Manchester City ownership group eye India club investment in 2019
The parent company of Premier League champions Manchester City, MLS franchise New York City FC and A-League club Melbourne City expect to add a team in India before the end of the year.
City Football Group (CFG), which also owns Japan's Yokohama F Marinos, Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay and FC Girona of Spain, bought a stake in third-tier Chinese side Sichuan Jiuniu in February.
And chief executive Ferran Soriano said CFG could add "two or three" more clubs to their portfolio with India, where interest in football is growing massively, seen as a priority.
"We have to be patient," Soriano told reporters. "We have been looking at India for nearly two years now.
"I'd say this year we will end up doing an investment in India."
ESPN FC has been told that Indian Super League club Jamshedpur FC have spoken to a number of top European clubs including City about a possible partnership.
Soriano, who attended a Jamshedpur game against Mumbai City FC in January 2018, said he has been struck by the passion of fans in Asia as they look to invest in more clubs.
"There is a natural pace of growth that we will follow that takes us to more than seven teams but not 100 teams," he said. "We have some interest in some markets and countries where there is a genuine football passion and opportunities like China but also India so there might be other opportunities in Asia.
"I cannot see 10 years ahead but the group might have two or three more teams. Is this going to change in five years and we're going to have more? Maybe, I don't know that. But to complete the vision that we had six years ago, I think we will have maybe two or three more clubs."
The former Barcelona vice-president said the reason for buying teams is to help develop the local club and talent rather than selling Manchester City into new markets.
NYCFC was established five years ago and Soriano said they are starting to see young players benefit from their investment in training and expects the same to happen at Jiuniu.
"We are investing in a team in a big city, in a region that has no team in the top division," he said. "Our objective is to take them up there to the Chinese Super League and convert them into the team of Sichuan.
"Naturally, the other objective is to develop Chinese players. The rules don't allow lots of foreign players. We have been looking at the Chinese player market for years now. We've got a good view on that.
"This is a long-term project -- that's five or 10 years. We'd need 10 years to develop a generation of Chinese players to the level of the players that are in England, hopefully.
"We've seen this in New York too. We've got a team with boys of 14-15 that are as good as the boys here. They played in a European tournament last summer and I think they lost the final against Real Madrid. They've been trained the same way as the boys are trained here [at Man City].
"It takes time but we're very patient."