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[Essay] The evolving strategy of CFG

Discussion in 'Bleacher Features' started by Falastur, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. Falastur

    Falastur Senior Member Staff Member Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    I guess it's no real secret to any on here that I follow the various CFG clubs quite closely. I also have had a rather perverse fascination with the business of sports, and football in particular, and my time following CFG has shown me a lot about how the group thinks. This is essentially a stream-of-consciousness ramble about how I feel that the group’s strategy has changed over the years.

    I apologise about how long this is but I really struggle to put ideas down in just a few words, and I had a lot to raise. I've had to post the last section separately as I was just over the character limit for a post I hope that you'll be willing to commit the time to reading this - even if you read it in chunks. I also expect to get called out for missing stuff or misreading it, but to be honest sometimes that's the best way of learning and improving your ideas.

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    Phase 1: The initial dream

    I think most of us here - certainly the ones who had followed the idea of NYC2 from when it was just an idea - are aware that Don Garber had had his eye on European investment into MLS from quite early on, and certainly long before CFG were interested. Many of you are probably aware that he pitched the idea to Barcelona when Ferran Soriano, our own CFG chief, was their Vice-President and while Barca passed up the opportunity at the time the dream clearly stuck as Soriano was only appointed at Manchester City (before CFG was founded) only 8 months before NYCFC was publicly unveiled. There's no real evidence to suggest that MCFC were interested in this kind of global expansion before Soriano and all of the press on the topic suggests that NYCFC was very much Soriano's thing.

    Obviously we all know that CFG do not like talking publicly about their plans except when they are actually coming to fruition, but from the pieces I put together at the time it seemed that NYCFC serve a four-fold purpose:

    - Expand the brand: by this point, FFPR was already in full-swing in Europe and what UEFA had thought was a cast-iron way of making clubs cut bang on expenditure instead did the far more obvious thing of persuading them that revenue had to be optimised. Marketing to foreign fans was all-important, and that drove the desire to see the teams play in the same kits with the same sponsors etc. Presumably they also thought that Manchester City fans would act in kind and support the New York club too.
    - Act as a foreign "home-from-home": for giving potential future MCFC stars crucial competitive match experience. It was for this reason as well as the one above that CFG as-was also wanted to focus on the idea of NYCFC playing in the same style on the pitch as Manchester City.
    - Serve as a new recruitment hub for youth talents: with the competition for the best players of the future what it still is, and with the US always representing a kind of undiscovered goldmine just waiting to be tapped by future miners, I'm certain that Soriano had his eye on using NYCFC to sift the continent for future stars, without the need for navigating the work permit rules involved with taking them to the UK. I do, however, think that this was a more minor purpose than the other two.
    - Rotate players between clubs: Top Manchester City talents could be persuaded to "retire" to NYCFC, lending star power and thus marketing possibilities, while young hopefuls could be sold on the idea of coming to New York on the suggestion that they could work their way up to bigger clubs if they performed well.

    I think it goes without saying how all of this fitted into their vision with NYCFC so I won't elaborate.

    Somewhere down the line I believe Soriano had his head turned from just tapping the US market to the idea that MCFC could make a name for itself by investing in all of the undeveloped footballing markets around the world - Australia, India, China, South Africa etc. It was only eight months after NYCFC was unveiled that CFG bought into Melbourne Heart and turned them into Melbourne City. They toyed with investing in India (they were approached, rather than the other way around) and have long courted China. Doubtless the idea with each of these investments was to operate them under the same four-fold plan as the above, but I think they also developed visions of being seen as the Lewis and Clark of the footballing world, venturing to places few had been before to prove that these were places where football could thrive, and with the idea that history would record that they were the great globalisers of the game in those provinces.

    That's not quite how it would ultimately work out - a recurring theme of CFG in many ways - but I think that they would still like to believe it might, and you can see the evidence of this idea still holding out in the way that it's an open secret that they are the major driving force behind the Australian A-League's push to divorce itself from the control of the national football federation, to expand the salary cap there to a much higher level and to encourage a more frugal approach to bringing foreign marquees to Australia - in other words to encourage a more Premier League-orientated business model. In that sense they got lucky, as the target of their meddling had become in recent years widely derided by Australians as holding the game back with their extremely cautious approach to managing the game, and the other A-League clubs have willingly jumped on their bandwagon. Where that story goes remains to be seen.


    Phase 1A - Fiddling the books

    I have called this Stage 1A as it was shot down almost before it began, and so really it's nothing more than a sidenote to Stage 1 - a short little distracting episode that occurred but ultimately made little difference. CFG at some point in the process of purchasing their first two extra clubs realised that one great way of sidestepping FFPR rules was by moving money from NYCFC and Melbourne City - where they could freely invest on certain areas outside of the restricted salaries - to Manchester, where all expenditure was capped of a sort. They did this by deciding to have the two new clubs make payments for the non-specific "football services" to Manchester City, essentially suggesting that the Manchester club was invoicing for consultancy services. Additionally, a number of staff were taken off Manchester City's payroll and declared to be CFG employees.

    This was all shot down immediately by UEFA, who said that such ideas were nonsense and had to be included. CFG still retains vague ideas of expanding the idea of football services to non-affiliated clubs - I'm sure that any such payments would be far more acceptable, since they wouldn't be the clear result of moving money between controlled assets - and UEFA did allow some employees who aren't considered to be primarily related to footballing performance (such as marketing, media, "soccer schools" etc) but by and large CFG accepted that they had pushed the boundaries too far and have been far more conservative and traditional with their attempts at building revenue since.


    Phase 2: Push-back from the fans

    Again, I can imagine that most here are aware of most of this. It was pretty clear right from the start that CFG's plans with their clubs was for them all to be playing in the same kits, to share the same City name, and to all intents and purposes to be like three branches of the same tree. I'm not sure why they thought this would be acceptable to all but I assume that they thought the fans in Melbourne and New York would figure that playing with a City identity would be a worthy trade for the benefits that came with it. There are definitely some who do think this - I've seen it said on this forum and I've seen it on Melbourne City's as well - but at the same time there was clearly also a much stronger response from the fans than they were expecting.

    The push-back in New York has been much more of a slow simmering. There has clearly been some discomfort at the use of the MCFC blue although most seem at some level to accept it. Similarly I know that many here think that the suffix "City" is uninspired and would prefer an American-style "New York Pigeons" style name, but for the most part I've not seen too much vocal resentment. What there has been, on the other hand, is a persistent mild annoyance expressed towards the FO for their style choice and the perceived lack of independence from the rest of CFG, as well as other flashpoints such as the Lampard debacle, which again needs no further explanation.

    In Melbourne, on the other hand, resistance to CFG - which I would characterise as being stronger and more outspoken than in New York, yet perhaps with a larger outspoken minority on the other wing who generally go by the mantra "without CFG, our club would have folded" and who are more willing to accept whatever comes as the price they paid for giving them a future - has had a much clearer focal point. The decision to switch the club's name was widely accepted: unlike in the US, many existing fans did not like their US-style former name "Melbourne Heart" and coincidentally "Melbourne City" had been a name the fans had wanted for the club back in 2009 when it was founded, 5 years before CFG's involvement. On the other hand, the fans had become devoted to their red and white striped kit and saw it as the club's identity.

    Attempts by CFG to switch this to synch with the standard sky blue were immediately met with strong resistance and the scale of the outcry seems to have surprised the board. The decision to switch the red-and-white to being the away kit at first seemed a short-term mollifying gesture but calls for the red and white continued seemingly without diminishing over time. Melbourne City are entering their fourth season wearing the same Heart kit as their secondary, and it would appear that the voices of the fans have genuinely forced CFG to rethink their strategy there.

    To my mind, this has made CFG genuinely reconsider its original strategy to have their "brand synergy" between all of the clubs. Obviously it hasn't been totally abandoned - Melbourne City finally got authorisation to wear the sky blue shirts which they had been trying to do for a while, so you could argue that they've actually increased the synergy recently, but noticeably there has been no real move recently to implement a City identity on CFG's other recent purchases. Girona FC remains Girona FC, wearing red and white stripes, while Torque in Uruguay still wear their dark blue and are still named after a principle of mechanics and nothing else.

    This could be circumstantial - Soriano said in his book (written before he joined CFG) in a chapter where he says that he believes the future of football is in global club partnerships like CFG that trying to rebrand a European club would be a suicidal move due to the ingrained identity going back generations that European fans have, whereas renaming a Spanish-speaking club after an English term may or may not make logical sense there. I still believe that certain avenues for CFG expansion in future may still see CFG adopt the City colours and name (China, India) but I don't believe CFG intend on doing this to every club like I feel they originally wanted to.


    Phase 3 - Reassessing player links/Players as Profit

    I've seen a number of people on this forum refer to the original agreement with MLS that NYCFC could loan up to four players from Manchester City's academy every year. I certainly remember noting it with some interest when it was announced. I'm fairly sure that at the time we all thought that this was going to be taken at face value and used to the maximum, and for a while it indeed seemed that way, when Shay Facey and Angelino both headed stateside within a few months of the opening of the first season. I was a little surprised when only two players made the move, but shrugged it off as circumstantial. Meanwhile, in Australia there were a few suggestions that loanees would be heading over there too, with James Horsfield supposedly training with Melbourne City during their pre-season in Manchester, although he ultimately never made the move.

    I'm fairly sure most were - like me - quite surprised then, when Vieira was given the job of NYCFC manager and proceeded to say that he didn't feel the need to bring any youths in from Manchester. After all, there were plenty of players to choose from and the very hiring of PV itself appeared to be a confirmation of the links between the clubs, so the only answer at the time seemed to be exactly what PV had said: that against all expectation, he genuinely didn't think any players were up to the job.

    Since then my views on what was actually behind this have wavered between several standpoints - was it genuinely because PV thought there were no players good enough, was it a conscious part of the attempts by CFG to give no more fuel to the claims that NYCFC is dominated by MCFC, was it because fitting those players in the salary cap was problematic? After a couple of years, I've started to come to the opinion that it was a little bit of all of these, but mainly the decision was instead based on a reassessing by CFG of what they wanted their academy players to do for them.

    Hints of this had been made over in the UK a couple of years earlier, when CFG announced their plans for the new £200m training academy. The clear focus of the new academy was on producing a better class of youth player who was more equipped for the journey from youth football to the very top of the game. There was, however, a constant side-narrative that said that those players deemed not quite good enough (but still very good...) could then be sold for decent money on the side, and a fair bit was made of the way CFG were supposedly interested in the way Chelsea made good money every season by selling some of their top academy products rather than promoting them. After all, FFPR had changed European football, and these days the press is all too happy to suggest that a club's transfer strategy makes all the difference between finishing top four or out of Europe.

    It's my feeling therefore that CFG were already coming round to the idea that they needed the best bang for their buck on all of the academy players they had at their disposal. MLS, to my mind, is therefore seen as an unfavourable for several reasons - the quality of play is arguably not the same as loaning a player to the likes of Girona in La Liga (while they had also developed a new symbiotic relationship with NAC Breda, who are now in the Eredivisie), MLS is also not as followed, meaning that players they might want to sell don't gain in value as fast as they are out of the European eye, and also MLS suffers from not being of any use for getting players a work permit, which is something that non-EU recruits to the academy may still need to play in the UK - although how Brexit will affect this is another interesting debate. For these reasons, to my mind it is now unlikely that any other youth players will cross the Atlantic on loan.

    What CFG also appears to have realised is that their far-flung clubs also offer them a chance to pick up other players who are no longer youths but who can also be routed to Manchester to sell for a quick buck. Aaron Mooy did this when he moved from Melbourne to Manchester and was promptly sold to Huddersfield for £10m - likely an enforced move as he was turning so many heads that I suspect he had made CFG aware that he was ready to move on one way or another. In Spain they did something similar, buying several of Girona's players for small sums in 2015, loaning them back to Girona for a season and then selling them on for a profit when those players' performances brought in bids from other clubs. Now I suspect it to be the primary motivation behind the purchase of Erik Taylor-Brown, who I suspect will get a loan for either 6 or 18 months before being sold to Germany or England somewhere outside of CFG.

    I would also categorise Yangel Herrera under this as I believe that Yangel was identified by CFG as being a good recruit for MLS primarily, but I would bet that they knew that for one reason or another he wouldn't last long before either pressing for a move or being seriously tapped up by a Euro club, and so they wanted to ensure that when he went his transfer fee would definitely contribute towards the FFPR monitoring in Manchester.

    Note that all this is not to say that I believe CFG are now hijacking all NYCFC (and other club) transfers to sell them on when it suits Manchester City - just that they now feel that they are forced to evaluate every transfer they make with a view to whether they think it will be long-term or short-term, and if it's a short-term move then their eye is now on whether that player can be sold on for profit at the point at which the player would want to step up to bigger things.



    Phase 4: Substance over style

    One of CFG’s telling mistakes, to my mind, has been the belief that their resources meant that they could take over any club and make it a trophy-heavy success just through clever use of the global player market, their money for lubricating the transfer wheels and their own "perfect" style of football. Again, I won't even bother to describe the progression of this club in the league tables because we all know it intimately. I am not certain that CFG believed that they would be winning title after title by only their third season, but I do honestly believe that they thought they would be making cup runs by this point and at least challenging for a play-off win by this season or the next.

    One place where I am fairly sure they were expecting more success, however, is in Melbourne. Melbourne City are just entering their fifth season under CFG and to date have won the Aussie equivalent of the US Open Cup but no more. They have gone from being consistently the bottom team in the standings to being play-off ever-presents, sure, but for the last two years they have stagnated and never really threatened the top two places in the league, and are still yet to reach a Play-off Grand Final, despite reaching the penultimate round in their second full season with CFG.

    The reasons behind this are many and various, like any football club, although the fans’ ire has mostly come down on the former manager who CFG kept in position all the way from before CFG bought the club up until the end of 2016 regardless of results. Again, fans have argued over why this is but to my mind you certainly have to give a lot of consideration to the fact that their former manager, John van 't Schip, was an Ajax lifer playing during the 1980s and consequently was a close friend of Johan Cruyff, whose links to Barca and therefore to Soriano are well-known. He therefore was to CFG a man who completely bought into the philosophy of beautiful passing football and they believed could be trusted to implement their vision into Melbourne, and I'm sure that CFG were able to overlook his various failings because they believed that it their perfect combination of resources and style would surely win through eventually.

    The problem, of course, is that it didn't. JVS consistently failed to produce either consistent results or entertaining football despite CFG bringing in several players who are either statistically or reputation-wise the best names the league has ever seen - and I'm not even referring to the travesty of David Villa's loan over there, which went down about as well as Lampard's loan did in NYC. When JVS resigned for personal reasons at the end of last year they were then met with a crisis in what to do next. Their decision was - fairly sensibly - to promote JVS' assistant, another man who by virtue of his time at the club was known to have bought into "the project" to see how he could do...and he ended up doing even worse.

    Could all of this been solved if they'd paid big money for a manager with proven ability who could still play beautiful football? Maybe, but by this summer this was beside the point. Melbourne City had got to a point where they were failing year after year to achieve results, and to my mind CFG became at this point absolutely desperate for results. Sure, they want to be known as the beautiful football people, but there is no value being known for beautiful football if they never make headlines for actually winning things. After all, as previously mentioned CFG seem to have this "thing" for wanting to be known as the guys who help bring football to places where football is not a big sport, and they lose a lot of currency for this if they are seen as never being able to seriously challenge for a title. After all, who wants to take their lead from a team which can't match your own success even though they spend more money?

    And so the man that Melbourne City have brought in now to head the team is Warren Joyce, a former Manchester United youth coach with only one senior management position on his CV, but who is known as a serious hard-head who will whip pampered players into shape. He seemingly has far less interest in beautiful football and has already alienated half of his coaching staff over his tactics, but this seems to be the classic example of a struggling team bringing in someone who is going shake things up and reinvent the place, similar to a major company bringing in a management guru to do the dirty work of firing underperforming managers and restructing teams. Will it work? Signs are that once again they have picked an uninspiring choice whose results on the pitch are not equal to his results off the pitch, but in fairness he's only managed four competitive matches so far and won three, so it's a bit unfair to comment right now.

    What CFG's response will be if he does fail is similarly up in the air, but I do think that Joyce's appointment in Melbourne is representative of a shift in CFG to viewing success as equal in importance to style, and being willing to bend to one extreme if the other turns up lacking. Note also that I still believe that CFG will always favour style over substance in Manchester, since that is ultimately the club which most determines their reputation worldwide - they can afford to go Route One in Melbourne without too many people outside of Australia finding out, after all...

    Anyway, bringing it back to NYCFC - does this mean that I see CFG trying to do something similar in New York if PV fails to bring any real improvement next season (assuming he stays)? Possibly, although my instinct is to say that CFG are happy with how things are right now. They seem happy to allow the slow burn of continuous slow improvement in the short-ish term so long as the club is heading in the right direction, and so far the club has undeniably improved in the tables season-on-season, regardless of whether you believe PV has gotten any better at things like substitutions. I don't think CFG right now sees any pressing need to change things up unless things go really backwards. However, if in another couple of years we're still failing to win silverware then I could see them look to bring through a bigger name manager (likely not a lesser-known Warren Joyce type) in the hopes of punching for a quick win.


    Phase 5: Expanding the network for localised benefits

    As mentioned before, I believe that the original purpose of CFG was to have a global brotherhood of clubs, all playing the same football in the same shirts with the same sponsors and with the fans believing that they were fans of the group rather than of one particular club (though everyone would always have a favourite, of course). Since the push-back and the reevaluation of priorities, especially financial, this seems to have been dropped in favour of looking at the local benefits of each club. The way I see it now, CFG has dropped any ideas that their clubs are all branches of one tree and are more like parts of the body - each one having a different focus, but ultimately all helping each other to mutually succeed. This is also slightly connected to the previous point, where CFG have clearly seen that all clubs playing the same football only helps if they are actually achieving things while they do it.

    Consequently, it seems to me that the latest shift in CFG's thinking is to assess each club with a view to what it can specialise in. Manchester City, by virtue of its global exposure in the world's most popular sports league, will always be the club where they want to show off a shiny, polished product on the TV screens. NYCFC I believe is their proving grounds for South American talents, as well as being part of the original plan to take the under-developed US market for fans by storm (whether this is likely to happen is a matter of opinion, but I believe that CFG reckons sustained success can achieve it). There is also a possibility that CFG will continue to see NYCFC as a test-bed for future managers promoted from inside the group, although this will rely entirely on when managers they want to promote are available and how long existing NYCFC managers have on their contracts. I don't see them shunting aside existing staff to make room for a recently retired player. Melbourne City is where they want to show everyone that they have the game's (or rather, the commercial aspect of it) best interests at heart by helping the A-League to realise its potential as a future world league.

    Outside of the traditional three, Yokohama I believe is Nissan's plaything and I don't believe CFG has much to do with them. Torque looks primed to be an incubator for South American talents who can either be sent to NYCFC to play or to Manchester to be sold, and is planned to essentially be a youth academy with a football club, not the other way around - there are reportedly plans in the works to move the club out of the vastly oversaturated Montevideo market (more than half of the country's pro clubs play in the capital, and Torque currently gets 200 fans a game) but otherwise I don't see their identity really changing as I don't think CFG has any plans anymore to market the sky blue to South Americans via a local club. Finally, Girona is essentially the logical next step for CFG after having all of their attempts to implement a B-team culture in English football knocked back - Girona is a partnership where they can send future Manchester City players as well as youths held for future selling and give them the best quality game, again with no real plans at all for marketing CFG to Spanish fans. The recent acquisitions for CFG suggests that it's now all about focusing on doing one or two things per club now, and doing them well.


    So what does this tell us about the future?


    In honesty, this is very hard to predict. I've become fairly adept, to my mind, of assessing the stuff that CFG does for whether it's likely to work or not, but actually predicting how they will respond to failure has never been an easy game. That's not going to stop me from trying, however.

    I'll start with NYCFC, since that is of course the place we're all most focused on. In some ways I think NYCFC is perhaps the most stable in terms of what will happen there - I think that CFG are pretty much satisfied with their current habits of plucking unknown South Americans and either buying or loaning them into NYC, while bolstering that with a handful more older players from European leagues looking for a new challenge. We may have been a bit dissatisfied with some of PV's decisions and missed opportunities in games, but I think most would agree here that the players we have are mostly the right kind (there will always be some bad signings, but that is just a fact of life for every club) and the first XI particularly could be among the best in the league under the right circumstances. The question of who will replace Villa and Pirlo is an interesting question, but I think the signs in NYC as well as in Melbourne hint that CFG like the idea of having a big name to appeal to the fans - Tim Cahill's signing in Melbourne suggests that they may be thinking more along the lines of attracting national team heroes rather than world legends - but I'd say CFG seems to be attracted now by the idea of the Giovinco-like DP who has a smaller reputation but more potential, so I reckon we'll be seeing more Maxi Moralez types, at least so long as this strategy does not backfire with poor player recruitment.

    For Manchester City I will suggest that even less change is likely - CFG know exactly what their plan is in Manchester and unlike their other clubs that strategy has been set in stone for several years now. I'm sure that CFG would like to see more youths promoted but the trouble is that successive managers, even including The Saviour himself (Pep) have found that in England results are just too important to risk untested youths on, so the promotion of young players is going to almost entirely relate to how they distinguish themselves in Girona, and this has directly fed into their decisions to use the academy primarily for profit as well as to invest in Girona to get the best possible match experience that they can. The question of what will happen when Pep leaves is a very interesting topic, which I will come to at the end.

    In Melbourne, my gut instinct is that Warren Joyce will not prove to be a much better manager than JVS was, and I wouldn't be surprised if he only lasts 1-2 season (though CFG seem to dislike firing managers in the middle of seasons, so he will likely get longer than the fans might like). The response will be an interesting thing to follow - I would guess that they will instead look to find a Sam Allardyce/Roy Hodgson type with much longer list of former clubs in the hope that the missing ingredient has been experience all along. After all, the three men who have managed Melbourne City under CFG, including last year's caretaker manager, can boast a grand total of four senior management positions outside of CFG between them, and that's including JVS' current job after he left Melbourne. If they can ever become regulars at the top of the table I think they'll look to move back towards playing good football, which I'm sure they will hope will be helped by the likelihood of imminent changes to the salary cap and the structuring of the league. I'm sure they will be hoping that success will help Melbourne City's continued low match attendance, too, as I'm sure their plans for Australia involve trying to become another club supported across the country, which is really not the case right now.

    Torque I don't see much changes in – the club has only just been invested in and it seems a fairly astute move. Torque’s success or failure will come down to how many talents they actively identify and move on, and it’s going to be a few years before we can tell if they are achieving results or not.

    Girona seems to have been an intelligent choice which I wouldn't see changing much - La Liga is a great place to blood youngsters, and even if they're not making it into MCFC's senior team then players who go there are still going to be in the shop window and gaining in transfer value, so long as the club can maintain its top-flight status. If it ever gets relegated, expect CFG to start throwing handfuls of cash at it to get it back again, because it's too important an asset to drop. The only thing about Girona is that it has a perfect storm of three potential issues which could completely wreck the project - the fact that CFG co-own it with Pep's brother, the fact that Catalonia is right now trying to declare independence from Spain, and the fact that Brexit may ruin plans for loaning youths outside of the UK.

    I honestly could write a whole other breakdown of the possibilities involved here, but it wouldn't have much to do with NYCFC so I will just say that Brexit is the only one of these which I see seriously derailing the Girona "thing", and if Brexit does indeed result in the UK abandoning the EU's freedom of movement principle (which it really might) then ties with Girona may be reluctantly cut - or turned into its own project with no focus on developing youths - and MCFC will probably suddenly become extremely vocal about making the FA allow B-teams in England (which is a fight they probably won't win). That said, if the UK abandons freedom of movement then the FA and the government will use the opportunity to try to force English clubs back to having majority English players, and you can expect the quality of the PL to tail off sharply, so the whole exercise may become moot anyway.

    And so for the future of other clubs? It looks like a club in China is bound to happen, it's just a matter of when. Similarly, there have been rumblings about potential link-ups in Korea and India, and some hints that there might be even more South-East Asian targets. My gut feeling with these is that CFG sees the Asian market like most Europeans do - believing that Asian fans are the types whose loyalty is fairly easy to buy and who are less concerned with their own leagues than with foreign ones. I would guess then that CFG’s intentions with Asia are that they could use a successful local club to give them the mouthpiece to advertise other CFG clubs to the domestic TV market. Don't be entirely surprised if you see the odd Asian player being moved not only to Manchester but also to New York or Melbourne once this happens, to encourage fans there to buy into the team here. CFG will definitely be looking to use their involvement there to build commercial opportunities for the rest of the group, at any rate.

    That said, the clues seem to suggest that CFG only buys into a league when it believes it is the right opportunity. CFG are not eager to involve themselves in leagues they see as struggling with issues such as corruption, uncontrollable spending or with vested interests, and I believe that that is why they have been slow to invest in Asia. Don't expect to see CFG move in those directions until it is convinced that there is no possibility of being tarnished by association, or falling foul of the establishment.

    As for expansion in other directions, no-one is really sure just how big CFG wants to go - whether it is satisfied with one or two clubs on a continent or would capitalise on every opportunity offered to it. I wouldn't expect any other investment in Europe right now unless the involvement in Girona falls through. There's been vague talk of looking at South Africa for a while but I don't think CFG sees this as a big priority. You'd think that Africa would be seen as another major potential source of future stars, but there's just been no stories coming out at all about this. My suggestion would therefore be that Africa is simply underdeveloped enough that CFG see trying to plant a recruitment centre there as not being enough of a guarantee of actually locating the talent, and any club in Africa will likely be more of an exercise in planting the flag, and appealing to fans in the same way as I just said about Asia. Don't expect to see that many African players being sent over to New York, Manchester or Melbourne any time soon.


    One last thing to watch out for

    There's one last thing I want to mention about the future of CFG, and it will either be a flash in the pan or it will go nuclear, to my mind. This is looking at just how much CFG - or rather its central personnel - has been built around Pep Guardiola, and what happens when he's not there anymore.

    Going back to days before CFG, when Khaldoon al-Mubarak hired Soriano at Manchester City his immediate mindset was that Barca were just at the peak of their period as one of the most dominant European teams in memory, and everyone in one way or another wanted to be like them. Khaldoon saw the chance to go one further - to use Manchester City's position and Sheikh Mansour's resources to actually become the new Barcelona, and where better to start than hiring the man behind Barca's explosion into the financial giant it had just become. It was strongly implied in his signing that Soriano would then bring in as many Barca alumni as he could, and indeed he has brought in a few over the past few years. It is clear that it was also strongly intended that Soriano be able to use his links to recruit Pep. To that end, he modelled literally everything he could around creating Barcelona in Manchester to make sure that the transition would be as smooth and appealing for Pep as it possibly could be, and history proved that it worked.

    The problem with this focus is that there seems to have been almost no planning whatsoever for what happens when Pep leaves. It's like the board believes that it simply won't happen. The real Barca's struggles to replace Pep should have sounded a word of caution, but the evidence suggests that this has simply not been recognised, and it's insane to think about it. However, the honest truth is that when Pep leaves - and he's talked several times about how he does not like to feel tied down to a club - CFG will have a very important decision to make about their direction. Chances are right now that they plan to simply promote PV and believe that he will continue Pep's legacy, but even if events were to transpire like that (assuming that CFG can keep PV on ice for the right length of time) they are taking a big gamble that it all actually works out.

    You may ask why this is relevant for NYCFC, aside from the future employment of PV. The reason why it's relevant is that if Soriano and co. can't find a way of replacing Pep and continuing his legacy without a tail-off in form on the pitch, it is likely to cost Soriano his job. Whether that is by Khaldoon sacking him - something he has never done to a CFG exec before, but may feel forced to - or whether Soriano just feels the need to admit defeat and walk, the signs are that if Soriano goes then a number of other key executives at CFG will go with him, including the majority of the player recruitment staff and academy leadership. Not only that, but if Soriano goes then we are waving goodbye to the man who came up with the idea of CFG, and who holds in his head all of the strategies for its future. The man Khaldoon brings in to replace him will be the man who sets the new direction for CFG itself, and since CFG is such a revolutionary idea, and not one that has been copied much, there is a decent chance that the man who replaces Soriano may actually not value CFG, or may think it needs to be completely reworked to be viable. Khaldoon himself has always supported the idea of CFG but it seems clear that ultimately it's not his baby and without Soriano he may well give his support for it totally changing direction. There's even a possibility that it will be decided that the best thing to do is to parcel it all off entirely and to sell up different clubs to new owners, but I think that that will be a last resort at the least. However, will we see a change-up in strategy? Will all the talk of beautiful football be canned for a focus on winning things? Will the sky blue be got rid of? Will the player recruitment change to focus on American players, or Asians, or who knows who else? Anything could happen, and it's going to be both troubling and exciting to see.
     
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  2. SoupInNYC

    SoupInNYC Active Member Elite Donor

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    Holy hell thats a long post, haha. Is this available on book on tape?
     
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  3. Falastur

    Falastur Senior Member Staff Member Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    For the low, low price of $100 I will record an audiobook version just for you.
     
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  4. mgarbowski

    mgarbowski Senior Member Elite Donor Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    Very good stuff. Nothing I really disagree with. Instead I divided everything in here into things I already thought but in much less coherent form, and things I never thought of. The last bit about what happens after Pep is the most interesting and troubling, and falls under things I have thought about already. The older I get the more I realize how much of an effect individuals in leadership positions have on organizations. So it makes sense to target specific people like Soriano and Pep from the start. But, nobody is permanent. And I cannot discern CFG's plans post-Pep, including who's going to run the organization overall.
     
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  5. Falastur

    Falastur Senior Member Staff Member Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    Yeah, that's the feeling I've had as well - that they just aren't really thinking about it at all. I'm not certain whether this is arrogance that it's all going to slot together, or possibly just because Soriano feels so intimately that his fate and fortune is bound up with Pep's own that he intends on simply waiting to see how things play out before deciding his own plans. Khaldoon has always struck me as a very smart man, so he must have some kind of plan, but as a non-footballing man it's entirely possible that he's just letting Soriano make all of those decisions and doesn't feel best placed to do much more than just identify the men to replace anyone who leaves.
     
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  6. gbservis

    gbservis Senior Member Elite Donor Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    Long post but interesting thanks for putting it together. The part about the short lived CFG academy loans to NYCFC is still interesting. My take is that PV was being truthful when he said he didn't feel the players were up to the job with the unsaid addition that he was only referring to the players he was allowed to consider and that some top prospects are clearly off limits.

    One question I've always had has been the role the elite youth players themselves play in not being open to a stint with NYCFC. For those more familiar with the english academy system is there a prestige associated with going directly from the MCFC academy to are professional debut with MCFC? As opposed to making a stop with NYCFC or a lower level club in Europe. Or said another way would the latter of the following options be considered more desirable by most top MCFC level youth prospects:

    Option 1: Make professional debut with NYCFC at age 18, make MCFC debut the following year at age 19
    Option 2: Wait till age 19 to make professional debut with MCFC
     
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  7. Falastur

    Falastur Senior Member Staff Member Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    First of all, just to reiterate that this is page is entirely my own opinion, so there is always the chance (you might argue a fairly big one) that I may have misinterpreted. However, my gut says I am at least close.

    To answer your questions, no I'm not aware of any "prestige" in being promoted to the senior team directly. Of course at a young age everyone wants to get there as soon as they can, but ultimately they also know that it's only fairly rarely at the highest level that this actually happens, and often it's more a case of blind luck (i.e. a gap developing in the team through injury etc) which gives them the room to step up. I doubt there are many players who would reject a loan simply because they thought it would look worse on their CV - after all, the manager would be quick to tell them that if they don't accept the loan then they're not going to be playing anyway. If there's a "prestige" to anything, it's to graduating to senior football at any (reasonable) level, in which case it may well be more prestigious to be on loan than to stay at home and keep playing for an academy side.

    Given your two options, I'd say most players would actively prefer Option 1, although there can of course also be a certain bias towards which leagues the best youth talent would prefer to go on loan to.
     
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  8. Mario

    Mario Regular Member Seasoned Supporter

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    is there an abridged version?
     
  9. Falastur

    Falastur Senior Member Staff Member Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    Uh...I guess something like this:

    Phase 1 - Soriano envisions a group of clubs who all share the same identity and style

    Phase 1A - Soriano attempts to find a way of using CFG to sidestep FFPR rules; UEFA shoots it down

    Phase 2 - Fans kick back at the Manchester City identity, forcing CFG to consider doing more individualistic things with their clubs

    Phase 3 - FFPR and other developments in Europe make CFG realise that it is much more important to use the loan system to market youth players for future sales as a constant revenue stream, rather than using them to loan to loan to NYCFC

    Phase 4 - Melbourne City's struggles mean CFG becomes willing to compromise on "beautiful football" in order to win trophies, may also happen in NYC

    Phase 5 - CFG realises that running clubs "for the brand" is a flawed strategy and instead starts seeing their clubs in terms of what each one individually can achieve. New acquisitions like Girona, Torque become immune from City branding but are only there to train players up for use in other environments

    Future - Expect Asia to be used as a marketing hub for future CFG clubs, expect NYCFC to possibly follow Melbourne City's route of putting results over other considerations but may become the primary "manager training centre", expect Melbourne City to push to develop their league and then base future plans on that

    Watch out for Pep leaving Manchester City - CFG's leadership pretty much owe their jobs to their ability to recruit Pep in Manchester. When he leaves, it may result in widescale executive resignations and a totally new strategy for CFG
     
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  10. Ulrich

    Ulrich Senior Member Elite Donor Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    Holy hell that took a while to read. Need a new Banner under my avatar for that: CFG Philosophy Certificate
     
  11. Falastur

    Falastur Senior Member Staff Member Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    Hahaha. Trust me, if it took a while to read, it took far longer to write...
     
  12. LionNYC

    LionNYC Senior Member Staff Member Elite Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    In the Manchester City 2017 Annual Report, there is a snippet of finance information related to NYCFC...

    https://annualreport2017.mancity.com/assets/download/City-Football-Group-AR-16-17.pdf

    27. RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS TRANSACTIONS WITH SUBSIDIARIES OF CITY FOOTBALL GROUP LIMITED Transactions during the 13 month period ended 30 June 2017 with New York City Football Club LLC, a fellow subsidiary of City Football Group Limited, consisted of trading balances totalling £63,000 (2016: £13,000), which are included in debtors due within one year, the provision of services of £1,000 (2016: £4,000) and the purchase of services totalling £87,000 (2016: £nil).
     
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  13. JGarrettLieb

    JGarrettLieb Active Member Elite Donor Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    Looking back at their 2015 annual report it looks like that FIFA slap that CFG received from trying to have MCFC bill NYCFC for a few million in services has basically erased any real financial connection between the two entities. There just isn't a financial incentive for CFG to play with the books in any aggressive manner anymore. Excepting the fact that as a sports club they will do their best to never show net income.
     
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  14. Falastur

    Falastur Senior Member Staff Member Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    UEFA, not FIFA, but yes. Pretty much this.
     
  15. snugglefarts

    snugglefarts Junior Member

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    Why center it all around a guy who only stays at clubs for 3 years or so? I mean I get that he's the best but still.
     
  16. Falastur

    Falastur Senior Member Staff Member Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    Because Soriano and Beguiristain have completely and utterly bought into the belief that his brand of football is - in this current generation of the game, at the very least - the closest thing you can get to perfection. They no doubt are hoping that they can raise up a crop of young managers in Pep's image (PV, perhaps Arteta, some others maybe) or recruit other candidates who can step into his shoes when he decides to leave and continue his mission. It's my gut feeling that this is doomed to failure in the same way it has so proven in Barcelona, but we shall see.
     
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  17. Christopher Jee

    Christopher Jee Active Member Elite Donor Donor Seasoned Supporter

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    The irony, to me, is that dogmatism is at odds with what makes Pep successful on a sustained basis. The guy will not rest. He is always looking to improve. If they wanna be dogmatic about not being dogmatic then that's fine with me, but that's not necessarily where I think they're going. Or rather they are dogmatic at the wrong level of abstraction.
     

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