England’s biggest spending soccer club just signed the world’s most-coveted coach

Most wanted.
Most wanted.
Image: Reuters/Antonio Bronic
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Before Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group took over Manchester City for £210 million in the summer of 2008, the club’s highest transfer fee paid was £13 million for Nicolas Anelka in 2002. A newly promoted club at the time, City were hoping to cement their place in English football’s top tier. These days though, the club have loftier ambitions. Since the takeover, Abu Dhabi United Group’s investment in the club has topped £1 billion with player purchases alone are pegged at more than £800 million.

Mansour’s investment has not been limited to playing personnel as he has also pumped money into the club’s infrastructure. In 2014, the club opened its 80 acre, £200 million football campus. Mansour’s ambitions for the English club are quite clear: to establish it as a dominant global football brand. While elite players have been signed, the club has long been in the hunt for an elite manager. That search has ended as Manchester City have announced the signing of Pep Guardiola, on a three-year contract.

Guardiola’s appeal is simple: he wins things. Only eight years into his managerial career, Guardiola has already won 19 major trophies. In his first senior season as a manager, Guardiola led Barcelona to a historic treble—winning the Spanish league, Spanish Cup and Champions League. The club also completed a clean sweep of six trophies in the 2009 calendar year. Guardiola moved on to Bayern Munich in 2013 and has also continued to add to his reputation winning successive Bundesliga titles.

As his next destination starting this summer, City will be looking to Pep Guardiola to keep his remarkable winning streak going to help them achieve their target of becoming a global powerhouse. While Sheikh Mansour’s eight years so far have not exactly been a total write-off as the club have won two Premier League titles and three domestic cups, the club’s failings in the Champions League have undermined their global ambitions. The importance of the Champions League, a title Guardiola has won twice, lies in the fact that it is seen as a more accurate assessment of the club’s place among Europe’s elite clubs.

Bagging Guardiola’s signature is also a win in itself. Easily the world’s most-sought after manager, Guardiola could literally have any job he wanted but his selection of City is a validation of sorts of the club’s growth and ambitions, particularly with its larger city rival Manchester United and London club Chelsea also likely in the hunt for a new manager for this summer.

The club will seek to leverage Guardiola’s expected on-pitch success as it also chases ambitions off the pitch. One of those is to expand its revenue base like Manchester United. The club will also be banking on the club’s increased appeal to build a global fan-base. In China, an increasingly crucial football market, City already have some leverage as  a Chinese consortium bought a 13% stake in club late last year.