Manchester City’s controlled summer of buying and selling has turned them into the net spend kings of the 'big six' and led to one of the most fruitful transfer windows in the club’s history.
Not only did the champions land one of the best No 9s in world football, Erling Haaland, they also revamped the first team squad and made a handsome profit in excess of £50 million ($58.4m).
From the outside, the transfer activity at City might have appeared a little frenzied, yet nothing could be further from the truth.
The transfer brains trust comprising chairman Khaldoon Mubarak, manager Pep Guardiola, director of football Txiki Begiristain, chief football operations officer Omar Berrada, and City Football Group CEO Ferran Soriano, set about a surgical renewal of the first team squad. This included selling young players who were either not going to make Guardiola’s team sheet or had run out of patience in their attempt to do so.
The published sums for the purchases and sales are ball park figures with both buying and selling clubs notoriously coy about the fees and the size of add-ons included in any deal.
However, what is clear is that City - a club habitually criticised for buying success - made a big profit on transfers, which will not only help in their quest for self-sufficiency but also puts them in a strong position to attack the next few windows with confidence and certainty.
In the last two windows alone the Academy, run by Premier League winner Jason Wilcox, has produced £60m in profit. This summer City were the only side in the Premier League’s ‘big six’ with a negative net spend. They banked around £55m.
Far from their reputation for throwing cash around, City are the English top flight’s second lowest spenders in the last two seasons and only the 12th highest in the last five years - way behind the top three of Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea and even below Liverpool who are ninth.
City’s net spend in the past five seasons is £153m (an average of £30.6m). Over the same timeframe their neighbours at Old Trafford have spent an average of £105m.
Fourteen years of Sheikh Mansour’s ownership of City have all been about building carefully to the events of this summer and those kinds of figures. Winning and profit are a heady mix.
When Sheikh Mansour took over the club in 2008, there was heavy investment to make City one of the best clubs on the planet, on and off the pitch, but it was also stressed, through chairman Mubarak, that self-sustainability would eventually come and profits would be expected to become the norm.
City have been profitable now for several years - pandemic notwithstanding - but this summer has been the best of all. Despite spending in excess of £140m on new additions - if Julian Alvarez transfer is included in this summer’s business - they also moved out an astonishing 26 players (16 permanently and 10 on loan), most of them from the youth academy.
That number swells to an extraordinary 222 when taking into account all the other City Football Group clubs, of which Manchester City is the jewel in the crown.
Norwegian superstar Haaland was, of course, the headline signing, and was the first to be announced this summer for his £51m release clause from Borussia Dortmund.
Haaland, 22, had been on City’s scouting radar from the moment he played first-team football as a teenager in Norway in 2017. Guardiola wanted him in 2021 as the legendary Sergio Aguero came to the end of his time at the Etihad but Dortmund held firm and there was no buyout clause.
That led to a well-publicised pursuit of England captain Harry Kane, though that interest was ended by Tottenham's refusal to sell, and City won the league and came within 30 seconds of a second successive Champions League final without a recognised striker before the club turned to Haaland again.
City set about selling their football project to Haaland, with the player eventually pondering between La Liga and the Premier League.
Most of the talks were about how he would fit into Guardiola’s style of play. Begiristain was instrumental in pointing out to Haaland the quality of the supporting cast that would be playing alongside him and the striker had also done his homework.
In the end despite interest from Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester United, Haaland narrowed his choice to Real Madrid or City.
The transfer was done swiftly with Dortmund thanks to the buyout clause and Haaland - who was going to take his dad Alfie’s old No 15 - inherited the No 9 when Gabriel Jesus moved to Arsenal. City had two sets of kit on standby for his unveiling at the Etihad Stadium.
It is a move that has so far worked out spectacularly, with Haaland netting 12 goals in his first seven games for City, who face the striker's former club Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Jesus’ departure and that of England winger Raheem Sterling to Chelsea represented a perfect storm for the champions who were able to secure big money for two stars in the final year of their contracts.
With those two gone and Alvarez and Haaland in, there was an air of calm about the rest of the summer for City’s movers and shakers.
There was the satisfaction of bringing in six new players, giving Guardiola a third iteration of his squad and still making a profit.
England international Kalvin Phillips followed from Leeds United to augment the midfield after captain Fernandinho's emotional departure, Swiss defender Manuel Akanji arrived on deadline day from Dortmund for £15m, and the squad was further boosted by the arrivals of goalkeeper Stefan Ortega and left-back Sergio Gomez.
Of the others who left, several made their way to Southampton. Gavin Bazunu, Romeo Lavia, Samuel Edozie and Juan Larios all headed to the south coast for a combined cost in excess of £40m.
Southampton also took former City head of Academy recruitment Joe Shields, which may partially explain the glut of moves. City have, wisely, inserted buy-back clauses in the transfers.