Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

Manchester City and Abu Dhabi: Premier League’s Dynamic Duo

May 12th, 2019 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Barcelona, Champions League, English Premier League, Football, soccer

In 2008, when Manchester City Football Club was sold to a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, it hardly warranted intense foreign interest, let alone surprise.

Man City was a middling-to-lower-middling club in the English Premier League, and foreigners already were buying up English soccer teams. Two of the biggest brands in English soccer, Manchester United and Chelsea, had already been bought, respectively, by the American Malcolm Glazer (in 2005) and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich (2003), and in 2010 Boston Red Sox owner John Henry swooped on Liverpool.

In this 2008 case involving Manchester City, it was an investor from Thailand who sold, netting 210 million British pounds (about $273 million, at current exchange rates) from Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, son of the first president of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

What happened since has become one of the biggest stories in world football.

Sheikh Mansour provided the hundreds of million dollars it took to give City a shot at moving up in the soccer world in a matter of a few years, and then got out of the way. He named a compatriot, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi United Group, and Mubarak soon was spending money on prominent coaches and players.

At first, it did not go particularly well, and City’s trophy-less run reached 35 years before ending in 2011 when a highly paid club led by Italian coach Roberto Mancini and featuring Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli, Yaya Toure and a couple of kids named Vincent Kompany and David Silva, defeated Stoke City 1-0 in the FA Cup final.

From those semi-modest beginnings the Sheikh Mansour-City partnership has turned into a winning machine that compares to any club in the world, as we saw today when Manchester City clinched its fourth Premier League championship since 2012, defending the title it won a year ago, by winning 32 of its 38 matches and edging resurgent Liverpool by a single point.

It has been one of the great soccer alliances, Sheikh Mansour and Manchester City.

In a decade, what was once a club of modest means and little history has become one of the planet’s bigger soccer successes, with executive offices featuring a dozen former Barcelona employees, led by CEO Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain.

Add Pep Guardiola as coach and City has many of the world’s best players, led by one of the world’s leading tacticians and backed by one of the canniest management minds in the game.

I have been following Manchester City since 2009, when we took jobs at The National in Abu Dhabi, where Manchester City quickly became a significant rooting interest in a football-crazed country.

At first, I was not a fan: the sheikh’s money gushed more than flowed and it seemed to make advancement too easy. But when we step back and look at the elite clubs in Europe’s top leagues … just about all of them have more money than they need. And, as time went on, City bought fewer big contracts and seemed to settle into a groove that produced results.

There were bumps in the road, which included suggestions City was skirting Europe’s “financial fair play” rules. But those charges seem to disappear almost as soon as they are broached, and in the meantime the Abu Dhabi ownership was expanding City’s stadium, building a huge new campus, with significant investment in the club’s academy and the women’s game, and investment in clubs in North America (New York City FC) and Australia (Melbourne City FC).

About all that is missing is a Champions League trophy; the idea was this would be the year, but Tottenham knocked out Guardiola’s team in the quarterfinals in somewhat fluky fashion.

Worst case? City has something left to shoot for next season, especially given that the club probably will secure the first domestic English “treble” by defeating Watford in the FA Cup final next Saturday, May 18.

Through it all, Sheikh Mansour’s purchasing power has been in evidence, but the man himself does not haunt the halls of club headquarters — to my knowledge he has seen exactly one City match since the purchase — nor does he make ridiculous decisions pertaining to player or coach signings.

This is a thoroughly modern, thoroughly international club, on the way to being the best-run in the world. It if is not already there.



0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment