Ten Years On: City’s Rise to the Top and Could it Ever be Done Again?

Ten years on from the takeover of a lifetime that took Manchester City all the way to the top of the game, we analyse their remarkable journey and if it is possible for other teams to emulate their success in the current market.

In 2008, a group of unknown wealthy Arabian businessmen of the Abu Dhabi United Group orchestrated a deadline day takeover of Manchester City Football Club, to save it from the financial crisis caused by previous owner Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Premier League Journey

Mark Hughes (2008/2009)

After announcing new manager Mark Hughes, the 2008 summer transfer window saw the arrival of club legend Vincent Kompany from Hamburg, proving to be one of the smartest signings City had made in years. The deadline day takeover also saw the club sign star player Robinho from Real Madrid on deadline day for a transfer record fee of £32 million. This was after a number of attempted last minute bids for the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, David Villa and Mario Gómez.

In the first season under new ownership and management, it seemed maybe Hughes was just not the man for the job. After attempting to sign Kaká mid-season and shaking the footballing world, it was clear City meant business. However, with inconsistent performances and no trophies to show by the end of the season, the ambition of the new owners’ was not coming off on the pitch.

The new transfer window came and brought with it some promising signings in the form of Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Touré, Joleon Lescott and Carlos Tevez. All seemed to be well with a great start to the season, however, their form dipped and come December it was time for Hughes to go. Then came a new era. The Mancini era. Where everything changed.

Roberto Mancini (2009/2013)

After replacing Hughes in December 2009, in the middle of a poor run of form, somehow Mancini managed to pull it out of the bag and coached City to their most successful Premier League campaign. This saw them finish fifth in the league, secure their place in the Europa League and reach the League Cup semi-final.

The 2010/11 season followed on from the last in spectacular form, seeing the club bring in a multitude of marquee signings with the likes of David Silva, Yaya Touré, Mario Balotelli and James Milner joining the club. This season saw the club win their first major trophy in 35 years, the FA Cup. Also qualifying for the Champions League, meant that they would once again be playing amongst Europe’s elite the following year.

Looking to build on the previous season’s successful campaign, 2011/12 saw the signings of Sergio Agüero and Samir Nasri, along with a few others. Vincent Kompany took over as club captain from Carlos Tevez and lead his club through battle. That’s right, the incredible battle for the league title between City and United, which saw both Manchester teams going into the last match of the season on 86 points. When injury-time came it looked as though hope was lost for City, with United beating Sunderland and City losing 2-1 to ten men QPR. However, a miraculous comeback saw City score 2 injury-time goals to win the match, and proceed to beat Manchester United to the Premier League title on goal difference. This is the first Premier League title to have been decided on goal difference and City’s first League Championship title win in 44 years.

Sadly, Mancini’s reign was not to last as the 2012/13 season saw an unimpressive follow-up season for City. After a poor Champions League campaign, an FA Cup final defeat and no league title, Mancini was sacked as manager and in came Manuel Pellegrini.

Manuel Pellegrini (2013/2016)

Pellegrini takes over for the 2013/14 season and is considered a welcome change. Despite so much success, Mancini was criticised for aggravating players and superiors, and not offering youngsters opportunities. The transfer window saw the notable signing of Fernandinho for £34 million and the departure of Tevez for Juventus.

The season saw a mix of results but by January City had scored over 100 goals in all competitions. Hope was on for the ‘quadruple’ but they were soon eliminated from the Champions League and FA Cup, meaning those dreams were shattered. Quadruple aside, they went on to win the League Cup and beat Liverpool to the league title, meaning that overall it was a truly remarkable season.

A lacklustre 2014/15 season with no trophies, brought questions about Pellegrini’s position at the club. Even though City managed a fourth-place finish and secured their Champions League place, this was not good enough though. Going from winning trophies to coming fourth with no silverware was considered failure. However, his job was safe for another year.

In 2015/16 Kevin de Bruyne and Benjamin Otamendi joined the City ranks, alongside England stars Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling. Overall, they finished fourth with Leicester City impressing everyone to a surprise league win. They reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and won the League Cup, their third trophy under Pellegrini, but this was not enough to save his job.

Pep Guardiola (2016-Present)

2016/2017 saw Pep take over from Pellegrini, and a lot of hype surrounded the change in management. Pep had been wanted at the club for some time and was always a part of the owner’s plans. We saw lots of new signings during this transfer window with the likes of Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, John Stones and İlkay Gündoğan all introduced into the team. Despite his first season seeing no trophy wins and a third-place finish, Pep brought with him a beautiful style of football to the league.

Finally, last season was an incredible season with City making it to mid-December with no defeats and setting a new record with 18 consecutive league victories. They also broke records for most points, most goals scored, most wins, most away wins, most away points, highest goal difference and the highest gap between top two teams. They did all of this while equalling Manchester United 2000/01’s record for games to play with title won. They also won the League Cup as well as the Premier League title.

Plans for Global Development

Alongside their plan for Manchester City to become one of the elite not only in English football, but across the globe, the owners also have other plans for global domination. It all started with Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak recruiting Ferran Soriano (former Vice-President of Barcelona) to help aid his plan. Soriano originally had plans to expand Barcelona’s reach to other countries by setting up franchise clubs, his ideas were too ambitious for Barcelona but for Manchester City? Nothing was too ambitious.

Soriano is now CEO of Manchester City and has helped to set up the City Football Group which currently owns six clubs on four continents, each club developing players and reaching success. To put a complex plan simply, their aim is to own a club on each continent and link them all together as part of the ‘City’ franchise. Linking factors include the clubs playing in the trademark sky blue colours and all incorporating the ‘City’ in their identity.

Along with their ambitious Director of Football, Txiki Begiristain, who was the man behind Pep’s original appointment at Barcelona, City seem to be unstoppable.

Could it Ever be Done Again?

Manchester City’s success is largely down to a huge investment of money from new owners and of course the tactful appointment of good managers. However, in 2009 Financial Fair Play rules were introduced to stop clubs from doing similar things to City. FFP stops clubs from spending more than they earn, and any club who breaches FFP will be handed a sanction.

With this in mind, it would be incredibly difficult for any club to replicate the City model because smaller clubs do not bring in as big a profit. However, ambitious clubs are coming through the ranks and are finding their own ways to make a name for themselves. Leicester City managed to win the Premier League, completely shocking everyone. Despite not winning since they have become an established Premier League side.

New boys on the block Wolves have also begun to restore their club to its glory days. With the coming of new owners, a manager with a plan and some incredible bargain signings (such as Ruben Neves), they have managed to go from mid-table Championship finishers to playing promising Premier League football. Their style of play and ambition has often been compared to the likes of City, who they have held to draws in their last two meetings. Maybe they won’t quite reach the heights of City, but they could become a solid Premier League team who are here for the long haul.