Former Grimsby midfielder Ivano Bonetti is part of the Italian consortium who have held preliminary talks about buying Barnsley FC, the Chronicle understands.
The 48-year-old played for Juventus and nine other Italian clubs in a 20-year career which included spells at the Mariners, Tranmere and Crystal Palace and ended at Dundee where he was player-manager from 2000 until 2002.
Bonetti, who is now a wealthy businessman, was one of a group of Italians at the recent game against Blackpool.
Barnsley’s general manager Don Rowing, who does most of the day to day running of the club on behalf of owner Patrick Cryne, refused to comment on Bonetti but confirmed there is interest in the club.
A national newspaper reported on Sunday that there is a bidding war between the Italians and a group from Qatar and that both groups would replace Keith Hill and give the new manager £10million to spend. But Rowing denies all of this.“There has been some interest but there has been no concrete offer and we are waiting to hear back from them,” Rowing told the Chronicle.
“I can only assume the club is attracting interest because it is debt-free and has been well run over the last eight years. Keith Hill is doing a fantastic job as manager and there are no plans to change that.We will do the appropriate research on anyone who we decide to sell the club to and make sure they are good people and that they embrace the Barnsley FC ethics. “We don’t want to do our business through the media.”
Cryne has had health problems recently and has a court case pending. He is reported to want £1million for the club and a further £2million to cover overdrafts. He allegedly only wants to reclaim the full £6million he has put in if the Reds reach the Premier League.
Watford’s new owners are Italian like the consortium Bonetti has been seen with.He began his career in 1981 and spent most of it in Serie A before joining Grimsby in 1995.
Bonetti impressed at Blundell Park but left after sustaining a fractured cheekbone when manager Brian Laws allegedly threw a plate of chicken at him.
He was then at Dundee with his brother Dario, an Italian international, as assistant manager. They signed a host of famous players such as Fabrizio Ravinelli, Temuri Ketsbaia and Claudio Caniggia but the club went into administration soon after they left.