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport over another high profile transfer. Sporting Lisbon refused to pay the fund its portion of the 20 million-euro sale of defender Marcos Rojo to Manchester United, arguing it pressured the club to move the player despite it wanting to keep him.

Doyen has also challenged FIFA’s more recent ban on third-party investing in players’ contracts, and the outcome of the Rojo case and this new investigation may influence that court’s proceedings. The practice started in South America and is spreading to parts of Europe, with clubs using investors’ cash to acquire players they say they couldn’t otherwise afford.

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