x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Ferran Soriano is the man to match Manchester City's ambitions

The Spaniard, the club's new chief executive, is tasked with helping the champions reach new heights, on and off the pitch, writes Andy Mitten.

Ferran Soriano, left, Manchester City's new chief executive, with chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, at Etihad Stadium on August 19. Shaun Botterill / Getty Images
Ferran Soriano, left, Manchester City's new chief executive, with chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, at Etihad Stadium on August 19. Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

Manchester City's new Catalan chief executive will take office on Saturday, when he will occupy his seat in the directors' box as the English champions face Queens Park Rangers.

Whatever happens on the pitch is unlikely to come close to matching the drama when the pair last met in Manchester in May and Sergio Aguero's injury time goal sealed City's first league title since 1968, but it is what happens off the pitch where Ferran Soriano will be judged.

The former Barcelona vice-president is a permanent replacement for Garry Cook, his predecessor who resigned in September 2011.

Cook has since acknowledged that he made mistakes such as introducing a former player to the Manchester United, not Manchester City, Hall of Fame and sending an insensitive email allegation about a player's mother which eventually forced his resignation, but he is credited for his role in helping turn City around from a mid-table club to a title challenger.

Soriano is unlikely to be guilty of the same public slip-ups. He may only be 45, but he is experienced and well known in football after his time helping revolutionise revenues at Barcelona.

He will work closely with the American Tom Glick, the chief commercial and operating officer appointed from Derby County in May. One of Glick's successes at Derby was to attract huge 30,000 crowds to a club who could not finish in the top half of England's second tier.

The pair will be charged with growing City's revenues exponentially, probably through sponsorship deals, so that City are in a better position as Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules become more pressing.

Soriano has an excellent financial track record. In his five years at Camp Nou between 2003 and 2008, revenues increased from €123 million (Dh567.6 m) to €308m and a €73m loss was turned into an €88m profit. He was praised for his dynamism and intelligence as he worked closely with the president Joan Laporta in roles which are now encompassed by the chief executive of any large football club.

The chief executive will make the big decisions, from overseeing construction of vast new training centres and any stadium redevelopments, to having a final say over whether a player will or will not come to a club.

He will work in cooperation with his coach Roberto Mancini and the technical director Brian Marwood. Relations between the latter have been strained and it is Soriano's task to soothe or change.

Txiki Begiristain, Barca's sporting director when Soriano was there, has also been linked with a move to City in the Catalan press.

Soriano will also have responsibility for representing City at key meetings with Uefa, the game's governing bodies and broadcast partners. He will be the top man at City, reporting only to the owner in Abu Dhabi. He will be in charge of agreeing the transfer fees for incoming and outgoing players, plus the wages of any new City players. Soriano is used to big contracts; he drew up the deal which would keep Lionel Messi at Barcelona when other clubs were offering more.

He is also used to dealing with the biggest agents such as Jorge Mendes, whose client Jose Mourinho wanted the Barca job in 2007. Mourinho ticked many of the boxes, but Soriano was in favour of 37-year-old Pep Guardiola taking charge.

Soriano, a Catalan raised in Poble Nou, an old industrial area in Barcelona known as "The Catalan Manchester" for its links with the textile industry, knew the value of appointing a local hero, just as he understood what he described as the "rock star appeal" of his first major signing while at Barca, Ronaldinho.

With a background in marketing and telecommunications, Soriano is well connected in football, having sat on the committee of the G14 group. He has written several in-depth articles about the business of football and his economic eye helped Barca act prudently in the transfer market, attracting top players without breaking transfer records.

Barcelona are an easier sell than City, for now, but Soriano will aim to eradicate the trend that sees City paying big wages to several players who do not play.

So far so good for Soriano, yet his appointment was delayed because of what happened after Barca.

The lifelong Barca fan became the president of Spanair in 2009 and the recession-hit airline went into liquidation in January 2012. He is still criticised by some of the 4,000 employees who lost their jobs, yet aviation analysts say Spanair was waiting to be toppled and nobody could have saved it.

Soriano has a big task ahead, but City are convinced they have the right man to continue to realise their very big ambitions.

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