The City Football Group Around the World

Grupo City City Football Group Gruppo City

The City Football Group has announced a partnership with yet another club, Istanbul Başakşehir, from Turkey.

Follow along as we track the progress of this conglomerate from the Abu Dhabi United Group, whose majority shareholder is Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

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Origin of the City Football Group

The City Football Group was founded in 2008 under the umbrella of the Abu Dhabi United Group, an international investment fund led by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Sulaiman Al-Fahim.

As the name suggests, the conglomerate was created with the aim of gaining control over Manchester City Football Club.

Building on the evident success achieved with investments in the blue team from Manchester, the holding company chose to expand its business around the world.

Today, the City Football Group holds relevant shares/partnerships in thirteen clubs worldwide.

Mecenas do futebol: Mansour Al Nahyan e o caminho das pedras - Alambrado

Image: Alambrado Reproduction

Manchester City

The flagship and initial step of the institution, Manchester City is one of those examples where professional management coupled with massive capital injection can generate very significant results.

The Abu Dhabi United Group, through the City Football Group, owns 100% of the club’s shares and has managed to transform a modest institution, incomparable to the red side of Manchester, into one of, if not the most competitive team today.

Since its acquisition, there have been some negative aspects and, mostly, positive ones.

Of course, when entering a new and complex market like football, some decision-making may not be considered the best.

However, it didn’t take long for the results to show.

The Cityzens were a team that had brief success in the mid-1960s, winning some Premier Leagues and FA Cups (although they were also relegated during this period). After that, there were no more significant achievements, and they fluctuated between lower divisions.

With the Arab investment, everything changed. Before their arrival, Manchester City had only won two English Championships, in 1936–37 and 1967–68. Now, the team boasts nine titles. To give an idea, seven Premier Leagues have been won since the initial investment.

Especially during the Pep Guardiola era, success was tremendous. Five out of six possible victories.

The pinnacle was the previous season when the long-awaited Champions League was lifted. A dream for many teams, the big-eared trophy is now a reality for the Cityzens, who aim for much more.

They are established as a major European club, even with Guardiola’s eventual departure, at some point.

Official Manchester City

Image: Manchester City FC Manchester City FC

Esporte Clube Bahia

When it comes to major markets like the Premier League and Brasileirão, the Abu Dhabi United Group chose to follow the same model.

Like Manchester City, Bahia is a club with a rich history but has struggled with relegation and few competitive teams in recent years.

The Salvador team is a two-time Brazilian Championship winner (1959 and 1988). Besides numerous state titles, it has one of the most passionate fan bases in the country.

As if that weren’t enough, it calls Arena Fonte Nova home, a modern stadium with a capacity of almost 50,000 spectators.

Thus, in May 2023, the sale of SAF from Bahia to the City Football Group was consolidated.

Then, the fund sought to settle the institution’s accounts, thus clearing 79% of the outstanding debts. In numbers, Bahia had a debt of R$ 300.9 million. In adjusted values, the City Football Group paid R$ 256.3 million.

This is only part of the contract established by the parties since the model approved by the associates of Tricolor de Aço consists of a minimum amount of R$ 1 billion to be invested over 15 years, divided into R$ 500 million for player acquisitions, R$ 300 million for debt settlement, and the rest for infrastructure.

All of this started in 2023 when Bahia did not have a good season. They narrowly escaped relegation on the last matchday, despite being one of the teams that spent the most on signings.

Anyway, the outlook for 2024 should be more positive, as the previous year’s core was maintained, under the command of Rogério Ceni, and the arrival of important players like Jean Lucas and Caio Alexandre.

Valeu, Nação | Notícias Esporte Clube Bahia

Image: Reproduction Esporte Clube Bahia

Girona Futbol Club

Few football enthusiasts knew about Girona until the current season.

A modest club located in northeastern Spain, specifically in the Catalonia region, Girona Futbol Club was founded in 1930.

Despite nearly a hundred years of history, it has only won two La Liga B titles, making it a relatively minor institution in the Spanish national scene.

Perhaps those days are over.

With an ambitious project based on young players, the City Football Group took over in 2017, and success has been gradual. In this venture, investors hold a 47% stake.

Of course, the use of young players serves a purpose, which is their future sale so that investors can achieve the desired profit.

However, this model had a significant effect in the 2023/24 season, as the selection of players was very precise.

The best example of this is Sávio, a Brazilian winger who is playing exceptionally well and already has everything arranged to reinforce Manchester City.

Currently, Girona occupies second place in La Liga, having held the top spot for a considerable part of the competition.

A commendable job by Míchel Ángel Sánchez Muñoz.

Conheça Sávio, destaque do Girona na temporada 23/24 - Gazeta Esportiva

Image: Reproduction Gazeta Esportiva

Palermo Football Club

Owner of one of the most beautiful football uniforms in the world, Palermo is a team located in Sicily.

At 123 years old, Palermo has never been considered a major club in Italian football. It has won titles in the Italian Serie B, as well as being runners-up in the Italian Cup.

However, the City Football Group took control of 80% of the club in 2022. So far, the southern Italian team is in Serie B, specifically in fifth place, with possibilities of returning to the top flight.

Palermo | ge

Image: Reproduction GE

New York City

The City Football Group also makes its mark in the land of soccer.

The club, which will celebrate its 11th anniversary in 2024, is a curious case.

In this specific case, the City Football Group is one of the creators of New York, formed in partnership with the New York Yankees, a baseball team and pride of the city of New York.

Despite having few seasons in the top flight of national football, they already have a Major League Soccer title, won in 2021. They also have an enviable idol, David Villa.

The Spaniard is the club’s all-time leading scorer, with 85 goals.

New York City FC complete 2022 SCCL field

Image: Reproduction Concacaf

Mumbai City FC

Mumbai City is another club, like New York City, newly created and highly successful.

In a country where the national sport is cricket and not football, the City Football Group made a wise decision when it comes to the market to be explored.

Despite cricket being the most popular sport, a market with over 1.5 billion potential consumers cannot be ignored, especially because the Indian people are indeed passionate about football.

However, due to a lack of tradition, there is not a strong identification of natives with the national team, which has never qualified for a World Cup, nor has it had relevant participations in the Asian Cup and qualifiers.

Founded in 2014, Mumbai City already has a national title in its curriculum, won in the 2020/21 season.

Mumbai City FC end historic AFC Champions League campaign with win | Football News - Times of India

Image: Reproduction X

Lommel SK

Continuing our tour, we return to Europe.

The City Football Group also owns all the shares of the modest Lommel SK, which competes in the Belgian second division.

Currently, the team is in fifth place in the tournament.

This, perhaps more than all the other clubs in which it has a stake, seems to be the most experimental work of the investment fund.

The team has an average age of 22.5 years. This, which is already incredibly low for a professional team, would be even lower if it weren’t for players already considered veterans. To give you an idea, the squad includes four players aged 35 or older.

Despite being founded in 1932, it is considered small, playing in a stadium with a capacity of 8,000 spectators.

The institution serves as a great platform for younger players who need experience in European football. This will be a topic addressed in the conclusion.

Lommel SK become City Football Group's ninth club - SportsPro

Image: Reproduction Sports Media

ESTAC Troyes

Troyes is a team that will celebrate 124 years of history in 2024.

Acquired entirely by the City Football Group in 2020, they were the tenth club in their portfolio.

Despite being under the influence of the United Arab Emirates, it can be considered one of their less successful projects.

Since the beginning of the project, Troyes’ peak was winning the Ligue 2 title in 2020/21. Despite gaining promotion to Ligue 1, the team failed to establish itself and returned to the lower division.

At the moment, they occupy 16th place in Ligue 2, with a good chance of relegation to the National, which is the third division and includes amateur and professional teams.

Let’s face it, the French League itself is not one of the most competitive. If failures continue, the project must be reevaluated since it is not interesting for the City Football Group, and even less so for Troyes, for the team to remain in this precarious situation.

Savinho - ESTAC Troyes' record transfer who they will never see - Get French Football News

Image: Reproduction Get Football News

Montevidéu City Torque

Once Club Atlético Torque, now Montevidéu City Torque, the club was founded in 2007 and came under the control of the City Football Group in 2020.

The club from the Uruguayan capital is another example of work that is being done at a slow pace. Even though it is newly founded, the team alternates between mediocre seasons, with no possibility of winning titles or qualifying for the Libertadores.

Thus, their 2023 season reflected much of this scenario, finishing 7th in the initial tournament (second to last in the group), 11th in the Apertura, and 7th in the Clausura.

Filial do Manchester City na América do Sul, clube uruguaio muda de nome e escudo | futebol internacional | ge

Image: Reproduction/Montevideo City Torque

Yokohama F. Marinos

Yokohama F. Marinos is one of the most traditional teams in Japanese football.

Founded in 1972, the team has won the J-League five times and the Asian Cup twice.

It was one of the City Football Group’s early participations, acquiring 20% of its shares in 2014. The remaining 80% is owned by the car manufacturer Nissan.

The club diverges a bit from the plans of the other clubs in the investment fund, especially because the group’s share corresponds to very little compared to the other projects.

Furthermore, the J-League imposes greater difficulty in registering foreign players.

Although Japanese football is growing, transfers to and from the J-League are more restricted.

ODDS and EVENS] Yokohama F. Marinos Riding High in Kevin Muscat's First Full Season as Manager | JAPAN Forward

Image: KYODO

Sichuan Jiuniu

Still in Asia, Sichuan Jiuniu is the City Football Group’s team in China.

Acquired in 2019, the team won the Chinese Second Division in 2023 and is now seeking better days in the national football elite.

The City Football Group holds only a 28% stake in the team.

Melbourne City FC

Another club in a not-so-traditional football market.

Founded in 2009 as Melbourne Hearts, the institution changed its name with the arrival of the City Football Group in 2014. Initially, the group was a partner of Holding MS Australia but took over all the shares in 2015.

Despite being a less competitive league, the team already has two national championships, one League and one Cup.

Club Bolívar

Bolívar, one of Bolivia’s most traditional clubs, is also part of the City family.

However, unlike the other clubs mentioned here, there is no type of shareholding participation by the City Football Group in the institution.

This is because its owner is the Bolivian magnate Marcelo Claure, who, in addition to Bolívar, also has a stake in Girona, in partnership with the City Football Group, and Inter Miami.

The relationship between the group and Bolívar involves providing highly qualified professionals, both for consultancy and direct action, in exchange for payments.

So far, the partnership has been very successful.

Bolívar reached the quarter-finals of the 2023 Libertadores, a very important achievement for a Bolivian team.

The same type of partnership also occurs between the City Football Group and Vannes in France and Istanbul Basaksehir.

O Clube Bolivar se junta ao City Football Group como primeiro clube parceiro

Image: Reproduction Manchester City

İstanbul Başakşehir

Founded in 1990, Başaksehir has been successful on the national scene.

Even with traditional teams like Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, Trabzonspor, and Beşiktaş, the new club from the City family won the Turkish League in the 2019/20 season and wants much more.

The Turks will adopt the same model as Bolívar and Vannes.

İstanbul Başakşehir » Squad 2023/2024

Image: Reproduction World Football

Pros and Cons of the City Football Group

The City Football Group has a very well-defined development plan, which is basically to be present in most relevant or irrelevant leagues around the world.

Like any company, its ultimate goal is profit. This is largely achieved through player sales.

However, we cannot turn a blind eye to everything that football involves, beyond profit.

The City Football Group, upon arriving at a club, seeks to imprint its identity, changing what is most precious to the fans.

Therefore, they change badges and even the name of the teams. In teams with few fans and almost no tradition, such as many of the 13 mentioned here, it may not be a big deal.

But when it comes to clubs like Bahia, for example, changing the badge and especially the team’s name is unviable. The passion of Bahia’s fans is immeasurable, and maintaining certain traditions is essential.

If the group understands that each job is different, respecting the tradition of certain institutions, the business could be more fruitful.

Another point is the use of smaller clubs as a springboard for larger clubs within the conglomerate.

Using young players for million-dollar transactions, the players who succeed in smaller teams are directed to the big clubs controlled by the United Arab Emirates fund, as in the case of Savinho, who will move from Girona to Manchester City. What about the continuity of the team and the fans’ identification with the player?

Finally, the most practical and absurd issue is the impossibility of two or more teams with the same owner playing in the same tournament.

As the City Football Group advances through all continents of the planet and, with its good work, it is natural for the clubs to qualify for high-level international competitions. Therefore, in the case of Girona and Manchester City qualifying, which is what should happen, one of them (we know which one) cannot be in the tournament.

These are the dangers of an increasingly commercialized football, where the sporting aspect and, primarily, the fans’ passion for the club, take a back seat, only for an already billionaire fund to become even richer.

However, it is impossible to ignore the work methodology, which generally yields positive results.

What about you? Do you believe in the City Football Group model and other football conglomerates?

Written by Vitor F L Miller.

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Tags: Economic Values, Exclusives, Highlights

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