The UAE based group already has seven clubs under its umbrella.
A new era beckons Mumbai City FC. As Khel Now exclusively revealed in May 2019 that the City Football Group will become shareholders for the Islanders soon, the whole ordeal has been finalised. The same group which owns European powerhouses Manchester City obviously brings with it impressive financial rewards, something which Mumbai could go in order to become Indian Super League (ISL) champions sooner rather than later.
However, the perception that their own involvement is to provide financial rewards couldn’t be any more wrong. The City Football Group don’t only own Manchester City, but possess shares in six other senior men’s football clubs as well. Indeed, their work with Melbourne City FC or New York City FC has shown their willingness to not only invest funds, but improve the organizations as a whole.
Their work in improving infrastructure for the clubs they’ve invested in, working with a clear plan in sight to guarantee a profitable future. Be it improving the squad itself or integrating a strong grassroot plan, the City Football Group operates every club under its wing as they’ve done with the reigning Premier League champions. While Mumbai City can definitely benefit with their financial strength, but their reputation as a top Indian club will be amplified with professional investors overseeing their growth.
For one, the City Football Group’s impressive recruitment system has seen them scout and sign talented players for their respective clubs in recent years. It was their incisive scouting which allowed them to find Bruno Fornalis for Melbourne City FC. The Uruguayan, a relatively unknown striker, withered up quite the storm in the A-League, winning the A-League golden boot in his debut 2015/16 season. He also became the quickest to reach 30 goals in the A-League, while in his four seasons with Melbourne, he ended up scoring 54 goals!
With Modou Sogou’s prolific run last season reiterating their trust on foreign strikers, the CFG can help the Islanders get equally prolific strikers or creative outlets and the sky’s the limit for Jorge Costa’s men. Moreover, there’s always the philosophy for using the network of clubs in exchanging players with each other and sending Man City youngsters to their sister clubs for exposure.
For example, Melbourne City have been sent many youngsters from Manchester City’s U-21 team in recent years, while attacking midfielder Valentin Castellanos was loaned in from Club Torque to New York City last season. Venezualan midfielder Yangel Herrera was also immediately sent on loan during the 2017/18 season by CFG after being signed for Manchester City, showcasing their tendency of improving their clubs by making good use of players not ready for the Premier League yet.
Of course, Mumbai City can definitely benefit from bright youngsters provided to them by the CFG sister clubs, something which can help sustain more success in the ISL. However, they aren’t just for attracting star players and building the Islanders into a potential ISL giant. The City Football Group’s emphasis has always been on developing youngsters from within and exponentially improving the youth structure of whichever club they’ve invested upon. Not only have the Premier League champions derived youngsters like Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Brahim Diaz, but the youth systems of New York City and Melbourne City FC have grown with strides thanks to CFG’s involvement.
Indeed, a $15 million City Football Academy set up in Melbourne, which has operated from 2015 pin-pointed their view for youth development in the country. Boasting a $2 million DESSO pitch, world-class physiotherapy and sports rehabilitation centre, the CFG left no stones unturned with ensuring top-level training methods for the Melbourne City youngsters and senior teams. Moreover, a £200 million academy in New York exceeded over the Melbourne one. Outlined with similar world-class facilities, some specialities like a circular locker room stays true to their mentality to encourage players to gel together as equals.
However, another big development these clubs have experienced under CFG is the formation of a proper Women’s Team. Mumbai City definitely doesn’t have one, so investment to encourage signing female players and perhaps forming a team for the Indian Women’s League can help them make strides in the country’s football. Moreover, if a similar world-class academy is set up to hone better young talents, Mumbai City could soon become the hub of up-and-coming blooming Indian youngsters over the next decade or so.
One potential flaw from the CFG ownership is that it doesn’t guarantee big silverware for every team. Granted, Manchester City have dominated English football under them, but the likes of New York City FC and Melbourne City haven’t experienced the same. Indeed, Melbourne have only won the FFA Cup once in their six seasons under their ownership. So the mentality that Mumbai City would suddenly win everything under them is probably a wrong concept in itself, as Jorge Costa’s men will have to work on their own hard-work to dominate Indian Football.
Ferran Soriano, the CEO of the clubs under the CFG, insisted in an interview with the Guardian in 2017 that eventually football will become the most popular sport in India. While the uncertainty in Indian Football’s future and dominance of cricket in viewership terms contradicts that, perhaps a mastermind like Soriano, who believes in “franchising” football clubs, can perfectly match Mumbai City’s values. Under a really intelligent, efficient body in the City Football Group, the Islanders will find ambition and hope for future dominance. CFG’s influence can usher a change and further development in Indian Football.