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Manchester City: MCO and Academy Development

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

Multi-club ownership (MCO) structures have multiple advantages if stablished with a thorough strategy. From a sporting perspective the centralization of the scouting networks and data departments allows all clubs in the MCO structure to benefit from taking an integrated approach. In that sense, when scouts attend a game, they may find themselves recommending a player for one of the clubs, and a different player for another different satellite club, thus doing the work of two scouts in a single club mode.

Having this kind of structures can also contribute to player development through loans from the bigger clubs to the smaller clubs, which at the end is a way of granting playing time for young talents or even a way of exposing them for a future sale, if the player is not good enough to remain in the first team squad of the bigger club.

In the case of Manchester City, this strategy has been a trend since 2015, initially with Girona FC and New York City FC, and lately with SK Lommel and ESTAC Troyes.

Analyzing the different operations carried out over the years, it is clear that the satellite clubs benefited from the loans, with most of the players accumulating a lot of minutes during their stay at the club. However, only Arijanet Muric managed to play at least 450 minutes for Manchester City after the loan period, with the rest of players being sold shortly after or sent on loan to another club. At the same time, the transfer balance for most of the players is negative or really small which indicates that Manchester City have not been able yet to make a considerable financial or sporting profit from this approach.

Satellite clubs can also be used as a way of obtaining young talents at a cheaper price. In the case of Manchester City this has not been as common as with the loan strategy, but at least 5 cases could be found, from Girona FC, New York City FC and Melbourne City. As seen in the table below, the buying fees were not that high for Manchester City standard, except for the case of Pedro Porro. However, the players didn't have the chance of staying at the club (0 minutes played in each case) and were sent on loan or sold shortly after.

In this case, the transfer balance is larger than the one obtained with the loan strategy, but it doesn't seem to justify the need of having a multi-club ownership structure, which can offer other major benefits that have not yet reflected with this strategy of buying local talents developed at other clubs of the City Football Group.

In parallel to the external operations carried out with satellite clubs of the Group, Manchester City have also been working on the development of talent within their Academy. Since 2012, a total of 22 relevant players have been promoted to the first team, including big names like Phil Foden, Eric Garcia or Kelechi Iheanacho. However only 8 out of the 22, managed to play more than 450 minutes, with Phil Foden and Cole Palmer being the only ones than currently remain at the club.

Even though the majority of the promoted talents couldn't secure a first team spot, Manchester City have clearly benefited from the development of the players, accumulating a total of 112.5 million euros in fees after selling 16 of the players, which makes a good average of 7 million euros per player.

At the same time, some other talents didn't even reach the point of trying with the first team squad, being sold directly from the U21/U18 teams or after a short loan period in a smaller local club. In this case the impact is even more remarkable, with Manchester City obtaining a total of 116 million euros with 19 players.

Jadon Sancho is probably the most famous example of this kind of operation for the Citizens, even though this season the strategy has taken a leap with Gavin Bazunu and Romeo Lavia being sold to Southampton FC and Felix Correia to Juventus for more than 10 million euros each, outstanding fees if we consider that they didn't even play a single minute for the first team.

Considering the output obtained from the analysis, both Academy Development and MCO Structures (failing that, partnership agreements with foreign clubs) can be good ways of obtaining great young talents for the first team, while ensuring the financial sustainability of the club. However, it is always necessary to have a clear objective prior to making any investment and also dedicate enough time and resources to plan the most suitable strategy for each case.

At Four Nations Football Consulting we offer our clients the possibility of mapping the market in order to identify the best countries and leagues to look for satellite or partner clubs, highlighting the different threats/barriers and the potential financial, commercial and sporting benefits.

Likewise, we help our clients to prepare their Academy Development strategies, analyzing the quality/quantity, age and range of scouting and quantifying the ROI to be obtained from the potential trading of graduated players or from the savings generated with the use of the graduates in the first team.

*All data for the publication has been gathered from transfermarkt.

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