A Little Bit of History…
The superlatives to describe Manchester City ran out a long time ago; brilliant, electrifying, breathtaking. Over the last five years, they’ve set the standard that most other teams wished they could emulate. Their championship win last season was the third in four years, and they have a haul of domestic cups to fill up their ever-expanding trophy cabinet.
Manchester City have been completely transformed over the last 12 years. Once the noisy neighbours to the all-conquering Manchester United, The Sky Blues have become an international powerhouse, thanks, in no small part, to being purchased by Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008. Every facet of the club has been revolutionised. The Etihad Campus, which comprises the Etihad Stadium and the City Football Academy (CFA), is a $200 million project that continues to grow and develop.
Thanks to their unrivalled success on the pitch over the last ten years, their brand has gone stratospheric. Forbes Magazine now ranks Manchester City as the sixth most valuable football club in the world, ahead of Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus. Some people will roll their eyes at Manchester City, pointing at the bottomless money pot that they have at their disposal, but that’s simply envy speaking. Splashing the cash isn’t a sure-fire path to success. We’ve seen teams try it and fail in the past (see Leeds United).
On top of all that cash, Manchester City happen to have the best football manager on the planet – Pep Guardiola. His style of fast, free-flowing football, laser-like passing and inventive sweeper-keeper, was forged at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and it has lit up the Etihad Stadium since his arrival in Manchester in 2016. Of course, it helps that you also have some of the best players on the planet.
The Season Ahead…
The signing of Jack Grealish (below) from Aston Villa for $138 million, a British transfer record and one of the highest ever paid in world football, was a clear statement of intent from Manchester City. They are showing no sign of taking their foot off the pedal, which will send an icy shiver down the spine of every other club in Europe, not just England.
Yes, they spend a huge amount of money to secure the services of the best players in the world, but so do Juventus, Real Madrid, PSG and Barcelona (well, maybe not Barcelona anymore). What’s impressive with City is that this isn’t some bloated enterprise, throwing money around at will. Real thought and planning goes into player acquisition. Everything seems to run like clockwork, they have cover in every area of the team. But with the magnificent Guardiola at the helm, would you expect anything different.
The Manchester City squad is akin to something a 12-year-old with out together on a PlayStation; there is pure quality from front to back. Ederson has become the blueprint for the sweeper-keeper, and his passing range is as quick and accurate as some midfielders in other teams. John Stones, who looked to be on his way out of the club at one point, has revitalised his career, and is now an essential part of the defence for City and for England.
Club captain Fernandinho may be 36, but he continues to anchor the midfield, although he is partial to the occasional ‘tactical foul’. Their creative quality in midfield is superb, with Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, İlkay Gündoğan, Bernardo Silva and now Grealish providing assists and goals across the pitch. And, in Kevin De Bruyne (below), they may the most accomplished, all-round midfield player in Europe, perhaps the world.
The big exit from Manchester City this summer has been Sergio Aguero, the beloved striker who scored 260 goals in 390 games, more than any other player in the club’s history. How Guardiola replaces him remains to be seen. At the time of writing, the Harry Kane saga rumbles on, with no clear indication as to which way events will unfold. Guardiola has confirmed that the club are interested in the striker, but indicated that Tottenham Hotspur are not willing to negotiate a transfer fee. This move once seemed a certainty, but there is a feeling that there could be a bumpy road ahead. Of course, there’s a chance that Kane won’t join them, and they’ll find a way of winning without a recognised starting striker. They’ve done it before.
When Lionel Messi left Barcelona, to the shock of everyone, not least Messi himself, Manchester City seemed a highly likely destination. It seemed obvious – Messi linking up again with his old boss at Barcelona. But Guardiola quickly shot this down, saying he has no plans to sign him.
Location Manchester, England
Stadium Etihad Stadium (55,017 capacity)
20/21 Final League Position 1st (champions)
Opening Game of 21/22 Season away at Tottenham Hotspur
21/22 Predicted final League Position 1st (champions)
As their squad continues to swell with the best young players available, it makes it very hard to look past Manchester City. With or without Kane, this is an exceptional football team and the Premier League trophy will find its way to the blue side of Manchester for the sixth time.