NASSER Al-Khelaifi is the name on the lips of the fans of Leeds United.
The 45-year-old Qatari businessman, with a reported worth of 4.9bn, invited close friend and Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani to a Champions League tie between PSG and Club Bruges last Wednesday.
Reports suggested that the pair were continuing discussions how Al-Khelaifi’s Qatar Sport Investment could pump millions into the sleeping giant in Paris.
But who is Al-Khelaifi? He is not a Sheikh, born into wealth. In fact, he came from more humble beginnings, became a sports star and is now thought of as the most powerful man in French football.
Meet the man who is considering putting Marcelo Bielsa’s side back on the map.
Originally from Sur, Oman Al-Khelaifi wasn’t born into money.
Not much is known about his mum, but his father worked as a pearl fisherman to support the family.
From an early age Al-Khelaifi showed promise in sport, and although he graduated from Qatar University, it was in tennis where he excelled – playing 43 ties between 1992 and 2002 and compiling a 1231 record in singles, 1216 in doubles.
Al-Khelaifi appeared in two ATP Tour events, The Hypo Group Tennis International, where he lost to former French Open champion Thomas Muster in the first round and the Qatar Open, a tournament he also felt at the first hurdle in.
However, that helped him establish ties in business that would see him well for the future.
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES
A career in tennis brought Al-Khelaifi close to the emir of Qatar,Sheikh Tamim.
Tamin, the head of sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority, has entrusted his friend of 30 years with several senior jobs through the years in his companies.
In 2008, he was appointed president of the Qatar Tennis Federation. He has since become vice president of the Asian Tennis Federation.
Three years later, Al-Khelaifi became chairman of Qatar Sports Investments, a subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority.
Said to be worth around 338 billion, it was designed to diversify the countrys assets away from oil wealth.
The group bought French champions PSG, and Al-Khelaifi was made chairman of the board and CEO.
In 2013, Tamim handed him the role of Minister without Portfolio in the Qatari government.
LINKS TO WEINSTEIN
A key figure in sport in his country, Al-Khelaifi was soon earmarked for a role in broadcasting.
When Al-Jazeera Sport was rebranded by the beIN Media Group as beIN Sport, there was only one man who could run such an operation.
Al-Khelaifi was appointed chairman and chief executive officer in 2013, before the ambitious businessman then took over Hollywood studio Miramax in 2017.
Originally set up by disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob until they moved to Disney, Miramax was famous for producing movies including Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting and Shakespeare In Love.
Miramax was once one of the big studios in this world, and we want to be back, and active, Al-Khelaifi told Deadline back in 2017.
Since his appointment, Miramax has scored success with the rebooted Halloween movie last year that cost around 6m to make and earned over 240m at the box office worldwide, and has been seen hanging out with Leo DiCaprio.
LOOKING FOR ENGLISH INVESTMENT
English football is seen as a positive investment for foreign investors.
As SunSport reported previously, QSI are interested in taking over a lower league football club and restoring them to former glory.
Al-Khelaifi was previously linked with a move for Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest, but his friendship with Radrizzani could swing a deal towards Leeds.
Last month, the Italian admitted that he had received an investment proposal from the Qataris that could help Leeds compete withManchester City.
I have been approached by more than 20 parties and I have selected these three, Radrizzani toldThe Times.
The option of Qatar Sports Investment and Nasser first of all they are friends, we have had a good relationship for a long time. Secondly, they have the possibility to bring this club to compete with Manchester City, so for the fans that could be a fantastic opportunity.
The second is based in America, hes a big fan of Leeds United since he was a child, and I like that.
Another one is the owner of an Italian club. With another club you can create synergy to be more competitive and to target thePremier League we could maybe get a loan to increase the quality of the team.
KEEPS HIMSELF OUT OF THE LIMELIGHT
Al-Khelaifi’s personal life is shrouded in mystery.
He’s believed to be single, as he divides his time between mansions in Paris and Doha. There are more substantial properties rumoured around the world, but nothing ever confirmed.
Al-Khelaifi is alsorarely seen out in public, other than at sporting engagements.
And there was the curious case of a 280k Lamborghini Aventador, wrapped in purple and featuring his initials, that once trended on YouTube and was said to be his, although he’s never been seen behind-the-wheel.
The man’s an enigma, but Leeds fans won’t care if a substantial injection of cash allows Bielsa to spend in January and improve his promotion-challenging team.
After all, QSI took PSG from relegation fodder to a Ligue 1 title. Imagine what they could do with the Whites.