Club crest

The global expansion of Manchester City

City Football Group are slowly creeping in to every continent, what does this really mean for the future of the Manchester Club?

As we approach the end of the transfer window, the English Premier League is witnessing its most expensive summer yet. There has been well over £1 billion spent on transfers, Manchester City being the biggest spenders, with over £200m worth of players arriving at the Etihad over the course of the window. However, it is a slightly different purchase which has caught our attention in the last few days. City Football Group (CFG), the holding company that oversees the operations and ownership of the Manchester club, purchased shares in newly promoted La Liga team Girona. The deal sees Girona join the City family, alongside New York City FC of the MLS, Melbourne City FC of the A-League, Yokohama F. Marinos of the J-League and Club Atlético Torque, who compete in the second tier of the Uruguayan leagues.

The aim of CFG is to have a team in each continent, identifiable with the City name and colours. They have quietly gone about their business outside of Manchester, creating global links and subsequently building for the future of the brand. With Manchester United becoming a universally dominant club in the 1990’s, CFG have found a way to take Manchester City around the world both on and off the field. Under the stewardship of Sheik Mansour, the club have won six trophies since the Arab’s purchase in 2008 and with Pep Guardiola at the helm, City are expecting to add to that in the near future. CFG are one step ahead of all the other owners in the Premier League and have found a strategy to not only build the brand, but to aid recruitment, youth development and more imminently they have identified a way to avoid certain Financial Fair Play sanctions.

So, what do all these partnerships really mean for football matters?

City’s links in America and Melbourne are well documented, with stars such as David Villa and Andrea Pirlo now plying their trade in the MLS, and their move for Aaron Mooy making the club £5m profit without the player making a single appearance for the club. However, their latest move in Girona now means that City have the chance to keep one foot in one of the best leagues in the world. Girona, on the other hand, will see a massive change to their budget, reportedly growing by up to five times at €50m. This relationship will not only allow them to bring in quality youngsters from the Premier League giants for free, but they will also be given enough money from CFG to strengthen their current squad.

The whole project might seem slightly uncomfortable for many football fans, with these clubs logistically surrendering their control to CFG, but these deals offer a once in a lifetime opportunity for the clubs involved. All five other clubs that are part of the ‘City family’ will not only adopt the light blue colours of the club but will also be identifiable through the ‘City Way’ philosophy. CFG say this is a concept whereby all teams which play under their banner, regardless of continent or competition, can be seen to play a style based on passing, possession and attacking. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this philosophy is largely derived from the tactics used by Barcelona when under the control of now-Manchester City trio Pep Guardiola, Ferran Soriano and Txiki Beguiristain.

So, not only does this mean teams under the CFG banner are playing attractive football; it extends the notion that the clubs are becoming an attractive destination for players across their respective continent. With the upgraded City Football Academy facilities, there hasn’t been a better time for young players to become part of the project. With bases now in New York, Melbourne, Montevideo, Yokohoma and Girona, young talents from the respective areas will be desperate to get involved, in turn giving City first-dibs on some of the best talents across the globe. This desire does not end with young talents however; some of the best players competing against CFG clubs will see their opponents as a potential prospect, with the idea of being in touching distance of the Premier League aiding both player and CFG clubs. To this point, NYCFC and Melbourne City have profited from this idea, attracting some of the top players in their division to join the revolution.

You just have to put yourself in the shoes of Sheik Mansour (yes, what a hard life he’s got) to picture the vision of the CFG project. City could invite in the best young talent from America, Japan, Uruguay and Australia to their already thriving academy, and don’t forget they now have the opportunity to attract try and tested La Liga players, and in-turn use Girona as a destination to develop these same exciting prospects. What on the outside might just look like a clever commercial opportunity, its transition will ultimately ensure the club’s long term future.

Whilst City currently enjoy a fruitful relationship with Dutch side NAC Breda to temporarily develop their players, the latest partnership will see many of their young players given the opportunity to reach the dizzy heights of the Nou Camp and the Santiago Bernabeu. CFG have also looked in the possibility of striking up a deal with one of France’s most successful clubs, Saint Etienne. The clubs sporting director said “City have been impressed by our talent for producing players of Champions League standard. These people are willing to work in depth.”

So, while we continue to criticise City, whether that be in envy or not, for their oil-funded transfer activity, we must first understand that there is a wider vision aligned with it. City’s squad strengthening may have an impact on the transfer market which is quickly spiralling out of control, but their long term plan should be an inspiration for the clubs around them. It is undeniable that the future is at the forefront of City’s immediate strategy, with the majority of their recent transfers fitting the profile of a young talent with long-term potential. City’s CEO Ferran Soriano, formerly of Barcelona and close friend of Pep’s, is leading the CFG project and couldn’t be more excited, “The future is always the most important thing for CFG. We have done this in such a short period of time – what can we do in the next five years? Or the next decade? I hope I will be here to celebrate it.”

Published by Lewis McKenzie, 29/08/2017