When Sergio Agüero won the Premier League with Manchester City in the 94th minute of the last game of the 2011-12 season, the emotional extremes, almost cocking him, made a feverish connection with all the old club’s stumbling blocks. City fans again pinch themselves at the prospect of a Champions League final in the poignant memory of a League One play-off final with Gillingham, but there can no longer be any illusion that this is the City of yesteryear.
Since 2008, after the acquisition by Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the ruling Abu Dhabi family, Manchester City has become an exercise in how to build the supreme modern football club with a large amount of money available to the project. And in season one, as Mansour’s men and his billionaires rescued City from the chaos of the property of ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the ideal to replicate, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, was to win the Champions League.
It has taken 13 years to cross that chasm, and roughly £ 2.5 billion of Abu Dhabi money, and from the start, unlikely as it may seem, this was the goal of the new property: relentless and resplendent success.
As City and the teams of their dreams have come to dominate, Amnesty and other human rights groups have begun calling these mega-projects “sports laundering,” regimes that wash their reputations through the irresistible allure of soccer. It has never felt exactly how Abu Dhabi sees itself, because although campaign groups have focused on conditions for migrant workers, the suppression of internal dissent and the horrible war in yemen, the rulers of the state seem to believe that they are a relatively liberal regime, that they do what they need in a dangerous region, that they do not need a public relations cleanup.
Richest of the seven United Arab Emirates Due to its oil fortunes, Abu Dhabi is courted by Western countries, including Britain, which sells large stocks of arms to the country. In December Boris Johnson received the de facto ruler of Abu Dhabi, Mansour’s brother, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed, and the Downing Street communiqué raved about “the long-standing friendship and shared history between our two countries and peoples,” before a large investment was announced in March.
Yet Manchester City is undoubtedly part of Abu Dhabi’s nation-building, woven into the strategy to diversify its economy beyond the flows of oil prices and project a modern and stylish image to the world. President of the city, Khaldoon al-Mubarak, is responsible for key strategic business and government investment roles in Abu Dhabi, where he works primarily not for Mansour but for Sheikh Mohamed.
Mubarak, appointed president a few days after the surprising inauguration, was and still is the president of Abu Dhabi executive affairs authority, responsible for advising on the direction and image of the state, as well as a member of the executive council of government and a founding member of the supreme council of economic and financial affairs. In its official biographyThe presidency of Manchester City, his most visible (and probably the most enjoyable) role, is a low, part-time responsibility after being CEO of the $ 243 billion sovereign wealth investment company. Mubadala, being a member of the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi National Petroleum Company and president of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Emirates Global Aluminum.
When the United Arab Emirates reached an agreement with Israel last year brokered by Donald Tump, the Manchester City president was with Sheikh Mohamed at the official government party hosting the first US-Israeli delegation. That’s a phrase that no City fan of any era could have imagined being written, as they drank pints at Moss Side’s Parkside pub, dreaming of one day taking out Peter Swales.
The total rebuilding of the City has been accomplished like many prestigious and industrial projects designed by Abu Dhabi in its few decades of compressed development, employing the best resources and human expertise that money can pay for. Management consultants hired immediately in 2008 to assess the assignment had Barcelona as the industry standard, and in 2012, right after the first title, the City’s owners hired the know-how of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, the former CEO. and director of Barcelona. football respectively.
Waves of players had been bought in to elevate the team, then the former Barcelona partner established their own footprints: acquiring a global network of clubs for the “City Football Group”, a global empire of business and youth development with the “campus” of the £ 200 million academy, opened in 2014, at its peak. They knew at their fingertips that Guardiola was a coach on a different planet than his rivals, and City owners waited, putting everything in its place, during the three title-winning seasons at Bayern Munich, before securing him in 2016.
A figure recording the cost of the city’s project is £ 1.3 billion, the amount invested directly in the club as capital stock of the vehicle owned by Mansour. But that leaves out Abu Dhabi’s large sums in sponsorships from other state entities, mainly the Etihad airline, whose annual value of 67.5 million pounds was made known through the fatal leaks of internal emails from the German magazine. Spiegel. As early as 2013, when City began to face difficulties with UEFA’s fair play financial regulations, sponsorships from three other Abu Dhabi entities, investment firm Aabar, telecom giant Etisalat and the tourism authority of the The country, which had billboards around the Etihad Stadium inviting people to visit Abu Dhabi, were estimated at £ 15 million, £ 16.5 million and £ 19.75 million respectively – over £ 50 million in total. The breakdown of the city’s huge annual business revenue: £ 246m last year – not published, but if Abu Dhabi sponsorships averaged £ 100 million for each year owned by Mansour, that would put the country’s investment at £ 2.6 billion.
City, of course, have reached the final in a year in which they would have been sanctioned if their lawyers had failed to overturn the sanctions in the sports arbitration court. The regime, mostly elegant in all areas, including relations with supporters and investment in the community, lost that steadfastness in its war with Uefa, enraging that the FFP rules and their enforcement by duly constituted internal bodies they were a kind of European conspiracy against them. The evidence to the contrary, that owners pump money to inflate player salaries and transfer fees is potentially ruinous, lies in Manchester for all to see, in the ruin of Bury and the traumatic Wigan and Bolton administrations.
The City owners took another misstep last month when they opted to join the toxic European Super League, and this time they quietly accepted UEFA’s reprimand and sanctions, and Aleksander Ceferin’s welcome back to the “ European football family ”. The short-lived escape rampage served as a reminder to all of football, including city owners, that the game’s historical governing bodies, imperfect as they always will be, are all a sport has to protect itself from being alone. a business, driven only by the boost of revenue and global domination.
However, the UEFA Champions League final will convey to the world how far the game is from being a collection of sports clubs in any kind of uniform competition. Manchester City, the great old mess club of recent days, is now the perfected product of a country playing oligarchy-owned Chelsea for the top prize in football.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism