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Ex-Fuham owner and Egypt’s Mohamed al-Fayed, whose son died with Princess Diana, dead at 94



Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed - Fulham v Queens Park Rangers - Barclays Premier League - Craven Cottage - 11/12 - 2/10/11. Mandatory Credit: Action Images/ Jed Leicester/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights
  • Died day before anniversary of son and Diana’s death
  • Promoted discredited conspiracy theory over crash
  • Billionaire tolerated but not embraced in Britain
  • Owned establishment symbols – Fulham FC, Ritz in Paris



Mohamed al-Fayed, the self-made Egyptian billionaire who bought the Harrods department store and promoted the discredited conspiracy theory that the British royal family was behind the death of his son and Princess Diana, has died, his family said.

Born in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, al-Fayed began his career selling fizzy drinks and then worked as a sewing-machine salesman. He built his family’s fortune in real estate, shipping and construction, first in the Middle East and then in Europe.

Although al-Fayed owned establishment symbols such as Harrods, Fulham and the Ritz hotel in Paris, he was always an outsider in Britain, tolerated but not embraced.

He fell out with the British government over its refusal to grant him citizenship of the country that was his home for decades, and often threatened to move to France, which gave him the Legion of Honour, its highest civilian award.


Al-Fayed – who could be charming, autocratic, vindictive, and at times wildly outspoken – spent 10 years trying to prove Diana and his son Dodi were murdered when their car crashed in a road tunnel in Paris in 1997 as they tried to outrun paparazzi photographers on motorbikes

Unsupported by any evidence, according to the inquest into Diana’s death, he claimed that she was bearing Dodi’s child and accused Prince Philip, the queen’s husband, of ordering Britain’s security services to kill her to stop her marrying a Muslim and having his baby.

Al-Fayed died on Wednesday, his family said, a day before the 26th anniversary of Dodi and Diana’s death.

“Mrs Mohamed Al Fayed, her children and grandchildren wish to confirm that her beloved husband, their father and their grandfather, Mohamed, has passed away peacefully of old age,” the family statement read.

While al-Fayed was known for self-invention, exaggeration, and boasting, he was also a central figure in key moments in Britain’s recent history.


His rancorous takeover of Harrods in 1985 sparked one of Britain’s most bitter business feuds, while in 1994 he caused a scandal with the disclosure that he had paid politicians to ask questions on his behalf in parliament.

Like many billionaires, al-Fayed spurned convention. He once said he wanted to be mummified in a golden sarcophagus in a glass pyramid on the roof of Harrods.

At the store, where he instituted a dress code – even for customers – which he enforced in person, he installed a kitsch bronze memorial statue of Diana and Dodi dancing beneath the wings of an albatross.

As the owner of Fulham, he erected a larger-than-life, sequined statue of Michael Jackson outside the ground even though the singer only attended one match. When people complained, he said: “If some stupid fans don’t understand or appreciate such a gift, they can go to hell.”


Much of al-Fayed’s past remained murky – even his date of birth. He said he was born in then British-ruled Egypt in 1933. However, a British government inquiry into the Harrods takeover said 1929.


Al-Fayed became resident in Britain in 1974 and added the al to his name. Casting this as self-aggrandisement, the satirical magazine Private Eye nicknamed him the “Phoney Pharaoh”.

In 1985 he and his brothers beat businessman Roland “Tiny” Rowland to Harrods, one of the most famous shops in the world.

Al-Fayed hoped that buying the store would win him acceptance in British society. Instead, it led to a series of bitter confrontations.

Rowland took al-Fayed and his brothers to a Department of Trade inquiry, claiming that they had misrepresented their wealth.

The inquiry cast doubt on their origins as part of a wealthy business family, past business connections, and their independent financial resources.


After a quarter of century of ownership, al-Fayed sold Harrods to Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund in 2010.

Al-Fayed’s application for British citizenship was denied by the government in 1995. He said racism kept him on the fringe of acceptability.

A year earlier, al-Fayed had embarrassed the government by disclosing that he had made gifts and payments to politicians in return for them asking parliamentary questions for him. The so-called “cash-for-questions” scandal ended the careers of four politicians, including one minister.

The allegations of sleaze undermined the Conservatives, who lost a landslide election to Labour leader Tony Blair in 1997.


That summer, al-Fayed’s son Dodi began a relationship with Princess Diana, who had divorced Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne. Dodi and Diana were pictured by British tabloids on holiday on a yacht in the south of France.


After travelling to Paris, the couple were killed when their Mercedes, driven at high speed by a chauffeur who had been drinking whisky and was trying to evade the paparazzi, crashed into a concrete pillar in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel.

Beset by grief and an overwhelming sense of injustice, al-Fayed spent millions on legal battles to ensure there was an inquest.

When it started in London a decade after the crash, al-Fayed would accuse everyone from the royal family, prime minister Blair, Diana’s sister Sarah, the French embalmers of Diana’s body, and the Paris ambulance drivers of being implicated.

But the jury said the couple were unlawfully killed by their chauffeur’s driving. Al-Fayed said he accepted the verdict and gave up legal attempts to show they were murdered.

“I’m leaving the rest for God to get my revenge,” he said.




Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Premier League

Ten Hag credits United’s leadership for proactive transfer moves



Pre Season Friendly - Rangers v Manchester United - Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain - July 20, 2024 Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes

Manchester United are on the front foot in the transfer market thanks to the club’s leadership making quick and decisive moves to secure new players early, manager Erik ten Hag said after the signing of Leny Yoro and Joshua Zirkzee.

Since British billionaire and INEOS chairman Jim Ratcliffe took control of football operations at Old Trafford, acquiring a 25% stake in February, United has not only witnessed a new hierarchy but also benefited from new ideas.

United signed French defender Yoro on a five-year contract for a fee of 62 million euros ($67 million) on Thursday, the 18-year-old had been pursued by several top European clubs prior to his move to Manchester, including Real Madrid.

Another crucial signing was striker Zirkzee, who had an excellent season with the Serie A club Bologna last season and played for Netherlands in the European Championship. United paid 42.5 million euros for the 23-year-old for a five-year deal.

“It is very good that we are also there on the front foot, we are very proactive,” Ten Hag said on Saturday. “So, (the) leadership is doing a great job in this moment and that’s how we want to act as United.”


“We are highly ambitious and you have to be on the front foot and be ready for the season. The earlier you get your players in then (the faster) you can work on your team.”

Yoro made a strong impression in his United debut during their 2-0 pre-season friendly win over Scottish side Rangers

on Saturday, while Zirkzee, who has been given time off after the European Championship, is expected to join the squad in August.


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Premier League

Super Eagles’ Cyriel Dessers fires blank as Rangers crumble to revamped Manchester United



Rangers FC endured their second pre-season defeat in a row, falling to Manchester United at Murrayfield Stadium.

Super Eagles star Cyriel Dessers started the clash for Philippe Clement’s squad but failed to score in his 76 minutes of action, much to the disappointment of the Scottish fans in attendance.

This marks the former US Cremonese striker’s fourth consecutive appearance without a goal for the Glasgow-based club since his strike in Rangers’ 5-2 victory against Dundee FC.

During the game, Ivorian forward, Amad Diallo, capitalized on a clever pass from Mason Mount, firing the ball into the bottom left corner of Jack Butland’s goal.

In the 70th minute, Polish prodigy Maximiliano Oyedele, who has a Nigerian father, delivered a superb pass to Joe Hugill, who unleashed a thunderous strike past Butland.


Another player of Nigerian descent who shone was Habeeb Ogunneye, making an impressive appearance for Erik Ten Hag’s side during his 45 minutes on the pitch.

Meanwhile, Dessers will be eager to end his goal drought as Rangers continue their preseason tour, with a match against Birmingham City up next.

On the side of Manchester United, Leny Yoro, made his first appearance just two days after the French centre-back signed his contract, Yoro was thrown into the starting lineup in Scotland, starting alongside veteran defender Jonny Evans while Lisandro Martinez remains away after his Copa America triumph with Argentina.

Just ten minutes into the game, Yoro caught the eye with an impressive block to deny striker Dessers.

Yoro’s composure on the ball played its part in United’s dominating possession in the first half, but the Red Devils were made to wait until the 39th minute to open the scoring.


It was the impressive Amad Diallo who curled a delightful effort beyond Jack Butland, with Mason Mount grabbing the assist for United’s first goal of pre-season.

Yoro was removed at the break alongside nine other outfield starters. Only Jadon Sancho, making his first appearance for United in nearly 11 months after his clear-the-air talks with manager Erik ten Hag, remained for the second half.

United went incredibly young for the second 45 and predictably lost their dominant control of proceedings, while the heavy rain did not help either side play their best football.

The Red Devils added their second goal with 20 minutes remaining as Joe Hugill thundered home a glorious effort, removing the shred of doubt about the result which had started to creep in.

Just five minutes later, Rangers brought out their own wholesale changes, but the Scottish side continued to struggle in the final third as United managed to hold out for a solid win.

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Nigerian-born Man United’s new striker promises  creativity and unpredictability to fans



Manchester United newcomer Joshua Zirkzee said fans can expect to see a creative, unpredictable player who developed his skills in cage football, and idolised Ronaldinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

He is a Dutch, but has Nigerian mother.

The 23-year-old striker signed for the Red Devils on July 14 after an excellent season with Italian Serie A club Bologna, where he scored 11 goals and made five assists and helped them secure a place in the Champions League.

“Yeah, it’s been a roller-coaster the past few weeks, but some very good experiences. I’m very happy to be here,” Zirkzee said in an interview for United’s website on July 17.

“Obviously, (I’m arriving) at a good point, making a transfer to Manchester United is something very positive. So yeah, I just can’t wait to get started and continue what I basically did last season.”


The 1.93m-tall Dutchman is technically gifted for a player his size, which he attributes to his childhood in Spijkenisse, in the south of the Netherlands where he developed his skills in Johan Cruyff cages – enclosed football pitches named after the Dutch football great.

“As a young boy growing up, playing mostly with tougher, bigger guys who are older than you makes you adapt, so I think that’s something that you learn at a young age in Holland, especially where I grew up,” Zirkzee added.

“(I’m a) creative player, good with the ball, I’m just a bit unpredictable at times.”

He laughingly recounted the countless times he got in trouble with his mother for coming home late.

“I hope she forgives me now for all the times I came home late, or if I broke something in the backyard,” he said.


“Eventually, it all worked out pretty well… that was just life back when I was younger, playing football, forgetting about the time and getting back home late.”

Zirkzee also said that having a Dutch manager in Erik ten Hag is a “privilege” and the added presence of Ruud van Nistelrooy – the former Netherlands and United striker who joined ten Hag’s coaching staff earlier this week – will help him adjust to his new team.

But they are not the only reasons he made the move to United.

“Manchester United is a great, huge club so it’s just an extra privilege,” he said.

“Having some Dutch people around obviously makes it a bit easier, (but) to be fair I’m not too difficult adapting.


“When I was younger, watching the Dutch national team, Manchester United, watching (van Nistelrooy) play, he was one of the guys who you pretend to be when you were playing with friends. So, having him out here is a bit special.

Zirkzee was a late addition to the Netherlands squad for the European Championship, making his senior debut in the quarter-final victory against Turkey.

On the heels of Euro 2024, he will be given some time off and is not expected to link up with his new teammates until early August.

Following his arrival at Old Trafford for a fee of about £36.5 million (S$63.6 million), United are set to sign Lille’s promising teenage defender Leny Yoro in a £52 million swoop, according to reports on July 17.

The 18-year-old had been linked with a move to European champions Real Madrid, but he has since travelled to England and has undergone a medical test with the Red Devils, before putting pen to paper.


United will reportedly pay £52.7 million as an initial fee, with add-ons worth a further £6.7 million.

Yoro, who made his Lille debut at the age of 16, has been ranked as one of the best young players in Europe.

Ten Hag has been keen to land a new centre-back after Raphael Varane left at the end of last season.

Varane and Lisandro Martinez were United’s starting centre-backs in their FA Cup final victory over Manchester City in May, with Harry Maguire missing the showpiece due to an injury that also ruled him out of Euro 2024.

United have also been chasing Bayern Munich’s Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt and is understood to have had two offers rejected for Everton’s Jarrad Branthwaite.



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