By day Manchester City illuminated the business world with stunning financial results. By night they shone like a beacon of excellence in an arena where they had all too often been engulfed by darkness.
Go back four years and City were running with annual losses of £198m which dwarfed revenues of £153m. Go back to 2010/11 and you have the onset of a run of four incredulous 1-0 City defeats at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, each one against the odds and the run of play.
On December 3rd, 2014, two very different sets of ‘City’ watchers could not fail but be bedazzled by the club’s performances both on and off the field, as business analysts were as one with football fans…it had been an exceptional 24 hours.
Manuel Pellegrini’s team finally laid their Wearside bogey to rest by annihilating their North East nemesis 4-1, just a few hours after club owner Sheikh Mansour, Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and Chief Executive Officer Ferran Soriano had led the line to beat off the bogeymen of UEFA.
When City returned to action following last month’s international football break, Pellegrini called for eight consecutive Premier League wins before the onset of 2015. So far it’s three-out-of-three, plus a famous beating of Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
City’s win came in imperious style – but only after enduring 120 seconds of cold sweats and a sense of déjà vu when Wickham scored in the 19th minute, generating that most dreaded of score lines – 1-0 to the hosts.
Thankfully the Black Cats finally exhausted their seemingly endless run of lives against their visitors from Manchester.
Sublime Sergio Aguero scored a net-busting equaliser within two minutes before providing a deft assist for strike partner Stevan Jovetic in the 39th minute.
The Montenegrin swept home his fourth league goal of the campaign after Yaya Toure’s exquisite pass had been flicked on by Super Sergio.
The half time 2-1 advantage was the least City’s play merited.
Any deep rooted fears of a Mackem’s recovery were banished in the 55th minute, when ‘Doo Doo Doo Pablo Zabaleta’ did did did, dinking the ball over ex-team mate Costel Pantilimon, in a style of which Sergio would have been proud.
It was the popular Argentine full back’s ninth goal in 255 appearances for City.
When his fellow countryman, Aguero, sealed the game with clinical precision in the 71st minute it was Sergio’s 66th goal in 101 PL games – his 94th in 142 matches in City’s colours.
Prolific, productive, prodigious – the superlatives are nigh on endless for this goal taker and goal maker. In his present vein of form you quite literally wouldn’t swap him for another player on the planet, including Messi or Ronaldo.
With Sergio & Co scoring an average of three goals per game on their four match winning streak, the pressure has eased on City’s often hard-pressed defence.
An unfamiliar centre back pairing of Martin Demichelis and Dedryk Boyata performed admirably in adversity.
Boyata stepped up in the absence of City’s regular Belgian Boulder Vincent Kompany, and proved to be a sturdy barrier.
Nonetheless Eliaquim Mangala should be restored to the side against Everton, while City’s Captain Fantastic faces a race against time to be fit for the Champions League shoot-out in Rome next Wednesday.
Success in Europe is essential for City as Sheikh Mansour’s transformation of the club continues and a new era of sustainability dawns at the Etihad.
The club’s 2013/14 accounts provided further evidence of a brilliant business strategy, akin to Aguero’s astonishing achievements.
Revenue streams have more than doubled in the past four years while City’s losses have halved year-on-year. Contrast the figures of 2010/11 with those revealed yesterday – a turnover of £347m and an overall loss of £23m – and the progress is breathtaking.
The losses would have been as low as £7m had it not been for UEFA’s punitive fine of more than £16m for City breaching the trumped up Financial Fair Play rules.
Who knows, City may one day get that money back if a legal challenge to the legitimacy of Financial Foul Play is upheld. Now that would be cause for celebration, and one in the eye for Napoleon Platini and his dodgy disciples.
City’s fiscal success is revenue driven with significant upturns from matchday income, broadcasting rights and a burgeoning commercial portfolio…and yet the Champions of England still have some of the lowest seasoncard and ticket prices.
Player wages are coming down in relation to the percentage of turnover, representing 59% of income. Ideally, and in best practice terms, wages will eventually drop to nearer 50%.
City’s players are obviously on handsome contracts, but there’s a new emphasis on bonuses e.g. they earn more – much more – if City are winning titles and trophies. It also helps that bonuses are not factored into UEFA’s FFP criteria.
The days of City overpaying for players of any calibre, let alone under achieving players are long gone, we shouldn’t see any repeats of the likes of Robinho, Roque Santa Cruz, Emmanuel Adebayor, Wayne Bridges and others who flattered to deceive.
CEO Ferran Soriano said City have now reached a new level of financial sustainability, moving into an expected profit this season (2014/15), and being free from any FFP sanctions or restrictions from next summer.
Khaldoon Al Mubarak stated the club had moved ‘…beyond a period of heavy investment…’ one that was needed to bring in players such as Yaya, Sergio and David Silva to accelerate City’s route to the top.
Yes, mistakes were made in the transfer market, but whichever way it is viewed, City’s business model has worked and will continue to get even better.
Khaldoon added: “The club is where we hoped it would be when we began this transformation six years ago.
“Now we have moved beyond the period of heavy investment that was required to make the club competitive again, it is commercial growth of the kind we are seeing today that will underpin and support our operations in the future.”
CEO Soriano added: “I believe the days of Manchester City playing catch up are over.”
It’s terrible news – but only for the City haters in the media and embittered rivals, both at home and abroad, and as Khaldoon said, it’s all been achieved in just six years!
Leading City – as in the City of London – financial analysts were crystal clear with their commentary saying there were ‘…no negative elements within the accounts…’ adding that if Manchester City Football Club were on the Stock Exchange – which of course they’re not – the analysts would be ‘rushing to buy shares’.
Financially, City are bang on the money and the Spanish CEO is right when he says there’s no more catching up to do. However that isn’t the case in the two competitions that matter most to City’s owners.
They still trail Chelsea by six points, but with two thirds of the season still to go there‘s plenty of room for optimism.
Everton are next up and they traditionally prove a stern test for City, both home and away.
The Saturday evening clash offers nothing by way of respite from the scenario that ‘every game’s a cup final’, as City dare not fall any further behind Mourinho’s table-toppers.
After that, it may as well be a cup final in the Italian capital, as City seek to pull off the great escape from Group E, with either the score draw or win that betters both CSKA Moscow and AS Roma.
If it happens, City will be celebrating wildly on the pitch, in the stands of the Stadio Olimpico..and all the way to the bank.
By David Walker
A mention in dispatches for fellow blue Mark Shaw, a man who has put his life on the line for his country, who celebrated his 40th birthday yesterday…and let’s face it, it was a day of celebration for all Manchester City fans.
Read But Never Red is delighted to partner with Manchester City to be able to offer one lucky reader the chance to savour a behind–the-scenes journey around the Etihad in the company of a City Legend. We’ve already had a great response with dozens of entries.
For the opportunity to win two tickets for the superb £70 a-head Manchester City LEGENDS STADIUM & CLUB TOUR all you have to do is tell us is:
How many appearances did Jeff Whitley make in the City first team between 1996 & 2003?
You can enter the competition via a host of social media by using the #MCFCLegendsTour & stating the number of games Jeff played.
Please send your answers via:
www.readbutneverred.com – comments section
On Twitter @ReadButNeverRed using #MCFCLegendsTour
On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/readbutneverred
The competition closes at midnight on December 15th with the winner being drawn at random by a designated representative from Manchester City FC
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu