Cristiano Ronaldo has followed in the footsteps of Manchester United’s Class of '92 by entering into a business venture with Peter Lim – the owner of Valencia.
The Singaporean business magnate has previously partnered with six of the Class of '92 teammates across multiple business moves from their playing days at Manchester United.
Neville brothers Gary and Phil, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Nicky Butt originally partnered with Lim in the United cafe franchises across the Far East as they cashed-in on the marketability of the club and Premier League during the 1990s globalisation.
Lim has owned Spanish giants Valencia since 2014 but his tenure at the helm has been marred by controversy and mass fan protests in recent years.
The club have enjoyed highs and endured lows during his ownership, while they currently have the lowest salary budget of all 20 La Liga clubs at a paltry €31million this season.
Lim’s friendships with the Class of 92 developed into business partnerships after the player’s retired and together they formed Project 92 Limited , which bought Salford City - currently in League Two - in 2014.
Each of the six former United players own 10 percent each of the club, while Lim owns the remaining 40 percent.
In 2015, Lim’s real estate and investment company Rowsley acquired a 75 percent shareholding in each of the related-business to Hotel Football and Cafe Football (operated by the Class of '92).
Rowley are owned by a company named Orchid Leisure, which alongside Lim’s Incanto Investments Limited - through which he owns his stake in Salford City – are registered in the tax haven of the British Virgin Isles.
The Singaporean businessman has now teamed up with Portuguese superstar Ronaldo to launch ZujuGP, which describes itself as “A community platform bridging East and West, we are an exchange not just between fans but worlds between businesses and ecosystems.”
Perhaps it should be little surprise that Lim and Ronaldo have joined forces, with Lim’s Mint Media company having previously bought 50 percent of the forward’s image rights.
At the time, Ronaldo confirmed: "I am very excited to announce my latest deal with Mint Media, owned by my good friend, businessman Peter Lim from Singapore, to acquire my image rights.
"This is a very strategic move for me and my management team to take the Cristiano Ronaldo brand to the next level, especially in Asia."
Lim added of the deal: “Ronaldo is not just a great soccer player, he is also a very popular personality. I am confident that the Cristiano Ronaldo brand will continue to grow.”
Ronaldo added: “Peter has valuable and extensive business network and I have always admired Peter’s entrepreneurial savvy and his ability to grow businesses.
“He is also a good friend whom I have known for a while. I believe he will be a good partner and good value-add for my brand.”
ZujuGP is a content platform related to football, technology and social networks, describing itself as a “powerful and simple idea” that allows football fans to come together and “interact in diverse ways.”
Ronaldo posted on his Instagram account on Sunday: “Enjoyed being the world's first mask-changing footballer warrior.
“Exclusive behind-the-scenes reveal of my commercial and how it is made possible with advanced technology.
“@zujugp is giving away a shirt I signed to a lucky subscriber. Sign up at Zujugp.com to watch the full video and to know more how to participate!”
Lim’s ownership of Valencia – through his Meriton Holdings company - continues to be hugely controversial and unpopular among the club’s fanbase, despite his takeover of the club (through buying 70 percent of their shares in May 2014) who were on the brink of financial ruin.
He was initially hailed as the club’s saviour by paying off their short-term debt of £179.1million and restructuring the long-term debt and liabilities in order to ease worries.
Lim provided funding for first-team investment too – after successive finishes outside the league’s top half, they recorded successive top four finishes and won the Copa del Rey in 2019.
Yet instability behind the scenes – with absentee owner Lim and club president Anil Murthy held largely responsible by the fanbase – has led to asset-stripping of the first-team squad with mass playing sales leading to a sharp decline of on-field expectations.
Lim previously came close to buying Liverpool a decade ago, but saw his bid trumped by the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) – led by John Henry.
When withdrawing his bid to buy Liverpool, Lim said: "I have tried to engage constructively with the Board and RBS based on an Offer, funded from my existing resources, providing greater value for Liverpool Football Club, more cash for players, full repayment of all bank debts and a long-term personal commitment to build a better future for the Club and its supporters.”
He has now teamed up with Ronaldo on the new project – which for now remains somewhat unclear and absent in detail.
The business’s website has a digital store where users of the platform can buy limited collector's items, both football and video games.
In fact, ZujuGP gives the opportunity to meet Ronaldo online: through the Kungfu Dash video game, a draw will be held among the players with the highest score in the weekly ranking.
The venture appears to be intent on building the game in Asia and particularly in China among the younger population, realising that there is a significant untapped market of future fans.
It is however likely to further to draw the ire of Valencia fans, who continue to demand a change of ownership to their club.
Valencia has to repay several loans and, for the moment, the Mestalla club cannot meet those commitments – with the long-term future of the club appearing to be on a less than certain financial footing.