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By ESPN Staff
Apr 18, 2008

Takeover talk builds at title chasing Roma

MILAN, April 18 (Reuters) - AS Roma's top shareholder Italpetroli held talks with a representative of a potential investor on Thursday, but a sale of the Italian soccer club is not imminent, Italpetroli said on Friday.

The statement did not name the potential investor and said that no agreement was reached.

'No sale proceedings have begun,' the statement added.

Media reports on Friday said representatives of billionaire financier George Soros had met club officials. Soros told reporters on Thursday he had no comment on whether he was interested in Roma.

Roma are second in the Italian soccer league and are four points behind leaders Inter Milan with five games remaining in the chase for the championship.

Manchester United knocked Roma out of the lucrative European Champions League earlier this month, but Roma will almost certainly be back in the competition next season.

Several English soccer clubs have been bought by foreign investors in recent years because of the commercial strength of the English Premier League across the world.

In contrast, there has been little interest in clubs in the rest of Europe though several parties are interested in buying Roma, media reports have said.

Roma have only a small fan base outside Italy, but analysts say investors in soccer clubs are not always looking for profit and instead enjoy the ups and downs of owning a sports team.

Italian businessman Pierluigi Toti categorically denied on Friday he wanted to take over the club.

Italpetroli, linked to the Sensi family, which runs Roma, said in November it had been informed by a third party of possible interest from an unnamed U.S. investor.

Tom Hicks, American co-owner of English club Liverpool, denied he was interested in Roma after the Italian media speculated that the statement referred to him.