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Colonel Gaddafi once came a ‘whisker away’ from buying Man Utd before the Glazers

Colonel Gaddafi was just a “whisker” away from buying Manchester United, according to the man who brokered the takeover of the club for the Glazer family.

Newcastle United were taken over by Saudi Arabia-backed Public Investment Fund (PIF) on Thursday.

It has been met with anger as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who chairs PIF, has been accused by US intelligence of ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi – which he denies.

But while it has raised eyebrows, it’s not the only time a controversial leader from the Middle East was linked with a club.

In 2018 Mehmet Dalman, speaking to The Sunday Times, previously told of how he flew to Libya in 2004 to meet Gaddafi, where conversations were held about buying an almost 30% share in United.

He said: “People don’t realise how the deal was a whisker away from going to Libya. Gaddafi almost bought the club. That’s how close it got – literally, you’re talking about a few hours.

“Seven or eight months ago we were about to buy shares in Manchester United. We kept it secret because I thought we were going to do it. But now it’s impossible.

Manchester United's US co-chairman Avram Glazer watches from his seat during the English Premier League football match
The Glazers have had a mixed time at Old Trafford
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

“I told my father it would be like buying the Church of England.

“It’s very hard, maybe impossible because of the fans and the history, very difficult.”

Gaddafi dominated Libya’s politics for about 40 years. He was killed in October 2011 after an assault on his birthplace of Sirte.

Newcastle, meanwhile, have become the richest football club in the world thanks to PIF.

Gaddafi was killed in 2011
(Image: Getty Images)

The Premier League said in a statement it had been given “legally binding assurances” the club would not be controlled by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), although critics have questioned how this will be so.

Since news emerged of the takeover, multiple human rights groups condemned the new ownership of the club and accused the move of allowing Saudi Arabia to “sportswash” its image.

That accusation was denied by financier Amanda Staveley, who fronted the consortium, who responded to a question about sportwashing with: “No, not at all, this is very much about the PIF’s investment into a fantastic football team and we look forward to growing the club.”

Last year, when news of the deal first emerged, Amnesty UK chief executive, Sacha Deshmukh, said via the Guardian that the move to purchase the club was “a clear attempt by the Saudi authorities to sportswash their appalling human rights record with the glamour of top-flight football.

He added: “Instead of allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to walk into English football simply because they have deep pockets, we’ve urged the Premier League to change their owners’ and directors’ test to address human rights issues.”

The Glazer family of United, meanwhile, are set to sell around 9% of their shares in Manchester United, according to new reports.

The family took over in 2005 at the Red Devils, in a deal thought to be around £780m.

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