Ex-Barcelona chief Ferran Soriano has accelerated the shake-up at Etihad Stadium in his first week in office after replacing Garry Cook with more changes to come
By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Manchester City completed five new signings in a whirr of medicals, paperwork and rushed registrations on deadline day.
But possibly the most important arrival at the club during the transfer window came a fortnight previously when the Premier League champions ended their long search for a new chief executive by appointing Ferran Soriano as the replacement for the disgraced Garry Cook.
The former Barcelona vice-president officially started work at Etihad Stadium on Monday but he has been gradually immersing himself in one of European football’s most prominent executive posts for some time.
Soriano was a guest of the club for their first Premier League game of the season against Southampton, two days after he was appointed, and also attended last Saturday’s home fixture against QPR.
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The 44-year-old Spaniard has been able to gauge the size of the task ahead and prioritise the items jostling for attention in his bulging in-tray.
Sources have said that Soriano has begun by carrying out a post-mortem of the transfer window and holding a series of meetings with key staff.
The new chief executive has been given full responsibility by the club’s Abu Dhabi powerbrokers for future signings, transfer fees and player salaries, although they will still have to be signed off by chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak.
There are whispers in the corridors of Etihad Stadium that Brian Marwood, Cook’s close ally from their Nike days and a key figure in one of the most lavish recruitment drives in football history over the last three years, is now vulnerable.
Contact has been made by the club with Frank Arnesen, the Hamburg director of football, but it is understood that Marwood maintains the support of Al Mubarak despite a well-publicised strained relationship with Roberto Mancini.
The demanding City manager publicly name-checked Marwood for failing to land some of the club’s principal summer targets, including Daniele De Rossi, Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao, Daniel Agger and Javi Martinez.
But Marwood has acted as a buffer between the board and Mancini this summer and one of Soriano’s tasks will be to smooth the relationship between two of the club’s most recognisable senior figures.
Figures within the game have spoken of an ‘executive vacuum’ at Etihad Stadium since Cook was forced to leave his post 12 months ago despite John MacBeath, interim CEO for a year, and former Blackburn Rovers chairman John Williams both being regarded as safe pairs of hands.
It is understood that Soriano will continue a root-and-branch review of City’s backroom operations, plans which were first revealed by Goal.com last April. This could have repercussions for the executive, management, commercial and recruitment arms of the club.
City were willing to wait so long for the £2 million-a-year executive, who was revealed by Goal.com to have been lined up for the post back in January, partly because of his international commercial experience.
City’s Abu Dhabi owners want the new man to help expand the club’s brand globally as well as oversee the £300m redevelopment of Etihad Stadium and surrounding areas in the years ahead.
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Indeed, in the press release on the club’s official website that announced his appointment, City trumpeted how, during his time as Barcelona from 2003-2008, where he had a spell as general manager, Soriano “led and managed the club’s turn-around” from a turnover of €123m (£97.2m) to €308m (£243.5m) and a €73m (£57.7m) loss to an £88m profit.
All incomings and outgoings will be carefully monitored as the club try to meet Uefa’s new financial fair play rules, with City’s relatively restrained transfer activity this summer a by-product of Premier League record losses of £197m in their most recent financial results.
It is perhaps no surprise that City bided their time for the ex-Spainair chairman to become available given his contacts and wide experience of football’s corridors of power.
If anyone can schmooze Uefa’s top brass, it is the English-speaking lifelong Barca fan, who is well known at European football’s top table. At Barcelona he was a member of the executive committee of the now disbanded G14.
The Premier League’s first chief executive import to have impeccable European credentials is going to need all his political clout, commercial experience and football expertise as he settles into his new office.