It is eleven o'clock at night in Spain on April 12. Five in the morning in China. Villarreal has just qualified for the semifinals of the Champions League for the second time in its history after eliminating Bayern Munich. Mao Ye has seen the game at his house and at that moment he receives a message. He is the largest shareholder of Espanyol. Chen Yansheng strongly asks his CEO to congratulate Fernando Roig, a leader from Castellón. That's right Chen. An entrepreneur with a double life. During the day he attends to his business, at night he follows Espanyol, and when not, he enjoys the Champions League, the Europa League... he is addicted to football. The distance means that he is not physically in Barcelona, but Chen is always there. Mao is the eyes, ears and voice of him. And the decisions are made in China.
Unlike Chen, Mao is not a soccer fan. Before joining the club he had no connection or feeling for Espanyol or any other team. Raised in Hospitalet, he is a professional. He helped the president during the purchase process, when he worked for the Rousaud Costa Durán office (RCD).
Chen was a regular at Shanghai 1930 when he came to Barcelona, a restaurant owned by a Chinese man from Guangdong, his birthplace in 1970. That's where he learned there was a soccer club for sale. Thus he began to be interested until he ended up “in love” and buying a chalet in the city, which he would end up selling after the pandemic, by the way. Until then, his relationship with Spanish football was summed up in commercial terms: for example, when Real Madrid commissioned Rastar, his company, for merchandising years ago. The whites needed to get an order in a time that no one could guarantee them. And Chen decided to prioritize it. He advanced the deadlines and Madrid thanked him. Chen, who at that time had something else in mind, asked in exchange for his management a T-shirt of Raúl, who was active at the time.
His interest in football was born as a child. In fact, his first big business was an electronic ball that caused a stir. The toy brought him significant profits that he knew how to reinvest.
When Chen, father of three children, began to study the Espanyol purchase operation, he requested three due diligences that recommended the same. "Don't buy this club." They all agreed that investing a single euro in Espanyol was a bad deal. That would only bring losses. A lot of investment and little profitability. Why would a businessman with more than 1,200 million fortune get involved in such an operation? Critics accused him of wanting to take capital out of China to dispose of it after a future sale, but after six years at the helm of the club his commitment remains unchanged.
Mao's escalation has been exponential in these six years. He has gone from helping Chen to communicate to being the highest representative of the entity. Although that task has not always been pleasant. A few years ago, on a visit to Mestalla, he was confused with Peter Lim and ended up being rebuked by the Valencian fans, who loudly demanded the sale of the club to his enormous disbelief.
Chen has already had four general managers, eight coaches and five sporting directors. The fifth, Domingo Catoira, substitute for Rufete, is looking for the ninth coach. Mao was also recently appointed CEO, last March, although in his case he was able to access the position a long time ago. Chen offered it to him before tying up José María Durán two years ago. It was Ye himself who rejected him. That card was to be played later. Two years later he stopped short of saying yes, but he could no longer say no.
The club is healthy. CVC injection will help modernize it. Chen has put in a total of 200 million. And now is a good time to invest in it. Although for this reason, it is also the best time to sell it.