Manchester City and their incredible club-network
On the 3rd of September 2020 the City Football Group took over Ligue 2 side ES Troyes AC - the 10th football team they added to their network. The most famous of those ten clubs is without a doubt Manchester City, the Skyblues got taken over in 2008 and what happened since can only be described as incredible.
Before taking a look at Manchester City, we must go down south to London - precisely to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea loan out a staggering number of players every year, just this summer it was 18. Whilst the system went through criticism for its lack of on the pitch success, it flourishes of it. Some of the worlds greatest players like Kevin De Bruyne, Mohammed Salah and Romelu Lukaku have all been part of the so-called "Loan-Army", however, it´s worth noting, that none of these three actually play for The Blues. The benefits of having a working loan-system in place can be seen in the club´s finances, providing a steady source of income. But what does that have to do with Manchester City? Well, Chelsea´s success didn´t go unnoticed and the City Football Group decided to take efficiency in the loan market to a whole new level. In the last twelve years, they have taken over nine more clubs all over the world.
New York City FC (USA) - MLS
Melbourne City FC (Australia) - A-League
Yokohama F. Marinos (Japan) - J1-League
Club Atlético Torque (Uruguay) - Primera División
FC Girona (Spain) - Segunda División
Sichuan Jiuniu (China) - Third Chinese Division
Mumbai City FC (India) - Indian Super League
Lommel SK (Belgium) - Division 1B (Second Division)
ES Troyes AC (France) - Ligue 2
Apart from Africa, they now hold the majority shares in a football club on every continent. Every single one of them acts as a "feeder club" for the Skyblues to make sure that they get the best talent from all corners of the world.
The best example of how these feeder teams operate can be explained by looking at the transfer of Olarenwaju Kayode. The Nigerian had just finished the 2016/17 season as top goal scorer of the Austrian Bundesliga - scoring 24 goals in all competitions including the Europa League for Austria Vienna. Naturally, a lot of clubs tried to sign the 24-year old, but eyebrows were raised, when Manchester City came in with a bid of €3.8 million for the striker. Kayode was a good player no doubt, but City had one of the best teams in the Premier League at that point with prime Sergio Agüero up front and had just spent €32 million on one of Brazil´s hottest strikers in Gabriel Jesus in the January transfer window, so how on earth would Kayode get anywhere near the first team? Well, the striker flew to Manchester to pass his medical and signed a 4-year-contract. At first glance, it was hard to make sense of that transfer. One day later FC Girona announced the signing of Kayode on a season-long loan. Girona had just been promoted to La Liga for the first time in the club's history and the Citizens wanted to do everything in their power to help them stay up. The Nigerian International was not the only player who got loaned out. On his way from the Etihad to Girona, he was joined by Pablo Maffeo, Aleix Garcia, Douglas Luiz and Marlos Moreno. Looking at how and why players are being moved within the network, it isn´t surprising that Kayode made the switch almost immediately after arriving in Manchester. He wasn´t going to feature for Pep Guardiola´s team - because that was never the plan. The Spanish side didn´t have the funds to buy a player like Kayode and pay all his wages, but City did. The striker played twelve times in LaLiga as his team comfortably finished in 10th. He never played a single minute for Manchester City and is currently playing for Turkish side Sivasspor.
But why is Manchester City even interested in how well their feeder club is doing? Well, firstly Girona and City have a very special relationship. The Catalan club is part-owned by a certain Pere Guardiola, brother of City manager Pep. The city of Girona is just an hour drive from Santpedor, Guardiola's place of birth. No other team has profited from the link with the Skyblues quite like Girona. They are the team, who received the most City players since the takeover in 2008, they transferred a player to the Estadi Municipal de Montilivi a total of 14 times since the 2015/16 campaign - all of those transfers were loans. Just to give a bit of context, the next three teams in that statistic - Celtic, NAC Breda and Middlesbrough - added together only received 12. ManCity want their loanees to play on the highest possible level. With the implementation of feeder clubs in different leagues and on different levels they can make sure, that their youth prospects develop into superstars under perfect conditions by providing state-of-the-art training facilities and employing some of the most experienced coaches in football. Once they return, they are either deemed good enough for the first team, sold for a profit or simply go out on loan again. This system has been perfected by the RedBull clubs, but that´s a story for another day.