August 2008 is a month that no Manchester City fan will soon forget. As the Thaksin Shinawatra project looked to be coming to a depressing end for City, with Shinawatra facing all sorts of political and financial problems back in Thailand, it looked as though the hope and excitement that surrounded Shinawatra's takeover would simply fade away as the club slipped back into inconsistency and mediocrity.
Enter the Abu Dhabi United Group.
The consortium from the UAE quickly made their intentions known with their massive purchase of Robinho from Real Madrid for £32.5 million, and continued their massive spending by signing Gareth Barry, Roque Santa Cruz, Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez, Joleon Lescott, Jerome Boateng, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Aleksandr Kolarov, Mario Balotelli, James Milner, Edin Dzeko, Gael Clichy, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri in subsequent transfer windows.
City, in turn, went from 10th in the EPL to fifth, then third, and finally first last season.
Behind the scenes of all this success for City has been the club's owner and the head of the Abu Dhabi United Group, Sheikh Mansour. And while some of City's detractors may claim that Mansour has done nothing more for City than provide it with boatloads of cash, the truth is that Mansour has truly been a terrific owner for the Sky Blues.
For starters, Sheikh Mansour showed patience that extra-wealthy football owners rarely show. When City struggled for consistency in the aftermath of their acquisition of Robinho, Mansour remained patient. When City finished fifth in the EPL the following season, and failed to secure any silverware despite a summer outlay in excess of £100 million, Mansour remained patient.
Even last year, when Manchester City looked like it had thrown away the title, and many expected Roberto Mancini to be sacked, Mansour still kept his cool, and declared himself satisfied with the team even if they failed to secure the EPL title.
Contrast that patience with the behavior of Roman Abramovich, who has developed a reputation in world football for ruthlessly discarding manager after manager for failing to deliver immediate results.
Malaga, too, have become a good example of Arab ownership gone wrong. Sheikh Abdullah was warmly recieved by Malaga fans expecting him to usher in a golden era similar, in at least a few ways, to the one currently being experienced at Manchester City.
Yet, two years on, there are many indications that Sheikh Abdullah has grown bored with his project, despite Malaga's success in La Liga. He recently blasted La Liga's distribution of television funds, and is reported (via ESPN) to have put the club up for sale.
Even worse though, Sheikh Abdullah has left the club with many unresolved debts, debts which he was supposed to have addressed months ago. Santi Cazorla's transfer fee was not payed by Malaga until very recently for example. Apparently, Sheikh Abdullah has a reputation for being late in paying his debts, which is bad news for a football club like Malaga where deadlines are crucial.
Getting back to Sheikh Mansour, he has also taken the time to personally get to know the players of the club. In the aftermath of the Carlos Tevez saga last season, Tevez explicitly creditted Mansour for dealing well with him, and cited him as a big reason for deciding to remain at City.
As a result, City's players, like Yaya Toure, have recognized his influence on the team, and have strived to please him and City's management with positive results.
Finally, Mansour has give himself just the right amount of visibility. He goes to a few Manchester City games, makes a few public comments every few months and may even talk to a City player or two every so often.
But for the most part, Mansour lets Roberto Mancini and even Khaldoon Al Mubarak handle the club's public image. He has never once undermined Mancini in the media the way Roman Abramovich has undermined many a Chelsea manager, and is almost never available for comment on the club's day-to-day matters.
Even in the Carlos Tevez saga, Mansour was reported to be disappointed with Tevez's behavior, but never once was he quoted as taking a particular stance in the case. He dealt with the matter internally, and kept his comments internal, like a good boss.
It may seem as though Sheikh Mansour has had it easy as Manchester City's owner, and to an extent, he has. But as much as money has played a big role in City's success, it alone has not and would not have brought City the success they've experienced so far.
That success has been brought about by intelligent financial deals, solid transfer campaigns with good communication between City's executives and coaching staff and a patient owner overseeing the club's progress.
Well done, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. You've taken a club once known for its inconsistency and mediocrity and transformed it into one of the biggest, most famous clubs in the world, and the Sky Blues faithful won't ever forget your contributions to the club's success.
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