The new changes at City have undermined Mancini and the signs point to a change in the managers seat.
When Roberto Mancini took over the management of Manchester City, he knew the ambitions that the club had. He knew what would be expected of him and thus knew that he would be under enormous pressure to succeed. Although Mancini has won the FA Cup and the league title in the past couple of years, there are some serious concerns about his management of the club and after another disappointing Champions League, the pressure on Mancini is very high. However, it is the recent changes this week in the management which should strike fear into Mancini’s situation.
Manchester City’s owner Sheikh Mansour has very high ambitions for his club. He wants to make them the world’s best. His investment in the players has been astronomical and City’s rise to the top of English football has not been surprising. Added to the on field investment has been the impressive building of a new world class academy, with the intention to rival the world’s best academies. City’s intention is in the long term to be sustainable. The blueprint? Well it’s hard to look past Barcelona. And it is Barca who City wish to emulate.
A Barcelona model and desire to replicate this model is admirable, yet as this blog has said before, it is a dangerous plan to undertake. The development of Barca’s La Masia graduates has taken over 20 years to develop and if City are serious about this long term plan, then it will take decades to see “home grown” players coming through City’s ranks.
A new CEO shows City's vision
Last year Manchester City’s chief executive Garry Cook resigned after some very ill advised emails. One wonders whether City’s owners were pleased that they had a reason to force the hand of Cook, whose reign, although overseeing City’s rise, was somewhat littered with gaffs. For a club with City’s ambitions, they required a chief executive who had the experience and knowledge of leading a big club. Step forward the first sign of change and undermining of Roberto Mancini.
After a year of looking for Cook’s replacement, City finally found the man capable of taking them and their vision forward. Not surprisingly City sought a man associated with Barcelona. Ferran Soriano is name not probably known all too well by many fans. Yet his CV says it all. In 2003 he was appointed Vice President and head of economics of Barcelona.
He helped the club become profit making in three years, as well as overseeing the transformation of Barcelona from years of mediocrity to Champions League winners in 2006. His role at Barcelona was key in developing the side that everyone wishes to emulate now. It is a major coup for City.
After just two months in the role as City's CEO Soriano has made a major change in the running of the club’s affairs. It is a decision which has the potential to undermine the already instable position of Mancini.
Very public transfer issues
Over the summer Mancini and then Director of Football Brian Marwood had some very public outbursts regarding transfer activity at the Etihad. Players like Hazard, Van Persie, De Rossi and Christian Eriksson were all major targets of the manager.Instead Rodwell, Nastasic, Javi Garcia and Maicon were brought in. It was an underwhelming summer to say the least and it meant relations between the manager and Marwood were clearly strained.
Soriano’s first decision has been to replace Marwood for a man he knows very well. Txiki Begiristain was a winger for Barcelona and Spain yet perhaps his biggest influence on the club was as technical director and director of football during Soriano’s reign as chief executive.
It was a period of great success for the Catalan’s and Begiristain’s influence during 2003-2010 was evident. He was the man he brought in the talents such as Ronaldinho, Eto’o and Henry. His vision, understanding and clear talent at spotting talent was a major boost for Barca’s fortunes.
The capture of Begiristain, who had previously been linked with similar roles at Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool, is a coup for City. As City look to become one of the world’s best sides, they have pulled off a major coup by bringing in the management team which propelled Barcelona to the world’s best this past decade.
What does this change say about Mancini’s role?
In some ways the removal of Marwood represnets a success for Mancini who was clearly furious about the lack of quality which came in this past summer. Yet the new Director of Football Begiristain clearly has a talent for spotting and recruiting the top talent around and Barcelona's ability to blend home grown talent with world class players has been the hallmark of their success. It is these successes which made him so key for City and their vision.
Soriano and Begiristain are now charged with realising the vision of Sheikh Mansour; which demands top-quality home-grown players and the recruitment of the best global talent, Mancini must seek to build new relationships with two men who know each other well and who share a common ethos.
City's new management structure will see Marwood become managing director of the academy, with the club determined to move towards a more economically sustainable approach to player recruitment and development.
For Mancini's, his future as Manchester City manager rests on his ability to forge a working relationship with Begiristain and Soriano. As the club aim for a more sustainable future, one wonders if Mancini appears willing and able to adapt.
It has been reported that Mancini's condemnation of Marwood was viewed within the club as pointed criticism of the move towards a more prudent approach in the transfer market. According to reports the criticism irritated senior figures in the club. For the club's owners, the money spent getting City into the position they are in now was necessary, yet will not be matched again.
Instead they see the foundations of the club laid and now expect their management structure to develop talent sustainably to complement the side. They expect Soriano and Begiristain to adhere to the same financial strictures as Marwood, which appears to undermine Mancini in a very significant way.
As Soriano says "Sustainability has always been central to Sheikh Mansour's investment in Manchester City. The long-term future of the club is dependent upon our ability to recruit and develop young players through to the first-team squad."
Mancini appears a man becoming isolated and ostracised by the owners and their vision for the club. His saving grace last season was that he managed to win the title, which got him a new contract. However, this season has seen abject performances and more concern over his ability in Europe. Mancini therefore is at the mercy of the new management team. Sheikh Mansour clearly sees Soriano and Begiristain as the men to take the club forward and the ultimatum to Mancini appears to be, embrace our vision or leave.
The inevitable talk of Guardiola
For the past 12 months much has been said regarding Mancini's suitability for the role and ability to lead City to the heights of world football. His likely replacement was touted as the man who replaced him at Inter and who took them to champions of Europe. However, Jose Mourinho is a manager who does not buy in to long term plans and sustainable growth. He prepares his sides to win in the present, often needing and spending much money. The owners vision does not appear to be in line with what Mourinho would want.
It is clear that by bringing in Soriano and Begiristain, City are seeking to replicate a Barca model. And the significance for City is that when Begiristain had a choice of who to replace Frank Rijkaard in 2008, he opted for Guardiola over the "Special One". He believed Jose would bring success, yet Guardiola could do something very special. He was vindicated.
Soriano and Begiristain's connection with Guardiola and the success that he achieved at Barca, has now made him the favourite to replace Mancini. With Guardiola expected to return to management next summer following a year-long sabbatical, Mancini is under serious pressure if he wishes to remain in his job.
With the precarious situation in the Champions League, the pressure on Mancini is rising. The odds appear to be that Mancini's reign is coming to an end. Mancini has taken City to the top of English football, yet he appears lacking in the vision and talent necessary for City's lofty ambitions.
The new changes at City have undermined Mancini and the signs point to a change in the managers seat. Mancini is therefore a dead man walking, he knows that his time at the club is coming to an end. He will not walk though, even though he is being undermined by the club's owners, as being sacked will result in a lofty pay off.
The future for City is bigger than the manager, the foundations are being laid, the academy is built and ready to develop some of the world's best. Now the men who made Barcelona are now given the remit to build a dynasty at City. The long term future is very bright for the club and fans, yet not so bright for their Italian manager.