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Wenger worries for 'heart' of English football

PARIS, Sep 28 (Reuters) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has voiced his fears about the wave of foreign owners in English soccer, saying it could have ''catastrophic'' consequences.

''What disturbs me is that a club lives above its means,'' Wenger was quoted as saying in France Football magazine today.

''The true danger today is that people who buy large clubs refinance their purchase by borrowing money, by putting the debt on the account of the club.

''Manchester United generates so much money which they can use to service their loan -- but their example, reproduced on a smaller scale, can be lethal. That is the greatest damage to English football today.'' Wenger's comments come as Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov increased his stake in Arsenal to 23 percent today, increasing speculation of a foreign takeover of one of the bastion's of English football.

Arsenal are currently top of the Premier League with Wenger again proving himself a master of creating winning teams without spending vast amounts of money.

Wenger believes that the huge injections of cash into English football could destabilise the game, leading to the downfall of clubs.

''If it places us in an inflationary spiral, which leads to deficits and the collapse of clubs, it is catastrophic,'' said Wenger. ''English football is in danger of losing its heart a little bit.'' Wenger also warns that despite the massive popularity of the Premier League around the world, the bubble could burst.

''We've reached a breaking point....the first signs of exhaustion are being felt,'' Wenger said. ''Stadiums are less full, there is saturation on the airwaves. There is a limit to what people can swallow and digest.'' Reuters PDS DB2122

Story first published: Saturday, September 29, 2007, 11:24 [IST]
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