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Pep return won't distract Barcelona

Barcelona
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By ESPN Staff

Thaksin vows to aid Thai World Cup campaign

BANGKOK, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Manchester City's billionaire Thai owner Thaksin Shinawatra will pay for his country's national team squad to train with his club to help their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Thaksin, the coup-ousted former Thai prime minister, will bring the entire Thai squad to Manchester for 11 days next month and will foot the lion's share of the bill, Thailand's soccer president said on Tuesday.

'If we want to go to the World Cup, this is what we have to do,' Worawi Makudi told Reuters.

'Manchester City are keen to help us, they signed some of our players and they are happy to pay for our preparation.'

Thailand, who have never reached the World Cup finals, have been drawn with Japan, Oman and Bahrain in the third round of Asian qualifiers.

Thaksin's critics say his $164 million takeover and his club's sudden interest in Thai players - three of which they recently signed - are attempts to maintain a high profile in soccer-mad Thailand with a view to returning to office.

The exiled tycoon insists he has quit politics, although a party run by his supporters is expected to win next month's general election, although not with an outright majority.

After Thaksin put up $80 million for new players this summer, City have made their best league start in a century and are third in the league.