If you told a sane person that a football club that lost 8-1 on the closing day of last season and finished 9th in the league would go on to dominate the English football landscape for the next decade, he would’ve called you crazy. But this is the story of Manchester City. A club from Manchester, England that had been trophyless for 32 years and was going through a financial crisis due to a corrupt owner, was about to put itself on the map of European Football.
It was the month of August in 2008 when a piece of news shook fans all over England. Manchester City, a club that had its fair share of glory in the 1900s but now a midtable club, was about to be acquired by the Abu Dabhi Group, a group led by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the Abu Dabhi ruling family. A man with a valuation of 17 billion Pounds was about to buy the stake of Manchester City from its owner Thaksin Shinawatra. No one had expected such a big entity to be interested in investing in a mid-table club. But it happened anyway. Let’s take you through this revolution era by era.
Bought for a reported $212 million in 2008, Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dabhi stepped in to buy out Shinawatra’s stake in the club. And boy, did they do that in style. On transfer deadline day, a club that used to look for bargains all over the market outbid Chelsea to Real Madrid’s Robinho’s signature by breaking the British transfer record fee. The 32.5 million pound signing marked the start of the Sheikh-up in the way the club would run in the future. It showed a sign of intent from the new owners and told their fans they were here for the long run. With the new owners placing bids for players like Dimitar Berbatov, David Villa and Mario Gomez on deadline day, the world knew that the new owners weren’t shy of investing in their new project.
When Sheikh Mansour took charge of Manchester City, he made sure from the beginning that every financial requirement of the club was fulfilled. He invested almost 2 billion pounds into the club over the decade in transfers, infrastructures etc. He didn’t care if the club didn’t generate any revenue in the beginning years of the takeover. His only motive was to invest in his newest venture and take it to the top of European Football. No player was off the market for City. From shock bids for Ribery, Buffon and David Villa to a 100 million pounds bid for Kaka, statement signings were about to become City’s future.
Former assistant manager Mark Bowen recalled an instance that proved to him that the Abu Dabhi Group was in it for the long run. After the takeover, Mark Hughes was asked to take the team to Abu Dabhi during preseason break. The training base in Carrington was in shambles, and the manager told them the gym was not good enough for training. The moment they left, a team of workers was sent over to work on the gym 24/7 till the team came back. When the team returned, they got a completely new, two-floor gym at their training ground. This showed them that this wasn’t some short term project.
Even though Sheikh Mansour has invested $2 billion into Manchester City, he has turned the club into a $4 billion entity with worldwide viewership and dominance in every competition. Sheikh Mansour took a 75% stake in Man city when he took over but the club’s increasing popularity attracted more investors and he has diluted his stake down to 52% after selling spart of his share to two investors. In 2015 13% was sold to a consortium of Chinese investors for $400m, this was followed by the sale of just over 10% to American private equity company Silver Lake in 2019. Through this he has already recovered half off his investment in the club. On top of this the club’s revenues and viewerships have increased all through last decade.
After incorporating Man City into the City Football Group, a group of 10 clubs all over the world, the youth development of the club has grown at an immense rate. Along with world class facilities, a network of scouting and youth development and an excellent board that only brings the best players and managers to the club, the takeover has propelled City into the group of elites. Manchester City has one of the most advanced training facilities in the world and the most expensive squad in the world. The City hierarchy is also developing a new arena near the Etihad Stadium that will boost revenues for the club.
The owners of City have given so much more to the club than most owners these days. They have lifted City out of a very difficult situation and with amazing management and investment, they have established City as a European elite fit enough to sit with the giants of football.