If integrity is what Manchester City desperately wants to demonstrate, we have to hear from CEO Ferran Soriano
- There was transparency about Manchester City under Garry Cook
- But Cook’s replacement Ferran Soriano has remained unclear and opaque
- Soriano is the one at the center of the complex entity that is Manchester City
There was something intoxicating joyful about Manchester City in the days when the money from Abu Dhabi first came in.
Things didn’t always work. President Garry Cook, whose sales pitch to the Emirates primarily secured their petro-dollars, tried to negotiate on his own with the people of Kaka, minus a middleman. He came out of the room to say that one of the world’s best players had ‘bottled’ it.
Cook’s claim to City fans at the Mad Hatters bar in New York that the club would “no doubt be the biggest and best football club in the world” was ridiculous. United beat them a few years later with 11 points.
There was some transparency about Manchester City when Garry Cook was CEO
Yet there was transparency about City at the time. Cook did not hide the fact that he would have to spend at an unsustainable level to take a seat at the top table of football. “Accelerated spending,” he called it, while we sat around a table with us in Pretoria during a City pre-season tour in 2009.
John Terry then flirted with City to win an improved Chelsea contract. That’s the kind of thing that Cook and his staff were against. But they established a player acquisition that modeled the rest, created the best training complex in Britain, brought new life to a post-industrial desert in East Manchester, and provided fans like no other.
It was after Cook left that things changed. He made enemies of the wrong people, an unbearable e-mail from him about Nedhum Onuoha’s mother came to light and his successor Ferran Soriano, whose resume contained an inside track to Pep Guardiola, came into view.
It has predicted eight years in which the corporate structures of City have reached an unimaginable complexity, with a worldwide group of eight clubs that all fall under their ownership rights and all pay the “City Football Group” for their services.
But his replacement Ferran Soriano has remained unclear and opaque in the background
Following the money has become extremely complicated. Looking away from the FFP spending rules, they sold their “image rights” for £ 24.5 million to a third party, who insisted that they had “no link” with the club for years, but turned out to be very related.
They received £ 22.45 million for selling their “intellectual property” to unspecified “related parties.” Subsidiaries have changed their name. Registered offices moved. Behind the scenes, City has gained expertise in everything. Alex Byars and Martyn Hawkins joined the Deloitte company, which had helped Uefa prepare FFP legislation.
Soriano, the person to whom you wanted to ask all this, has remained unclear and opaque in the background, reluctant to talk as Cook had done. He agreed to just one substantive interview in eight years, given at a hotel in New York at a time when the club wanted to promote their new MLS team there.
All the talk since then has been done by city president Khaldoon Al-Mubarak
There were few disclosures of interest. Soriano described New York as “the largest city in the world,” leaving Manchester out of the mental equation temporarily. He said that Joe Hart embodied the kind of players he wanted, “who love the club and can be the core of the team.” And he concluded that day: “Our income will increase and we are not worried about FFP at all.”
All the talk has since been done by the president, Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, the wealthy Emirati whose evangelism about the club usually arrives through videos from City’s own digital operation. He is clearly very busy, has a sovereign wealth fund from Abu Dhabi, sits on the executive board of Abu Dhabi and, according to Bloomberg, “builds up a fund of $ 229 billion for the post-oil era in Abu Dhabi.”
Soriano is the one at the center of the complex entity that is Manchester City. He is the one who presided over what happened to the club on Friday and he is the one with the answers.
The club regards itself as victims in all this and suffers the additional damage of a poor spending system. So Soriano should have no trouble explaining it. If City wants to show integrity, let’s hear it, unfiltered.