Chinese healthcare, tech and transport magnate Xia Jiantong has agreed to buy Aston Villa for around 100 million dollars. And as Graham Mackay reports, he has big plans for the club in his own country.
They may have finished dead last and been relegated from the Premier League, But Aston Villa is focussing on a first.. Becoming the one and only English football team to be fully taken over by a Chinese owner. Healthcare, tech and transport magnate Xia Jiantong has agreed to buy the club for around 100 million dollars. and he's ready to loosed the purse strings even more. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RECON GROUP CHAIRMAN, XIA JIANTONG SAYING: "We're ready to spend between 50 and 70 million dollars on players to boost the squad." Xia wants to bring Villa back into the Premiership, qualify for European competitions and make them the number one club in China. But as Adam Jourdan reports form Shanghai, the jury's out on how realistic that really is. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, ADAM JOURDAN SAYING: "There is a lot of skepticism over whether my Xia will be able to pull of this feat and bring Aston Villa back to its former glory. It's going to require a heavy amount of investment to bring them back into the top flight, let alone to bring them into the top six in Europe. And in China where he says he's going to make them the most famous club, they face much bigger rivals such as Man United, or Liverpool or Barcelona, teams that have a much bigger fan base here, and it would be hard to knock off their perch." Xia's his lofty goals are certainly in keeping with China's view of its place in world football. It's been ploughing money into TV rights and big-name players. President Xi Jinping has even targeted a World Cup win for his country, some day. Football insiders say Villa's plight has been a good thing for Xia, because it pushed the club's price down... But it also means he's got his work cut out, winning over an army of fans who won't be happy about life outside of the Premier League.