By Lee Clayton
Last updated at 12:23 AM on 05th June 2008
Tales of the unexpected: lunching with the former prime minister of Thailand in China and hearing in detail, for the first time, his plans to sign Ronaldinho for Manchester City.
Let's clear up the choice of location first. Why here in Beijing instead of Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai homeland? It's safer this way (we don't need to be shadowed by his personal armed guard the size of a football team nor to perfect the trick of booking a series of restaurants for the same time, then swapping at the last moment so his enemies don't provide an alternative ending to the cheese and port).
He has survived three car bomb attacks and six assassination attempts. 'I should be a man who drives around in a nice sports car, not an armoured car,' he adds with a smile.
Even here, almost five hours of flying from his home, the Lincoln Navigators of his security unit skillfully flank Thaksin's car on his way to a business meeting.
After avoiding real bombs in the Far East and dodging verbal grenades in the North West, where the Manchester locals have been restless, losing 8-1 to Middlesbrough on the last day was not how the season was meant to end.
Now Mark Hughes has been captured from Blackburn, an appointment that will surely go some way to restoring calm. Well, at least until the Ronaldinho carnival comes to town.
Thaksin has invited Sportsmail for this rare private audience at a secluded escape about 50 minutes outside China's Olympic City. The exact location is best kept a secret, just in case. You never know who might be reading.
Also, in this wide-ranging interview, Thaksin - I am advised to call him Dr Thaksin before we begin - talks about the ambitious pursuit of the former world player of the year, the future of Micah Richards and his long-term ambitions for Manchester City, including the appointment of new executive chairman Garry Cook from Nike.
Cook may not score goals, select the team or even yet support the club (he's a Birmingham fan by birth) but Thaksin believes he is a 'special signing, a football man who will inspire great things by leading from the front'.
Any more special ones planned, Doc? 'Ronaldinho - you know, he is a great player. Whatever the club in your heart, you would want to see this player in England, wouldn't you?'
True, but this is crazy talk. Who will pay the wages? 'It is not a risk. Sponsors will contribute. It will not damage our wage structure. Garry and Pairoj, my chief advisor, they are taking care of this transfer. I am very excited.
'I am 59 next birthday, so I am not a man who can wait for many years to see my dreams come true.'
How will City know the Brazilian doesn't just want to take the money? 'Ronaldinho is 28. He has much still to offer, he is a star. You need a combination of new players, existing players, quality, young and old.
'I admit also you need a player who is more than just winning the match. You need a star who can play on the pitch, but who can achieve much more for the club. Ronaldinho is that player.
'I am hearing good things about his hunger. I have spoken to his brother (his agent). Ronaldinho wants the new challenge, the chance to play his best football again, to return to the days when he was really, really famous. The magic is still in his boots. Let us hope we can bring him.'
Eriksson has left the building, with a rather tasty pay-off. Here's why, according to Thaksin. 'I want you to know that Sven is a good man. I brought him to the club and supported him with investment (more than £50m spent last season) and we still have a good friendship.
'But I want this club to advance faster, much faster. Sven is a good football general, but we need more. We must play with more consistency, much more urgency. In the second half of the season, the slide was too bad, too much. We lost 8-1 at Middlesbrough! The shame of that.'
City supporters will know that the players had downed tools by this point, seemingly disputing the treatment of their manager. Thaksin begins to throw his arms around and raises his voice.
'The team stopped playing! They stopped working! I could not take this. I understand you cannot win every game. A football is round; it does not bounce along a straight line. I can accept the unpredictable, but not such a fall. We had to make a change.
'Mark Hughes is an excellent appointment. The players need to be motivated, instead of playing like people who are not being paid any money!'
He pays his money, he does his homework: Thaksin has researched the past and family background of every City player. 'I have heard of Premier League players with a garage full of sports cars and almost a girlfriend for each one. That is no way for an athlete to behave. He should be in the training ground, working.
'If not, they can go. I want players who work hard to make their luck, not players who are lazy. We are not a selling club, but I want players with talent, who will exercise and improve. I want desire and commitment.
'Some may fit, some not. That is a decision for the new manager. Look, you cannot all live together for ever. Some will go, but not our best young players.
'We will pay the best for the best and to the best. That is my strategy, which is why I want a player like Ronaldinho. We need to breed success. Right now, we have a negative cash flow, but within two years we will be making money. You will see.
'The supporters, I hope, will also see what I am trying to do. They have loved the club longer than me, but I am with them because I have invested my money, a lot of money.' Most recently the £4.6m paid to Blackburn for Hughes and his coaching team.
'There are times when I wish I could be closer to the fans and to talk to them, but they will have to trust me and to see that, instead of words, I show them my intentions with actions.'
Richards, sought by Manchester United is staying. 'He is our star. He will not leave,' says a determined owner with £900m in reserve to back up his promise. Will the other team in Manchester be as lucky keeping their star attraction?
'You can see why other teams want Cristiano Ronaldo. Watch him in the penalty box when the ball is arriving. He comes alive, he wants the ball, he does not wait for it like some others. He makes it happen,' says Thaksin, illustrating his words by flashing his head at an imaginary ball.
It can be a surreal fantasy talking football with Thaksin (but he has the money to make it reality) so it would not have surprised me if he had declared Ronaldo to be his next transfer target, right there and then over the organic chicken soup.
Don't worry Fergie, he didn't. Blackburn's David Bentley is a more realistic purchase. 'Every owner of a Premier League club has a duty to play Englishmen in his team.
'We won the Youth Cup this season and I am very proud of the young men (he reels off at least six names and descriptions of players who may soon appear in the City first-team squad) and the staff there, like the academy director Jim Cassells.
'There should be at least five English at the core of every team. We are the English Premier League,' he adds. His English is fluent, mastered during his years studying for a doctorate in criminal justice in Texas.
A decent knowledge of the law has come in handy during the turbulent past two years during which he spent 17 months in exile and his vast fortune was frozen.
'That is why I bought a football club, to give myself a job after I was the subject of a military coup,' he explains simply. How does he respond to those who say he should never have been allowed to own City, given the persistent criticism of his human rights record?
First, he tells me he is revered by many in Thailand for making medical attention available to all Thais - even the poor from the rural areas - for the first time, at a cost of less than 50p.
'It didn't go down well with everyone,' he reports. 'The dentists, for instance, had so much work. Some people had never been to a dentist in 60 years and suddenly everyone could afford treatment. I paid them more money, but maybe not quickly enough.'
He also launched a national lottery, fought an HIV/AIDS crisis, built a new Bangkok airport and stabilised a creaking economy. But what about the corruption allegations? Untrue; a smear campaign, he responds.
What about the reports of almost 3,000 killings in an aggressive offensive against drugs? 'Sometimes, as a leader you must have an angry face. In the past, I have ignored these allegations published in the Thai media, with whom I have no relationship. The foreign media has since picked them up and this is damaging. Now you are asking me these questions and I am happy to answer.
'These figures you have read are not true. They are figures created by the military. I was not a ruthless dictator. No. There have been investigations: The Premier League, for example, has ways of investigating these matters, I welcomed the Fit and Proper Persons Test for new owners for that reason.'
He is now free to return to his homeland in return for agreeing to stay out of politics for five years and to concentrate on his 'football interests'.
That's another sticking point with the critics - the fact that 40 per cent of clubs in the top two divisions are now in the hands of foreign owners - but he has little sympathy with their concerns.
'Clubs do not collect enough revenue from TV and advertising. If they want to try to challenge the top four, if they want the best players, they need people with deep pockets.'
He is here for the long term, too. 'Tell the fans from me that they cannot love the club more than me. We have the same goals and they will understand me now.
'Mark Hughes, Garry Cook, Jo, maybe Ronaldinho. They will see by the new season.'
Thaksin may be guilty of football decisions triggered by a sense of urgency and a crazy, infectious will to see City walk with the giants, but his pockets are deep and his desire is fierce. Doctor Do-Little he isn't.
หมายเหตุ: ข่าวชิ้นนี้เป็นบทสัมภาษณ์สุดยอดเอ็กซ์คลูซีฟที่สำนักข่าวเดลี่เมล์ของอังกฤษได้รับโอกาส โดยคุณทักษิณได้ให้สัมภาษณ์ไว้เมื่อสี่ห้าวันที่ผ่านมาที่ปักกิ่ง ประเทศจีน และเพิ่งถูกตีพิมพ์เมื่อวานนี้ ภายในบทความ คุณทักษิณได้เปิดใจแบบหมดเปลือกถึงทิศทางธุรกิจฟุตบอลที่คุณทักษิณต้องการทำ พร้อมทั้งเคลียร์ปัญหาคาใจต่างๆ ที่ผู้สัมภาษณ์ได้ยิงถาม ไม่ว่าจะเป็นปัญหาแฟนบอลแมนฯซิตี้ที่ไม่พอใจที่ทำการปลดสเวน จนไปถึงข้อหาฆ่าตัดตอนสามพันศพที่สื่อฝรั่งเอาไปคุยกัน
ผู้สัมภาษณ์แสดงความประทับใจต่อคุณทักษิณ โดยแสดงออกมาหลายครั้งผ่านข่าวชิ้นนี้ อีกทั้งแฟนฟุตบอลอังกฤษเองเมื่อได้อ่านบทสัมภาษณ์เปิดใจครั้งแรกหลังจากความอึมครึมของสโมสรกว่าหนึ่งเดือนที่ผ่านมา ก็ได้ชมเชยและยอมรับในความเก่งกาจของคุณทักษิณอีกด้วย
จาก Thai E-News
By Lee Clayton