Saturday 7 December 2019

United have '25 George Clooneys'

Mark Ogden

MANCHESTER UNITED commercial director Richard Arnold has insisted that the club does not buy players to boost brand recognition and shirt sales as Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa nears a £14m move to Old Trafford from Borussia Dortmund.

Kagawa is expected to be the first summer arrival at Old Trafford following Eden Hazard's decision to reject United in favour of a move to Chelsea.

The 23-year-old was watched by Ferguson and assistant Mike Phelan during Dortmund's German Cup Final victory against Bayern Munich recently and has been described as potentially the biggest star to emerge from the Far East since former Japan striker Hidetoshi Nakata.

But, although the January 2010 bond prospectus issued by United confirmed that "our popularity in certain countries or regions may depend, at least in part, on fielding certain players from those countries or regions,' Arnold, the club's senior commercial figure, insisted that individual players such as South Korean midfielder Ji-sung Park do not drive United's off-field earnings and popularity.

"We don't sign players to sell shirts," said Arnold. "We are reliant on 25 players and they are all massive stars. We have 25 George Clooneys.

"When you look at the success we've seen in that part of the world (Asia), it isn't down to any one player or person.

"Of course, Ji is a fantastic player, was captain of the South Korea team and continues to be a key part of our squad.

"But for Manchester United, it's more than any one player. It was more than George Best, it was more than Bryan Robson, it was more than David Beckham, it was more than Cantona, than Park.

"Ji is very popular in Korea, just as Javier Hernandez is hugely popular in Mexico, but Paul Scholes has his own Chinese character. These are huge stars and the big stars are the big stars in every country.

"Our games are shown 1.1 billion homes across the globe and you think 'which film does that 60 times a year?'

United last night announced the results of a global football follower survey, carried out by a market research company which claimed that the club has 659 million global followers.

United's £302m Nike kit deal expires in 2015 and the club are understood to be looking for a new deal of at least £450m.

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