It's businessman Joey Saputo and not the Montreal Impact which is buying Italian club Bologna FC. That's the message the Impact owner delivered loud and clear via a Thursday conference call from Italy, where he was unveiled as one of the new owners of the second-division Serie B side.
Saputo said he has discussed his new transaction and the potential benefits to the Impact with the league office and said MLS is in favor of anything that can further the development of soccer in Canada and the United States.
Ultimately, Saputo believes that his purchase of the historic Italian club – he wouldn’t specify his share in the deal – will be a good thing for MLS. And it’s not going to affect the Montreal Impact ownership “at all,” he added.
“One of the things that we want to do and that we look to do is to bring certain players that are on the first team, that are of a certain age, here to Europe where they can continue their training … and to develop not only as a player but also to develop their soccer mentality,” Saputo said, mentioning the Impact’s partnership with Fiorentina and budding relationship with Juventus as well.
And going the other way is the North American business savvy, which Saputo wants to carry over to Europe. He indicated that fellow owners of Italian clubs were “very happy” to see new investors buy Bologna.
Saputo joins the group of MLS club owners who are also involved in the overseas soccer business as well, including Colorado’s Stan Kroenke, also majority shareholder of Arsenal in England, and Erick Thohir, part-owner of D.C. United and Inter Milan in Italy. But he hasn't conversed with them about this latest transaction.
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“In terms of business, marketing, sales, etc., we can help [Bologna], and I can use my people at the Impact to help them,” Saputo said. “For players, there can be synergy. I don’t know how others manage their teams, but I’m a little surprised that some owners that also have teams in other leagues don’t do that. The only ones that do are Manchester City, with New York City FC. The others don’t.”
Now that they’ve closed the deal, Saputo and the ownership group led by New York-based lawyer Joe Tacopina intends to invest as necessary in the next transfer window and in Bologna’s Renato Dall’Ara Stadium to restore the recently relegated club, which won the last of their seven Italian league titles in 1963-64, to its past greatness.
“We have the funds and the ability,” Tacopina said in a press conference on Thursday. “…We will build something that will last well beyond our years.”
Olivier Tremblay covers the Montreal Impact for MLSsoccer.com.