Manchester City believe they have stolen a march on their Premier League rivals after their owners sold a 13 per cent stake in the club's parent company to Chinese investors.
The deal - which values City at a total of 3billion US dollars, around £2billion - will see 400million US dollars (£265million) pumped into the City Football Group (CFG), after it sold the stake to a consortium of CMC (China Media Capital) and investment company CITIC Capital.
Club insiders believe the investment deal will open up the vast untapped market in China in a way that no other top-flight side has so far managed. A series of tours of China by City is now expected, possibly starting as soon as next summer, and there are expected to be numerous other openings such as content and sponsorship deals.
The income from the deal will not be used for a spending spree on new players however - a statement from CFG said the capital will be used by to fund its growth in China and other "international business expansion opportunities".
CMC chairman Ruigang Li will represent the consortium at CFG by becoming its seventh board member and believes there are "unprecedented" opportunities to break into the China market.
He said: "Football is now at a fascinating and critical stage of development in China. We see unprecedented growth opportunities in both its development as an industry, being China's most watched sport, and its inspirational role bringing people of all ages together with a shared passion.
"With its unique business model and distinct successes, City Football Group, whom we have come to know well, represents a differentiated systematic approach to building a global platform for football know-how, player development, academy programmes and commercial partnerships that will benefit China's football industry on multiple levels. We and our consortium partner CITIC Capital also see this investment as a prime opportunity for furthering the contribution of China to the global football family."
The deal sees new shares issued in CFG in addition to those owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG), the investment and development company privately owned by Sheikh Mansour of the Abu Dhabi royal family.
Prior to the investment ADUG was the sole shareholder of CFG which owns Manchester City, New York City FC, Melbourne City FC and is a minority shareholder in Yokohama F. Marinos.
Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chairman of CFG, said: "Football is the most loved, played and watched sport in the world and in China, the exponential growth pathway for the game is both unique and hugely exciting.
"We have therefore worked hard to find the right partners and to create the right deal structure to leverage the incredible potential that exists in China, both for CFG and for football at large."