Manchester City stole all the headlines on Transfer Deadline Day as they finally announced the news that had been long anticipated. Pep Guardiola was announced as City’s next manager, a development the club’s billionaire owners hope will help them achieve their global domination dream.
Guardiola was in the top 10 trends on Twitter on Monday afternoon. Not just in Manchester, Munich or England, but worldwide. These things really should not matter, but in the modern world of social media and consumer brand relationship, grabbing global attention and owning the narrative has become as much part of football as scoring a goal. From that perspective, Manchester City struck one in the top corner from 30 yards at around 1 pm by confirming the worst-kept secret in the game. The world was talking Guardiola and, as a result, also talking about City.
It was on transfer deadline day in September 2008 when City first experienced the surge of being at the epicentre of the football universe. Sheikh Mansour’s much-publicised £210m takeover was the first tremor, followed by the late attempt to hijack Manchester United’s move for Tottenham Hotspur forward Dimitar Berbatov, before the £32.5m British record signing of Robinho from Real Madrid in the final hour of the transfer window delivered the message City’s new owners meant business.
Chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak said at that time:
“We are not going to do crazy stuff, but it makes sense for us to build a dynasty. We’re here to help build a sustainable club. I think we are going to have a blast doing it! We are here as long-term investors, and with our backing, with the commitment we are going to make to the academy in the next 10 years, there is going to be a tremendous period for Manchester City and for us.”
City talked the talk initially but the early declarations of stability, ambition and intent have since been ticked off, one by one, to the extent the club now dominates its city, has become a domestic powerhouse and is also threatening to break into the European elite alongside Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. Luring Guardiola means they are now one step closer to achieving that goal of Champions League success and global domination that comes with being the best football club in the world that delivers consistently both on and off the pitch.
Despite winning two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup since the takeover from the middle-east eight years ago, City continue to fight against the idea they are a watered club, built purely on their owner’s vast fortune. They have been accused of lacking Manchester United’s history and tradition, that they can’t yet match Chelsea’s decade of sustained success and still haven’t made any sort of an impact in Europe.
But as United have discovered since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, money doesn’t guarantee success, and Chelsea continue to search for the relative managerial stability that has become the benchmark at City. They are simply reaping the rewards of a long-term strategy which has taken them from being the other club in Manchester to the one which is the destination of choice for the world’s best manager and the best players. But Guardiola’s arrival signs the elevation to the next level and thrashes out the message their ambitions are global rather than local.
Guardiola could have chosen anyone of United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain or City, but when it became clear some months ago he had made up his mind to go to City, the rest pulled back and shifted their focus elsewhere. Yet the former Barcelona manager, who won a total of 14 trophies there, would not have given City a second look unless he believed the club would enable him to add to his glittering CV.
There is no doubt his long-standing relationships with the director of football, Txiki Begiristain, and chief executive, Ferran Soriano did play some part but he turned them down four years ago and would have done the same again unless he was convinced of the club’s ability to take on the world’s elite. City are not in that bracket yet, but that is the next objective set by Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, and Guardiola is the key to it both on and off the field.
On it, the Spaniard will be handed the simple target of winning the Premier League and the Champions League within the three-year contract he has signed. However, off the field, and into the world of football finance and commercialization, City believe Guardiola will eventually help raise them to level of Real Madrid, Barcelona and United, not only because of his own profile and his reputation in the world of football but because of the quality of players he will be able to attract to the east of Manchester.
A mooted attempt to sign Lionel Messi has long since been back page gossip for England’s tabloid newspapers but now, with the world’s wealthiest club having signed, arguably, the world’s best manager, such a move no longer sounds quite so complicated. It is exactly that kind of signing City will be hoping to pull off this summer, in an attempt to improve their performances in the Champions League where they have failed to progress beyond the last 16.
The arrival of a global footballing icon like Messi would help City in their aim to become the most famous and successful football club on the planet. There is no doubt, the likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero are among the greatest talents ever seen in the Premier League but those players and the rest of the current City squad lack the commercial power and presence carried by a Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar or Wayne Rooney.
A Chinese consortium, CMC, recently bought a 13% (£265m) stake in Manchester City owners City Football Group, leading to reports that the club will tour China later this year, where Guardiola maybe be unveiled for the first time. In such relatively new football markets, Guardiola will carry far more impact than his predecessor Manuel Pellegrini and the level of high-class players City could now attract will lift the club even higher in terms of their global presence.
This was the vision City owners had in 2012 when they first spoke to Guardiola, when seeking a replacement for Roberto Mancini but were rebuffed, and now, four years later, they have got their man and are a step closer to achieving their dream, leaving their domestic rivals – United, Chelsea and Arsenal – miles behind them.
This article is written by Shantanu Ambekar, you can follow him on Twitter at @ShantanuAmbekar. What are your thoughts? Let us know by dropping a comment via our comments box below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Google+ and like us on Facebook.