ISL 2017: Premier League giants in talks with Atletico de Kolkata over potential partnership
Defending Indian Super League champions Atletico de Kolkata are locked in talks with a few big clubs over a potential partnership as their parent club Atletico Madrid have all but decided to pull the plug on their ISL project.
According to our sources and reports in local Bengal media, ATK are negotiating with five-time Champions League winner Liverpool as well as Manchester City over selling a minority stake in the club. A Spanish club, Valencia possibly, are also in the mix as ATK look to maximise their brand potential, which has been immensely successful ever since the start of the ISL.
Atletico de Kolkata are the most decorated ISL club, having won the tournament two times since its inception in 2014. The Kolkata outfit remain an attractive proposition for suitors because of the city they represent as well as their on-field success.
Their marquee signing in the first ISL season, Luis Garcia, is believed to be the man who is facilitating talks between ATK and Liverpool.
As part of the arrangement, Liverpool will send players and coaches from their academy to ATK. Liverpool's current arrangement with I-League club DSK Shivajians has hit a roadblock, as the retooling of Indian football's top flight could force the club to fold ahead of next season's I-League.
Liverpool aside, Manchester City have also been sounded out by ATK. The Sky Blues are owned by the Abu Dhabi-based City Football Group, who also have investments in the Major League Soccer (MLS) with New York City FC, A-League with Melbourne City FC, J1 League with Yokohama F. Marinos, and the Uruguayan second division with Atletico Torque. Their involvement with ATK would provide them with an opportunity to penetrate the Indian market.
In March this year, City Football Group's chief commercial officer Tom Glick said: "Our chairman [Khaldoon Al Mubarak] has spoken publicly about our openness to new clubs and there are certainly some exciting, growing football markets around the world. Markets like China, India," further explaining why City might be keen for an Indian tie-up.
Liverpool and City's interest in linking up with ATK serves to underline the ISL's impact in the global game. Clubs are now more willing than ever to dip into the potentially rewarding Indian football scene at a stage when big changes are being effected at the top level of Indian football.
A lack of profit off the field has forced Atletico Madrid's hands and the Spanish giants look set to pull out of their deal with ATK in the coming months. Wanda Group, which are minority owners of the Madrid-based club, are looking to invest in more profitable sporting ventures elsewhere.
Should Atletico Madrid walk away from their Indian investment, another Spanish club could be ready to step in. It is believed that Valencia are also keen to enter into a partnership with a successful franchise like ATK, with the club's majority owner Peter Lim expressing an interest.
However, at this stage, ATK and Atletico Madrid's parting of ways is still some way off, but expect newer developments to unfold in the near future. One thing that is certain is that if Atletico Madrid and ATK split, the two-time ISL champions’ name will be rechristened to underline the new partnership.