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[MADRID] China's Wanda Group continue to expand their sporting interests after acquiring a 20 per cent stake in La Liga champions Atletico Madrid, worth a reported 44.98 million euros (US$48.38m), the club announced on Tuesday.
"Wanda Madrid Investment, who are part of the international group Dalian Wanda, have officially become a share holder in Atletico Madrid, after acquiring 726,707 shares representing 20 per cent of the club's capital for the sum of 44,983,163.30 euros," read a statement on the club's website.
Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin, a diehard football fan, said his company was delighted at their deal.
"The Wanda Group is delighted to be able to contribute to the growth of Atletico Madrid and their development in the Asian market, as well as counting on their magnificent experience in youth coaching which will without doubt help in the growth of Chinese football," said Wang in a statement published on Atletico's site.
Last January, club president Enrique Cerezo met Wang in Beijing to put into place the agreement and purchase.
According to the terms, Atletico will set up a football academy in Spain for young Chinese players while the team will also tour China in the years to come.
The deal is further evidence of Atletico's intention to maintain their recent success at the top of the European game.
Los Rojiblancos ended Barcelona and Real Madrid's 10-year domination of La Liga by winning the title and reaching the Champions League final last season, whilst they will face Real in a repeat of that final in the last eight of this season's competition in April.
Last week inspirational coach Diego Simeone extended his contract with the club until 2020.
"This is a very important step for the club in its effort to construct a leading brand on a global level. It will help us to maintain the level of competitiveness on a sporting level of the past few years and consolidate us among the top clubs worldwide," added Atletico CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin.
Wang's love of football has paid handsome dividends before. His Wanda Group greatly increased its profile in China after he bought a Dalian football club in 1994, renamed it after the firm, and transformed it into the strongest team in China.
In February, the Wanda Group agreed to buy Infront - the Swiss sports marketing group headed by FIFA president Sepp Blatter's nephew and which holds some broadcasting rights to the World Cup - for 1.05 billion euros.
The Chinese property and entertainment conglomerate is looking to increase its influence in the global sports business, as Beijing bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics while rumours swirl that China could seek to host the 2026 football World Cup.