Khaldoon Al Mubarak pays tribute to Man City 'legend' Steph Houghton

Captain of women's side retired in May after a stellar career in which she helped the club win the WSL title, four Women's Cups and five WSL Cups

Powered by automated translation

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak paid tribute to departing women's team captain Steph Houghton, describing her as a "legend" who will always be part of the club's history.

In March, Houghton, 36, announced she would retire at the end of the season and played her last game for the club on May 18, coming on as a second-half substitute in City's final Women's Super League (WSL) game against Aston Villa.

It brought down the curtain on a glittering career that saw the defender win the WSL title, four Women's Cups and five WSL Cups in City's colours. Arriving from Arsenal in 2013 following back-to-back WSL titles, she retires as Manchester City women's record appearance holder (138) and with 121 England caps.

In the second part of an annual end-of-season review, conducted in Abu Dhabi last Saturday, Al Mubarak told City's website that Houghton's contribution to the women's game was hard to measure.

“Steph has been a tremendous leader for our club, for the team. She's one of the most decorated players in England. Thank you, Steph, for everything you've done for us. And delighted that you will always be part of this club," the City chairman said.

"You are a legend and a leader. And, as this women's team and women's football continues to evolve, your role will never be forgotten. There's going to be a special mosaic for Steph in our new women's team training facility, which will be unveiled soon. And, I'm very excited for Steph and of course, for our women's team to have their new facilities.”

Al Mubarak said he can point to the growth of the women's game closer to home, saying that his children have their own favourite women's and men's players. "If you sit with my daughter right now and you ask her who's your favourite player, she’ll answer you, 'Female or male?' Great. But more importantly, if you ask my son the same question, he'll answer you in the same way, 'Male or female?' I think that shows you how this game has changed.

"Maybe three years ago, if I had asked both of them, they would have answered you automatically naming a male player without even the follow-on question. I think that for me tells me everything about how this game is evolving."

City lost out on securing a men's and women's league double by the slenderest of margins. While Pep Guardiola's men's side secured a historic fourth Premier League title in a row only on the final day, the women's side lost out to Chelsea only on goal difference having both finished on 55 points.

Success under the City Football Group was not the sole preserve of Manchester City, though.

Girona finished third in La Liga behind Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona having topped the table on six matchdays.

They finished ahead of established heavyweights Atletico Madrid and secured Champions League football for the first time in their history in 2024/25. “I think Girona FC personifies this [CFG] group and how a club can be well managed to the point to substantially outperform," Al Mubarak added.

"They have the 16th highest wage bill in La Liga, 16th out of 20 and they went head-to-head with Real Madrid and Barcelona until the end. And they finished third. They made it to the Champions League for the first time in their history after coming from the second division just a couple of years ago. It is extraordinary.”

There were several other success stories across the CFG. Yokohama F Marinos reached the final of the Asian Champions League, losing to UAE club Al Ain over two legs; Mumbai FC won the Indian Super League play-offs, and Melbourne Women were crowned champions of Australia for a third time.

“The model works," Al Mubarak said in reference to CFG's investment. "We have a great system, a great management team and we have great clubs as part of the group ... We are premier. We are pioneers in what we've achieved. I'm delighted for the group and our shareholders."

Further afield, Al Mubarak reaffirmed the CFG's commitment to New York City FC, saying the US was an important market and that plans for a permanent stadium, set to break ground this summer, are on schedule.

"I've always been very, very committed to US soccer. I think we've always been very committed to MLS, building New York City football team to what it is today.

"We've had a great partnership with the New York Yankees. It's a big investment, and it's an investment that's well justified for the fans.

"Playing in Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, while great for the last couple of years, is not a sustainable solution. The solution was always going to be a purpose-built football club for the team. New York is going to have its football stadium, and it's going to be fantastic.”

Updated: June 06, 2024, 12:46 PM