There tends to be an unrepentant mood, and limitless ambition, when an institution can indulge in unrestrained spending. Image is crucial to City, though, not least because how the club spends the wealth of Sheikh Mansour is, in part, a public relations exercise on behalf of Abu Dhabi. The adoption of Barcelona's idealism and sense of identity is, then, an unsurprising development.
Barcelona have become the paragons of virtue for a generation of football followers. City can never replicate the Catalan club's political and social significance to its fans and its region in Spain, but the commitment to youth development, the approach that values a certain style and philosophy, can be repeated. Other clubs have sought to replicate Barcelona's identity, but the tendency has been to visit the club's La Masia training ground to observe, or even employ, coaches who have worked there.
City can afford to be more emphatic. Last month, the Barclay's Premier League champions appointed Ferran Soriano as chief executive, and last week they named Txiki Begiristain as their new sporting director. Both men worked together at Barcelona, and were instrumental in the Catalan club's rise to prominence. Soriano was a Barca vice-president from 2003 to 2008, when his business acumen and flair for commercial deals restored some financial health to Camp Nou.
City could source business executives with innovation and sharp negotiating skills from any industry, but Soriano also provides a direct connection to the network of individuals, and the mindset, that established Barcelona as the club that most others aspire to be. His most critical decision might already have been taken, since Begiristain was integral to the ethos that underpins so much of Barca's success.
He won the European Cup as part of the club's famous dream team, then two more as sporting director. Begiristain was responsible for signing players, but also for the appointment of Pep Guardiola. As Graham Hunter recounts in the remarkably in-depth, Barca: The Making Of The Greatest Team In The World, Begiristain was one of the board members who interviewed Jose Mourinho when the club was looking for a successor to Frank Rijkaard, but was among the most persuasive voices making the case for Guardiola.
The immediate response to Begiristain's appointment at City was speculation about the future of Roberto Mancini. That kind of gossip will always accompany significant changes in personnel above the manager, but Mancini will need to adapt if he is to survive. Although Begiristain was responsible for signing players at Barcelona, he considered the most important aspect of his role to be ensuring that graduates from the club's youth academy found room in the first-team squad. Where so many other clubs fail in trying to replicate Barca's model is to borrow bits of their philosophy, or seek a quick fix.
"That would be a serious mistake," says Rodolfo Borrell, a former Barcelona youth coach who left for Anfield, when asked in Hunter's Barca about replicating the Catalan club's youth set-up by simply hiring its coaches. "Every country has its own football culture and you shouldn't try to alter their basic footballing essence. All you can do is work out how to complement what they do already with some new ideas."
Yet Borrell is essentially talking about Barca's coaching methods. What has separated the Catalan club from its contemporaries is a value system, one that combines an appreciation for technical ability – scouts look for a specific skill set in players – a coaching methodology based on ball retention, pressing and using width, and a commitment to the overarching strategy, so that young players are given an opportunity to rise to the first-team and the whole culture – of discipline, excellence, the understanding of the worth of style and ethos – is maintained throughout the club. No part of the set-up, from the youngest age group to the first-team, is separate from the whole.
"It's not enough to have a technical director who only deals with the academy and grassroots work," said Begiristain last April, when he was being linked to a number of sporting director roles, including at Chelsea. "He's also got to be able to influence the first team as well and be able to take the vision forward. It's pointless having a technical director getting the grassroots football to go in one direction and develop a style of play if the first-team coach does not agree with those ideas."
Begiristain can introduce this approach to City, and the club has the resources and patience to wait for it to become established. The first part of the revolution was to buy elite players and create a successful team, but the second was to develop core values and resources that will sustain City's place among the leading clubs. Following Soriano's appointment, City unveiled their finalised construction plans for a £200m youth development academy and first-team training ground on a site next to the Etihad Stadium.
It is Begiristain's understanding that such an investment is only worthwhile if there is a clear development path into the first-team, and the squad is not overfilled with signings from the transfer market, that will prove most valuable to City. Like Soriano, he has been brought to the club for his insight as much as specific knowledge. He could be City's shrewdest signing yet.
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