Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa (with an estimated fortune of 18.2 billion euros), has been considering buying a European football club for several years. In 2016 and then in 2021, the billionaire had tried, without success, to acquire Arsenal, one of the jewels of English football, of which he is a great supporter.
The businessman has not given up on his ambition to become the only African owner of a European club since the Egyptian Mohamed Al-Fayed sold Fulham (England) in 2013. As announced in April the log The Team, he is now interested in Valenciennes FC (VAFC), which plays in the French Ligue 2. Eddy Zdziech, the president of the club, had then confirmed to the sports daily that he was ready to sell, assuring that contacts between the two parties existed.
Two months later, the file for the possible takeover of Valenciennes seems to be in the process of being finalized. Representatives of Aliko Dangote have issued a first non-negotiable condition, that of seeing Valenciennes evolve in Ligue 2 for the 2023-2024 season. Two days before the end of the championship, the northern team occupies the 14e place in the ranking but is not yet guaranteed to maintain itself. Both parties must also agree on a price. “The value of the club is estimated at 15 million euros, a sum to which must be added a good ten million euros in order to pay off the debts”, says a VAFC shareholder. In case of sale, Eddy Zdziech will have to give up the presidency of the club.
In April, the magazine Undertake had pointed out the role that Jean-Louis Borloo, former minister of Jacques Chirac then of Nicolas Sarkozy, plays in the affair. The former mayor of Valenciennes (1989-2002) and president of the club is at the head of the Energies pour le monde foundation, active in Africa, and knows Aliko Dangote personally. “He is necessarily aware of the discussions, because he is in contact with Mr. Dangote. We can even suppose that if the latter is interested in Valenciennes, it is not by chance. Admittedly, it is a club with a history in French professional football, which has a recent stadium, but in France there are others. [Saint-Etienne et Dijon, notamment] which are potentially for sale”, explains Luc Arrondel, research director at the CNRS, teacher at the Paris School of Economics and specialist in football economics. According to a source close to the Nigerian, he is studying other avenues in case the one leading to Valenciennes fails.
Ambition Ligue 1
The businessman would not wish, according to our information, to draw inspiration from the so-called “trading”consisting in buying – if possible not too expensively – promising young players and exposing them at the professional level to resell them, one or two years later, with a strong added value. “Trading takes you away from the sports project and can make you lose money, because it is a risky systemcontinues Luc Arrondel. If he buys Valenciennes, Aliko Dangote will probably rely on the training center, which works well, because he is aware that French training is a reference in the world. He will make some money selling club-trained players. With, in the long term, the ambition of returning to Ligue 1.
The billionaire wants to buy two other clubs in the medium term in the top 5 European countries (Germany, England, France, Spain, Italy). One of the operations would also be finalized, according to a close friend of Aliko Dangote. “He is a man who loves football. When you have a fortune like his, buying a club for 15 or 20 million euros is a reasonable investment. He has fun and will try to get results, which is good for notoriety and to avoid losing money, which happens quite often in football.adds Luc Arrondel.
The acquisition of one or more clubs in Europe could allow Aliko Dangote to “make other markets prosper in connection with its many activities”, according to the economist: “It’s a plausible hypothesis, because he remains a businessman. » Although he derives more than 80% of his income from the cement works, the sixty-year-old is at the head of a group which operates in various sectors such as real estate, agrifood and now oil, with the recent inauguration of a mega-refinery in the Lekki Free Zone, on the outskirts of Lagos.