Ferran Soriano, the man charged with making┬áManchester City┬áthe best football club in the world, has disclosed that the lack of ÔÇ£good footballÔÇØ as well as failing to meet expectations was behind the sacking of Roberto Mancini.
CityÔÇÖs chief executive, speaking in depth for the first time about his blueprint for success, said that new manager Manuel Pellegrini would be set the target of winning five trophies in the next five years, including the Champions League, and that he believed the club could eclipseManchester United┬áoff the field, as well as on it.
Soriano, formerly a┬áBarcelona┬áexecutive, said that a lack of aesthetic progress on the pitch sealed ManciniÔÇÖs fate and that even success in the┬áFA Cup┬áfinal would not have altered the clubÔÇÖs thinking.
ÔÇ£This is a long-term decision taken with a lot of careful analysis,ÔÇØ Soriano said. ÔÇ£We would never fire or change a manager for one or two results. Once you go down the path of change, you have to be very sure.
ÔÇ£Roberto Mancini did very good for the club. He changed the mentality, he changed it from a club that was not winning to a winning club and that is very hard. That is all good, but we are now looking for several things. We are looking to play good football and to win and I said that in the right order.
ÔÇ£In the last year, I think itÔÇÖs fair to say that our football did not progress or evolve as we hoped. If you play good football you will win and we believe we have a fantastic squad. It would be very hard for us to change the players for any others in the UK and that includes the champions of the league.ÔÇØ
ManciniÔÇÖs dismissal, despite winning the┬áPremier League┬áand FA Cup at City, was met with opposition by supporters and disdain by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson but Soriano believes that it is becoming less likely for managers to remain at clubs for longer than four years.
ÔÇ£In football, teams have cycles and you can have managers who go through several cycles and managers who go through one cycle,ÔÇØ Soriano said.
ÔÇ£Obviously, we want the next manager to stay for a number of years, but I think it would not be wise to speculate on the next manager being there for 26 years.
ÔÇ£Players need another way, another excitement, and managers also want to move, but I think this is normal. Barcelona had two managers in eight years with Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola and were arguably the most successful club in that time.ÔÇØ
Keeping close to Guardiola
Soriano insists that no move was made to hire former Barcelona coach Guardiola before he accepted the role at Bayern Munich last December but the chief executive claims the Spaniard will work in the Premier League eventually and that City would have pursued him had he been available now.
ÔÇ£I know Pep and Txiki [Begiristain] knows Pep,ÔÇØ Soriano said. ÔÇ£So we donÔÇÖt need to be in the market for Pep. If Pep decided to come to England, I think he would have called us, right?
“But at the time, we had our own manager and we were not in the market. Pep is going to a big club, but I also think he is very young ÔÇô he is 41 now ÔÇô and after Germany he probably will come to England to coach somewhere.ÔÇØ
Were Guardiola still available City would be trying to hire him now? ÔÇ£We would because we are actively looking for a manager,ÔÇØ Soriano said. ÔÇ£But at the time, it was not the time. With Pep, the conversation is not about us chasing him or him chasing us. Pep and Txiki speak regularly, maybe weekly, so that would have been an easy one.ÔÇØ
Malaga coach Pellegrini is due to be announced as ManciniÔÇÖs replacement shortly and Txiki Begiristain, the City sporting director, has been leading the recruitment process.
ÔÇ£What we asked Txiki to do was look at several criteria, the candidates in the market and come back with a recommendation,ÔÇØ Soriano said. ÔÇ£This recommendation has to go through me and the chairman, who will present to the owner and, collectively, we will decide who the new manager is.
ÔÇ£But the starting point is a technical analysis, itÔÇÖs not emotion, itÔÇÖs not about somebody you know, itÔÇÖs a technical analysis of what we need. It might well be that there are candidates who, on the surface, donÔÇÖt look as attractive as they are once you have done the work on them and also speaking to the players who have played under them, which is a fantastic source of information.ÔÇØ
Having worked alongside Soriano at Barcelona as director of football, Begiristain has been charged with overseeing football operations at City, but Soriano insists that the former Spain winger will work with the new manager, not above him.
ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs not a relationship of one reporting to the other, itÔÇÖs a relationship of collaboration,ÔÇØ Soriano said. ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs impossible for Txiki to develop a squad and a concept of football thatÔÇÖs not in line with what the manager wants. The manager is maybe the most important employee of the club.
ÔÇ£We have a board and then thereÔÇÖs a chief executive, which is me, and the whole organisation reports to me. That means Txiki and whoever else. The difference in role between Txiki and the manager is that the director of football has, and has to have, a long-term view.
ÔÇ£So what we are asking him to do is build a squad, but also football concepts, and a way of working that will last for the next 10 years. The manager has a shorter span.
ÔÇ£We are asking the manager to win this season, next season and every Sunday. The manager should tend to look at the short-term, and the football director the long-term, but they have to work together and I have seen it work.ÔÇØ
Becoming EuropeÔÇÖs kings
Manchester City will set Pellegrini the target of winning five trophies in five years, including the Champions League. Under Mancini, City failed to progress beyond the group stage of the competition in each of their two campaigns.
ÔÇ£In the grand scheme of things, if we look at the next five years and I could plan now, I would say I want to win five trophies in the next five years,ÔÇØ Soriano said.
ÔÇ£That may mean we win no trophies one year and two in another, but on average, I want one trophy or title a year. That includes the Champions League, the Premier League or the Cup. Is it a realistic aim? I think it is, yes. But I am talking about five years.
ÔÇ£If next year we donÔÇÖt win, but progress our football and get to the semi-finals of the Champions League, finish second in the Premier League and lose the FA Cup final again, that will be fine.ÔÇØ
Soriano claims that CityÔÇÖs squad should have delivered the Premier League title last season, despite Manchester UnitedÔÇÖs double-figure winning points margin.
ÔÇ£The squad we have is a squad capable of winning the Premier League and is not a squad that should be kicked out at the first group stage of the Champions League. You know, these things can happen ÔÇô this
is football and we all understand football. But we have better players than that.ÔÇØ
Keep and buy the best
Sergio Ag├╝ero will not be sold by City this summer, with Soriano insisting no offers have been received for the Argentine and, significantly, that the player has not expressed a desire to leave due to the break-up of his marriage to wife Giannina. The split has led to Ag├╝eroÔÇÖs son, Benjamin, moving out of the country.
ÔÇ£He is not leaving,ÔÇØ Soriano said. ÔÇ£This speculation has gone on and on and on, but we have had discussions with Sergio and his agent about several things and he has never expressed a willingness to go. We have never had an offer and even if we had an offer, we would say no.ÔÇØ
There be will high-profile arrivals and departures this summer. City are pursuing NapoliÔÇÖs Edinson Cavani, Malaga winger Isco, Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fernandinho and others.
ÔÇ£There will be changes and this is not something that starts today in the transfer window,ÔÇØ he said. ÔÇ£We have been working on this for the whole year so we know what the positions are that we want to improve.
“You have to bring extra competition, so I think you will find at least two or three new players every year, but we cannot change seven players every year.
“We have been analysing the positions we want to improve and the market since the start of November. We are at the closing phase with several of them [targets], but the closing phase can take one week or three months.ÔÇØ
Easing the tensions
Training-ground fights, ManciniÔÇÖs public criticisms of his players and the fractious nature of his relationship with the squad ensured that City were never far from negative headlines under the Italian. Soriano says the new manager must ease tensions and bring harmony to the club.
ÔÇ£What we want is not the image of unity,ÔÇØ Soriano said. ÔÇ£We want the unity. I have seen dressing rooms with tensions before and those tensions come from the competition and that fact that all the men in that dressing room want to win all the time.
“Having said that, with the new manager, we are asking him that the dressing room has as much harmony as possible, knowing total harmony is impossible.
ÔÇ£With the kind of squad we have, we want a senior manager at this point. We want a manager who knows about football, but we want somebody who knows about man-management and this is something we are convinced about ÔÇô that it is impossible for us to win, win the Champions League in the end, if we donÔÇÖt have a group that behaves like a family.ÔÇØ
Soriano admits that the family image craved by CityÔÇÖs hierarchy was dented by ManciniÔÇÖs training-ground spat with Mario Balotelli in January.
ÔÇ£I am not an Italian, I am Catalan, but I am closer to that culture, so I knew from the first minute I saw the photos that there was nothing to worry about,ÔÇØ Soriano said.
ÔÇ£It was just a typical thing, typical behaviour. But, yes, I was worried about the image we were giving to the world.ÔÇØ
Creating a ÔÇÿCity styleÔÇÖ
Manchester City are not aiming to model their style of play on Barcelona, but Soriano admits that winning with style is a priority and central to the clubÔÇÖs blueprint.
ÔÇ£The only way to win is to play good football,ÔÇØ Soriano said. ÔÇ£You can win one year playing not so good football, being lucky and having two extraordinary players, but thatÔÇÖs not sustainable.
“ItÔÇÖs impossible to be sustainable if every year we have to go to the market for five or six players. ThatÔÇÖs not to say we wonÔÇÖt be signing expensive players. We will. But the objective ÔÇô the vision ÔÇô is to have a team where there will be at least half of the players will be City players.
ÔÇ£Let me explain what I mean. A ÔÇÿCityÔÇÖ player will be like Joe Hart who has been there a while. They love the club and can be the core of the squad.
“When a young boy or a marquee signing comes, he knows there are some people who are going to tell him ÔÇÿthis is City, this is how we play, this is how we behaveÔÇÖ.
ÔÇ£They are the core of the team. So, the vision is that we will have at least half of the team at this core and we will be adding players every year. We have a fantastic squad and we will ask the new manager to use this squad to deliver good football and, if he does that, we will win and we will support him.ÔÇØ
Beating Manchester United
Manchester CityÔÇÖs partnership with the New York Yankees to run the New York City FC MLS team will open new doors commercially for the club.
Soriano helped inspire BarcelonaÔÇÖs rapid commercial rise 10 years ago and believes his club can match Manchester United and the Spanish champions in terms of generating off-field revenue.
ÔÇ£We are catching up very fast. In the last few months, we have totally changed the commercial organisation. We have an office in London now and we are very successful.
ÔÇ£United have been very successful in the past but we are catching up and I am very confident. When I started in another club [Barcelona] in 2003, our revenue was ┬ú123 million and UnitedÔÇÖs was ┬ú251 million. After three years our revenue was higher than United.
ÔÇ£Our revenues will increase and we are not worried about Financial Fair Play at all. We will compete with United and others in the market, commercially. We have humility, we are humble and we will take our time, but look at the record ÔÇô already City is number seven in the rankings.
ÔÇ£However, it all starts on the pitch ÔÇô football is not about marketing, itÔÇÖs about playing and winning so if we donÔÇÖt win on the pitch, thereÔÇÖs no good marketing strategy that is going to take us where the others are.ÔÇØ