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Manchester City: From Division Hopping to European Glory 🏆

July 8, 2023
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Manchester City: From Division Hopping to European Glory 🏆

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The Cityzens were bought out by the Abu Dhabi United Group in September 2008 for over $250 million 😳

From this point on, the Manchester-based club were no longer the same team 😅

Keep reading as we dive into all the business and financial aspects of their accelerated growth that culminated in a first UCL trophy this past season! 👇

Just under a decade and a half ago, something extraordinary happened to Manchester City that would change the course of English football forever.

At the time of the establishment of the Premier League in 1992, the Sky Blues were just another English club. They weren’t title contenders, and they were hardly even a mid-table team. In fact, for nearly a decade, they would fall in and out of the top flight, at one point getting relegated to the 3rd division.

This was short lived, though, as they’d find their way back up after two consecutive promotions. Unfortunately, they’d fall once again before a final promotion to the Premier League, where they have remained since 2002. 

For the next 5 years, City officially gained and maintained mid-table status, finishing as high as 8th and as low as 16th. The football world wasn’t prepared for what would soon happen to them.

Many clubs today are seemingly completely content with their status of maintaining mid-table finishes and occasionally achieving that underdog win against a top team. City was an exception, though.

They wanted more, and truthfully, they were tired of playing second-fiddle in their own city to Manchester United.

So they went down a path that would achieve them just that.

Looking for new ownership

City’s first big break came in 2007 when former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra threw in $104 million to take a 75% stake in the club.

Also there was much excitement surrounding his major purchase of the team, Shinawatra didn’t have the best reputation at the time. That didn’t stop him, though, and it seemed that most City fans weren’t complaining, either.

Former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was appointed as manager by Shinawatra for the 2007-08 season, and the man got straight to work. Eriksson spent a grand total of about $77 million that summer, securing the signatures of a number of players that would ultimately arrive to give City one of their better seasons in many decades.

Under Eriksson, City’s style of football improved, and midway through the season, they were top 4. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, as they would eventually drop to 9th place by the time they played their last game of the season. What’s worse is the result in that final outing: 8-1 to Middlesbrough.

Following that disastrous end to what was looking to be a historic season 6 months in, City got straight to work to find new ownership. Clearly the concept of looking outwards to find someone to advance the club could work and then-CEO Garry Cook was very aware of that.

They just had to find someone better, and it’s safe to say they did.

The Takeover

September 1, 2008. The day Manchester City would no longer look back on their past, they’d only begin to write a new history for themselves. The club was officially under ownership of the Abu Dhabi United Group, run by United Arab Emirates royalty Sheikh Mansour.

It was almost surreal what happened after the takeover. Having inherited a side with Welsh coach Mark Hughes at the helm - who had been appointed by Shinawatra shortly after getting rid of Eriksson - the ADUG decided to instill faith in him for the new season.

They would bless Hughes with plenty of funds over the next 2 seasons to add world class names to add to his roster. First on the menu was Robinho, who’s name still had some ring to it despite a controversial exit from Real Madrid. The Brazilian winger became City’s most expensive signing ever at the time at just over $41 million.

Here are Man City’s key signings under Mark Hughes:

2008/09

  • Robinho from Real Madrid - $41 million
  • Nigel de Jong from Hamburger SV - $19 million
  • Pablo Zabaleta from Espanyol - $9 million
  • Vincent Kompany from Hamburger SV - $10 million

2009/10

  • Emmanuel Adebayor from Arsenal - $32 million
  • Carlos Tevez from West Ham - $32 million
  • Joleon Lescott from Everton - $30 million
  • Kolo Touré from Arsenal - $21 million

Hughes ultimately proved to be a failure, though. City finished the 2008-09 season in 10th place, worse than what Eriksson achieved with less talent. The board was not happy with his progress, and he would be sacked before the turn of the year in the 2009-10 season.

With time, some of these names would finally be put to good use.

New Decade, New City.

Hughes’ firing was immediately followed by the appointment of Roberto Mancini before the turn of the year. The Italian quickly transformed a squad that was sitting in 6th place when he arrived, cleaning up their defensive flaws. 

Although City ultimately finished in 5th, it was obvious that there was a major mentality change in the locker room.

The following summer came with even more crucial signings:

2010/11

  • Edin Dzeko from Wolfsburg - $41 million
  • Yaya Toure from Barcelona - $33 million
  • Mario Balotelli from Inter Milan - $32 million
  • David Silva from Valencia - $32 million
  • Aleksandar Kolarov from Lazio - $26 million
  • James Milner from Aston Villa - $24 million
  • Jérôme Boateng from Hamburger SV - $14 million

At this time, it was clear to the world that a new powerhouse in world football was nearing its boiling point. Under Mancini’s lead, City won the FA Cup, their first major trophy in 35 years. 

Perhaps most importantly, though, is that they continued their improvement in the Premier League, finishing in 3rd place, hence qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in their history.

To date, they have not dropped below 4th.

More fine tuning occurred following these successes. In the summer of 2011, City secured the signing of arguably their most important player in club history.


2011/12

  • Sergio Agüero from Atlético Madrid - $44 million
  • Samir Nasri from Arsenal - $30 million
  • Gaël Clichy from Arsenal - $8 million

‘Agüeroooo!’

May 13, 2012. If you’re a City fan, this date is etched into their mind, soul and heart for eternity.

City were flying at the start of the 2011-12 season, winning 12 of 14 games across all competitions, most notably destroying Manchester United 6-1 at Old Trafford. The English football world was in total shock.

They started to slow down as the season winded down to a close, though. With 6 games to play, they were 8 points behind United, and hope was slowly becoming lost.

That hope was quickly rejuvenated. City went on to win all 6 remaining fixtures as United became the team to drop points. And on the final day, Kun Agüero netted a late winner vs. QPR to beat their city rivals to the title on goal difference.

The wait was over; City were Premier League champions. It was their first top-flight title since 1968.

As luck would have it, they would fail to retain the title the following season, as United would take what they felt they should have deserved the year prior. City finished 2nd, and Mancini’s time at the club was up following an FA Cup final loss.

Up next was Manuel Pellegrini, who did well to refurbish the side in his first opportunity in the transfer window.

2013/14

  • Fernandinho from Shakhtar D. - $44 million
  • Stevan Jovetic from Fiorentina - $29 million
  • Álvaro Negredo from Sevilla - $27 million
  • Jesús Navas from Sevilla - $22 million
  • Martín Demichelis from Atlético Madrid - $5 million

With these signings, he led the Blues to a second Premier League title, as well as the League Cup.

In the following two seasons with Pellegrini at the helm, City could not find success again in the Premier League. They won a League Cup, and managed a historic semi-final UCL appearance in 2015-16, but finished 4th on 66 points. This was unacceptable, and he departed the club at the end of the season.

He did make some key signings prior to leaving, though.

2015/16

  • Kevin De Bruyne from Wolfsburg - $83 million
  • Raheem Sterling from Liverpool - $70 million
  • Nicolás Otamendi from Liverpool - $49 million

Months prior, their new manager had already been announced: Pep Guardiola.

The Pep era begins… the rest is history!

The legendary Spanish coach began his reign with some notable signings:

2016/17

  • John Stones from Everton - $61 million
  • Leroy Sané from Schalke 04 - $57 million
  • Gabriel Jesus from Palmeiras  - $36 million
  • Ilkay Gündogan from Bor. Dortmund - $30 million

The Pep era would start off a bit slow, as they finished 3rd in his first season with the club. But that quickly changed.

City won back to back Premier League titles in his following two seasons. In fact, their only shortcoming in the league to date has been their 2nd place finish in the 2019-20 season. 

Following that, they retrieved the trophy, and are now on a hattrick of consecutive league titles. Don’t forget to add in the assortment of FA Cups and league cups over the last six years.

The only thing that was missing was the prestigious Champions League trophy, which they could not seem to get their hands on.

It was the only thing holding them back from true European royalty status. Although Guardiola had seen UCL victory in his past with Barcelona, he simply could not do it at Bayern. Until recently, the same failures were happening at City, leading to much criticism with every passing year.

A loss to Chelsea in their first ever final appearance in 2021 crushed the spirits of the team and the many Cityzens around the world.

But they kept fighting. 

And that seems to be the story of a club that for decades, wanted more but could never find the means of making it happen. Although all of those struggles will remain history, Manchester City have been creating a new history for the past decade and a half, and it remains to be seen who will be able to stop them from achieving more. 

If it’s even possible to stop them.

All Thanks to… Abu Dhabi?

It’s important to note the takeover of Manchester City by ABUG is a crucial step to all the glory that the club has achieved in recent years. While the big players were being brought in and results were starting to show on the field, important business ventures were being made off of it.

In 2013, a year after their first Premier League win, the City Football Group was created. In simple terms, it is a union of clubs that are all connected to one another and tied to one common owner. 

These teams are located in various continents around the world, and offer the opportunity for things like scouting data, revenue, sponsorships and marketing campaigns to be interchanged and shared. The common goal is to get the City name out there, hence the names of many of the clubs involved in this family: New York City FC, Melbourne City, Mumbai City FC, etc.

Besides that, millions upon millions have been spent to improve Man City’s ability to produce young talent, and today, they now have arguably the most prestigious training facilities on the planet.

Simply put, the club is unrecognizable from the one that would constantly drop in and drop out of the Premier League just over two decades ago. They’ve reached new heights, both as a football club and in their business ventures, something that will no doubt become a trend going forward in the football world.

That’s it for the fourth edition of our newsletter! 😅
How did you like it? Let me know by messaging me via email at Julian@plei.app or by sending us a text. 📲
We want to make sure we’re providing the right content to you all, so if you have any interesting football/business-related topics that you’d like us to write about, don’t hesitate to send in your requests! 📩
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Julian Febres

Content Manager

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