Soccer-Arsenal showing some ambition at last, says Usmanov

Reuters

Nov 30 (Reuters) - Arsenal's decision to purchase Mesut Ozil and the form that has propelled them to the top of the English Premier League is proof the club is showing ambition and could be the catalyst for more trophies, part-owner Alisher Usmanov has said.

Russian Usmanov, who owns just under 30 percent of the North London club, has previously questioned Arsenal's ambition and was reportedly at loggerheads with majority owner Stan Kroenke over the club's frugal spending.

Arsenal have not won a major trophy since their FA Cup triumph in 2005 and while they have been an ever present in the Champions League places in the Premier League, have not realistically challenged for the title since the same year.

"In the past I tell the club that if they want to pretend to be number one in every tournament then they must have best players in the world, and if we don't have them in our squad we need to buy these in the market," Usmanov told the BBC.

"Wenger confirmed this by buying, for example, Ozil.

"Anything that gives to Arsenal, good results, is for us very good news. This is our mission and hope.

"I think we begin a new era for Arsenal where we win trophies. It's most important for football, winning trophies.

"We will be number one."

The Uzbek-born billionaire pounds has spent a reported 200 million pounds ($327.61 million) building up his shareholding in Arsenal and has said he would like to assume control of the club should Kroenke decide to sell.

Several other English Premier League clubs are now also controlled by foreign owners and Usmanov said he felt there was nothing wrong with that.

"I'm sure it is good (for English soccer)," Usmanov added. "When investors come and invest in the economy, in British football, it is a big part of the entertainment economy in the United Kingdom.

"What's bad?"

English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke had said in September he was concerned at the number of English players who were not getting regular first team play for Premier League sides, which was damaging the national team.

Usmanov, however, said the issues that Dyke raised were not endemic to England, with several high-profile leagues in Europe dominated by foreign-born players, and the game had competing interests that needed to be balanced.

"We need to find the balance of international players and local players. Every country has this problem. Russia also," he said.

"I think everybody must think about his own success. National team - it is for national federations. Clubs for the Premier League. Everyone has his own interests." ($1 = 0.6105 British pounds) (Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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