Man City’s grand plan to become next Barca in its infancy
It was bound to happen at some stage. Six years ago, following the Abu Dhabi takeover of Manchester City, 2/1 to retain the Premier League this term, there was no doubt an accompanying vision, which significantly overrode immediacy of success on the pitch.
Investment which followed was ploughed strategically with intensity and purpose into surrounding areas of the newly (in principal) named Etihad Stadium, in the first stage of the plan to help grow the club commercially. For the owners, whose nation is renowned for the spectacular, building technologically advanced mega-structures, this was a project of similar ambition.
The blueprint for such a plan? No doubt Barcelona’s fabled academy, labelled ‘La Masia’. A facility that has grown the careers of Gerard Pique, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi, moulding them into Champions League winners, creating telepathy among the personnel, refining technique. Essentially, teaching them ‘the Barca way’.
This development City embarked on six years ago is finished. There is no doubt at all that it is one of the finest in Europe. State-of-the-art? No question. Think the football of equivalent of Disney World. America might do things big, though Abu Dhabi now leads the way.
A bridge connects the stadium to the £200m development, which includes a performance centre, elite development pitches, a 7k-seater academy stadium, and more pitches to cater for junior and senior academy teams.
As well as catering for the general public of east Manchester, through job creation, it leaves many wondering when the next big star will emerge through the facility, a la Michael Johnson-style. Following Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan,’s takeover, only one player who has come through the academy has made more than one Premier League start for the first team; Belgian defender Dedryck Boyata.
New players are welcomed hospitably into the reception area by a quote from the owner: “We are building a structure for the future, not just a team of all-stars”, it reads. Kids, take note.
Argentine right back Pablo Zabaleta signed for the club just days before the takeover at the club, and is encouraged by the new development.
“The kids are very lucky to have this because not many players have a chance to train in facilities like this,” said Zabaleta. “They should be proud to be here. I wish I was training in this facility when I was 18 years old.
“But we need to be realistic and say that it’s difficult for them, because you can see the squad is very big.
“We have a group of 23 or 24 good players and some big names which is good for the team because we know that we play in a lot of competitions here and we need a big squad to let the manager rotate and the team be fresh.
“That’s what you need when big teams play for trophies. But I know that makes it difficult for the young players to have a chance to get in the first-team,” he continued.
“The young players know it’s difficult for them, but you can see them working and waiting for the moment. In football, you must be ready for that moment.”