The steady rise of the club is a story people often forget.
To open up the blog, I’ll start with posting one article that I’d written a long time ago for a sports website – but it still holds true now. The club I support, since the days when we lost 8-1 to Middlesbrough (featuring a brilliant Elano goal), has become a force to reckon with, not just in the Premier League but around the world. With famed manager Pep Guardiola at the helm and not having an easy time, it is important to look at what made City one of the powerhouses it is today. The steady rise of the club can be seen with the endeavour that the owners set out with. Recently, they sold 10% of their stake in the club to Chinese investors for £400 million, increasing the value of club to heights which one wouldn’t have imagined even ten years ago. The club has faced testing times in the Premier League era – struggling with relegation, stuck in mid-table obscurity and now firmly at the top of the trade. So here it goes:
“AGUEROOOOOOOO!!”. That moment, that very moment, was what turned the Premier League on its head. Nobody can put the moment into words, as the emotions were strong. 44 years since Manchester City had finished first in the top tier of English football and now the dream of every Manchester City fan had been realised.
13 May 2012. Every dream was about to be shattered. Manchester United were about to lift the famous Premier League trophy once again.The topsy-turvy past of Manchester City was coming back to haunt them.
Having got things the hard way, Manchester City looked set for another season without the title. But, extra time of the last match of the last day of the 20th Premier League season had something else in store.
The mega-rich Manchester City were bound for their first ever Premier League title, after their most expensive signing scored the winner against Queens Park Rangers in the very last minute. The game ended 3-2 and it shook the order of the world of English football to the core.
Wheels in motion
Late in August 2008, the Abu Dhabi United Group came knocking at City’s door. Led by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, they were a group of investors who were ready to revolutionise world football.
All they wanted, was a mid-table Premier League club, with high aspirations and a set structure in place and what better club than Manchester City? The club had been struggling for years before that.
Having gone up and down the rungs of professional football in England in the past decade, the club were hoping for some sort of stability under the ownership of Thaksin Shinawatra, the then Thai (and now jailed) Prime Minister. But, it was not to be.
Sven Goran Eriksson had now overseen one of the worst losses in the club’s history, losing 8-1 to Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2007-08 season. Mr. Shinawatra was ready to sell and like a knight in shining armour, came in the Abu Dhabi United Group. They didn’t just want Manchester City for the short-term but had a long plan in mind. They were ready to invest, as the Blue half of Manchester expectantly waited.
City had seen their neighbours become a dominating force under Sir Alex Ferguson, but now it was their time to shine. It all started in 2008 itself. Manchester City hijacked Chelsea‘s transfer and brought Robinho to the club. Not just anyone, but a superstar of those days had come to the ‘City of Manchester Stadium’.
This was a strong signal of intent and was a sign of things to come. All of this made the football world sit up, and take notice. It took notice of what was to become one of the revolutionary stories of world football.
Among the big clubs
In the past, clubs had spent big, and had enjoyed success for a season or two, and then were brought back to earth: Case in point – Blackburn and Leeds. Both clubs had a couple of transfer windows of incessant spending, which was followed up by winning league titles, but without a single thought of what was to come.
At the moment, both clubs sit in the Football League Championship, far away from their glory days in the Premier League. So, what is different with Manchester City?
For starters, Manchester City’s owners had insane amounts of money, and it was reflected upon season after season. Starting Robinho, City went to acquire, James Milner, Gareth Barry, Shay Given. This escalated to actual star names like David Silva, and Yaya Toure in 2010, and eventually Sergio Aguero in 2012. This was added by a raft of stars in the subsequent seasons like fomer Chelsea reject Kevin De Bruyne with the long-awaited acquisition of arguably the best manager in the world, Pep Guardiola, it has been a steep rise.
All these signings were symbolic of the fact that a fifth club had entered to spoil to the “Big Four” party. Cross-town rivals Manchester United, were now subject to tough Manchester Derbies, and even had to deal with losing heavily against Manchester City (1-6: Remember “Why Always Me?”).
Manchester City were now aiming for the league title, and simultaneously, trying to make a mark on Europe. The 2011 FA Cup success was a step forward, and the Premier League title in 2012 was an even bigger step forward. Since then, City have been permanent English representatives in the Champions League and secured another league title, and a League Cup under Manuel Pellegrini in 2014.
Manchester City have been maligned and criticised for their heavy spending. They were even fined by UEFA under the clout of the “Financial Fair Play” rules. But, there is a method to this madness.
City’s owners did not just have a short-term plan in mind. They wanted to spend big, but wanted to spend it wisely as well. They had a structure. Short term success would pave the way their long-term goals and City would become the fruit that keeps on giving. A big academy and a strong youth setup is always crucial to a club’s success, and that is exactly what Manchester City did.
The City football Academy was completed in late 2014 and coupled with a sprawling campus just beside the Etihad Stadium, the development of the academy has been modelled around ‘La Masia’. La Masia is the celebrated academy of Football Club Barcelona.
It has churned out stars like Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Xavi Hernandez to name a few. The success of City was not just a facade. The huge campus is complete with numerous football pitches, and various other training facilities. The CFA, as it is widely known is aimed at making Manchester City a sustainable business venture.
This huge spending cannot be carried out year after year, and the huge spending is being done, to create conditions for a successful Manchester City football club in the future. With this, City aimed to churn out football stars of the future, which would help bring glory to Manchester City.
Moving beyond borders
Different to a conventional football club, Manchester City has been running like a business. Forging worldwide partnerships, and establishing themselves overseas is all part of the plan. The formation of New York City FC, the takeover of Melbourne Heart FC are all part of it. Manchester City has a glowing global reputation, and they are fast becoming a club which rivals its competition even overseas.
Not just that, City are expanding because of the fact that worldwide partnerships often help in identifying world class talent. Grassroots football is given great importance at City, and this is just a step in the same direction.
The City Football Group looks over the worldwide activities of Manchester City and it’s partner clubs. New clubs are being set up in various leagues around the world, and this just adds to the competitive nature of those leagues as well.
In the community
Despite having spent so much, and scaled new heights in world football, City still the remain the club, that treats all of it’s members like a family. Case in point, the projects of City in the community around Manchester and even the world.
Two examples strengthen this idea that City have. The City Football Academy is home to a free football school for boys and girls. Added to this, the club helps redevelopment of the under-privileged areas in and around Manchester.
A second example of this is their work in New York. The City football Group gave the city the one thing it had been waiting for, for a long time. A New York based football (soccer) team.
Since the Red Bulls are based in New Jersey, many New Yorkers were far away from a true football experience. Moreover, Manchester City host a free clinic in South Bronx, and in other under-privileged areas of New York. They have been actively involved in giving back to the community, that has given so much to the club.
Manchester City have made the world of football take notice, and will be here for a long time to come. From the days of Joe Mercer, Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell et al, to the present days of Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and David Silva, City have seen it all.
The article was previously published on Sportskeeda.