This Sunday, May 30, Manchester City FC is taking on Chelsea FC at Estádio do Dragão in Porto, Portugal for their first-ever UEFA Champions League Final. But before that, let me tell you my story with Man City. A story that started with envy and hatred but later turned out to be pure appreciation.
My hatred of the City
As an Argentina national football team fan, growing up, Manchester City FC used to be one of my clubs of interest. The main reason being the likes of Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta playing for them. Their jersey colour had an interesting resemblance to that of Argentina as well. Both teams sported (still do) a beautiful sky blue colour.
When I first started watching European club football, I did it only for fun. I didn’t care about the off-field issues. But, gradually, I started taking interest in the history, both on and off the field, of the clubs. It was then when I realized, Manchester City is nothing more than a ” Money in the Bank” club.
When I started being a social media regular back in 2013, I used to bash Manchester City left and right everywhere. I was a pure keyboard warrior lambasting the Abu Dhabi owned club mercilessly. From signing big players to big coaches – every movement of theirs used to ignite flames of jealousy inside my body.
Being a Liverpool fan multiplied my envy towards City as they clinched the Premier League title from us in 2014 by the barest of margins. The City-Liverpool modern-day rivalry was something that’d go on for the major part of the 2010s decade.
My hatred for City was so damn big that whenever they used to play the Manchester Derby, I used to support the boys in red, i.e. Manchester United, the rivals of my club Liverpool. And I was equally embarrassed when City defeated United 6-1 in that famous match at Old Trafford.
My appreciation for the City
As soon as a person crosses his teenage, he tends to become more mature. And I guess, I became just that.
In 2016, Manchester City hired Pep Guardiola, one of the best coaches to ever sit in a football dugout. Pep was a coach who never missed a Champions League semifinal.
And in that same time, City Football Group, the holding company of Manchester City, began to spread their activities all across the globe. They started investing in clubs across continents, with the prominent ones being New York City FC, Melbourne City FC ( rebranded from Melbourne Heart FC), Yokohama F Marinos, Montevideo City Torque (rebranded from Club Atletico Torque), Girona, Sichuan Jiuniu, Mumbai City FC, Lommel SK, and Troyes AC.
So it was evident that City Football Group was trying to do something.
And it was unlike Chelsea, PSG or Monaco, the other 21st century clubs that share the same rags-to-riches story like Manchester City.
It was an article, from a well reputed English daily, in 2017 or 2018, that changed my views towards City.
In that article, the ambitions of Manchester City were explained in a very good way. The fact that they had a bigger project than just winning immediate titles was described.
After reading that article and getting to know Ferran Soriano, the CEO of Manchester City since 2012, and the former VP of FC Barcelona, my thinking towards Manchester City drastically turned positive. By no means did I start supporting Manchester City though. But, I was no longer a hater of them.
The thing that distinguishes City from other big-money clubs is their project and their love for the game. Manchester City doesn’t want immediate success like Chelsea or PSG. They want it slowly and beautifully. They want sustained success for the long term.
For example, since the time Roman Abramovic bought Chelsea in 2004, Chelsea has had 14 different coaches in 17 seasons. And this happened despite them having won numerous trophies including a Champions League.
On the other hand, Manchester City, since being bought by Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, has had 5 coaches in 13 years, with Mark Hughes being retained from the previous ownership.
Another staggering fact is that Manchester City, despite spending almost a billion dollar during their current ownership, has never spent more than 68 million pounds for a single player.
This is quite opposite of what PSG have done with players like Neymar and Mbappe who cost more than 100 million pounds each. Even Manchester United have spent more than City on a single player ( Paul Pogba).
Manchester City’s training facility is one of the best in the world, if not the best itself. They’re trying to develop homegrown talents as well. Phil Foden, one of the key players of today’s City team, is a product of their own academy.
No matter how much money City splashes, they spend smart. And not many clubs can do that. Manchester United couldn’t do it, neither could Tottenham Hotspur in 2013. Liverpool in 2014-15 couldn’t do it either. When Manchester City spends big, they do it to fit the right bricks in the hole.
Manchester City still gets ridiculed by fans for not having enough home fans though. But guess what, with or without fans, Manchester City will continue growing and conquering their dreams. And the haters can do nothing to stop that, even if they win their first ever Champions League title against Chelsea this Sunday.
The Blue Moon will keep rising.