Kolkata: The Indian Super League (ISL) has not only improved the popularity of football in India but also grown as a brand with its extravaganza. Along with the introduction of famous football stars, clubs such as Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) and FC Pune City had minor tie up with elite European clubs such as Atletico Madrid and Fiorentina, respectively.
Now, as the ISL gears up for it’s fourth edition, defending champions Atletico de Kolkata are in pursuit of a potential partnership with a new club after parent club Atletico de Madrid decided to withdraw their interest from the ISL project.
According to reports from Sportskeeda, ATK are now negotiating with Premier League giants Liverpool and Manchester City over selling a minority stake, with La Liga club Valencia CF also in the running.
The Kolkata-based club have been the most successful side in the ISL since their inception in 2014, having won the prestigious title twice in three seasons and are now aiming to maximise their reach.
ATK are also viewed as a profitable party due to the popularity of football in the local city of Kolkata and also because of their on-field successes. Uncertainty also looms over Liverpool’s tie up with I-League club DSK Shivajians, after AIFF announced ISL as the country’s top tier football league and the Reds now want to strike a partnership with a club in India’s top tier.
Luis Garcia, who was ATK’s marquee signing in the first edition, is rumoured to be the man facilitating talks between ATK and the Merseyside club. As a part of the tie-up, Liverpool have agreed to lend players from their own academy to ply their trade in India.
In March, Manchester City’s chief commercial officer Tom Glick had also expressed interest in the Indian market. "Our chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak has spoken publicly about our openness to new clubs and there are certainly some exciting, growing football markets around the world. Markets like China, India,” he said.
Despite an interest in ATK, Manchester City are also looking at Mumbai City FC as a secondary option.
Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate that owns a 20% stake in Atletico Madrid and is currently eyeing other growing sporting ventures, which has opened the door for Spanish rivals Valencia to strike a deal with ATK.
As the discussions reportedly continue, if the deal does pull through, it is certain that the two-time ISL champs will be branded with a new name.