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Valletta FC in talks with Saudi Arabia investors

Rowen Muscat charges forward for Valletta against Zrinskji. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Rowen Muscat charges forward for Valletta against Zrinskji. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Valletta are in talks with a group of investors from Saudi Arabia as the Malta champions look to put themselves in a stronger financial position that will enable them to be more competitive in UEFA club competitions, president Victor Sciriha told Times of Malta yesterday.

Just one day after the Citizens were knocked out from the Europa League by Bosnian champions Zrinskji Mostar, Sciriha did not hide his disappointment at his team’s failure to reach the third qualifying round of the Europa League.

Despite playing with a player more on the pitch after the second half dismissal of Marin Galic, Valletta fell to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at the Centenary Stadium to go out 3-2 on aggregate.

Sciriha, who has been at the helm of Valletta FC since 2007, said that his team still needed that little extra push to progress further in Europe.

“Our European campaign has clearly shown that we still lack something to make the grade in UEFA club competitions,” Sciriha told Times of Malta.

“To be honest I still feel a bit hurt on how things went in Europe this season. I thought that we could have reached the second qualifying round of the Champions League at the expense of Kukesi.

“In Albania we were on an even keel with them and in the second leg in Malta we were by far the better team but we suffered a goal with only four minutes to go that knocked out us.

“We surely didn’t deserve it and we were denied the chance to rewrite our club’s history books.”

The Valletta president said that against Zrinskji the team again performed very well but when they found themselves with a player more they failed to take advantage.

“The turning point for me was when Zrinskji were reduced to ten men,” Sciriha said.

“It should have played in our favour but that was not the case. With a player more on the pitch, the team relaxed a bit and we were made to pay as when Zrinskji scored their second goal we completely lost the plot.

“The team stopped playing and became more nervous, committing a series of mistakes and from then on there was no way back for us.”

The Valletta supremo believes that Maltese teams did improve in the last few years but he said that if they are to reach to the latter stages of the qualification rounds in UEFA club competitions they badly need to have more resources available.

“If you had to ask me what is the reason why Maltese team are unable to make that step forward, I don’t have a clear answer. It could be that the players are struggling with self-belief or are unable to handle the pressure,” Sciriha said.

Valletta FC belongs only to our members and fans and I can assure everyone that I will not be signing any agreements with foreign investors if I am not 100 per cent sure that they will help the club to move forward

“We saw also Balzan this summer. They achieved some excellent results in Europe and were unlucky not to go through against Slovan Bratislava.

“May be Maltese team still lack that high quality player that can make a difference in these kind of matches. To be able to sign that kind of player you need a strong financial assistance which can only be attained by bringing in investors.”

Sciriha said that Valletta had already taken that road and they are currently in talks with a group of investors from Saudi Arabia.

“At the moment we are in talks with a group of Saudi Arabia investors who are interested in investing in our club,” Sciriha said.

“Talks are progressing well and we have already signed Memorandum of Understanding with them. Still we are taking a very cautious approach to the matter as we don’t want to put our club at risk.

“We are currently holding a due diligence test on all Saudi investors who are interesting in becoming directors at our club to ensure that their input will be beneficial to our club.

“Valletta FC belongs only to our members and fans and I can assure everyone that I will not be signing any agreements with foreign investors if I am not 100 per cent sure that will help the club to move forward.”

Now that their European campaign has come to an end, Valletta are preparing to open their title defence against Sliema Wanderers.

In the close season, Valletta have brought in two new players in Romanian winger Bogdan Gavrila and Italian forward Mario Fontanella.

Asked whether he planned to further strengthened the squad, Sciriha said: “Everyone can see that we have a very competitive squad this season. Our players managed to play at a par against superior opposition so that is a really encouraging sign for us.

“I don’t think that we need to do a lot, just may be add another overseas player to provide another option for our coach.”

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