By Wayne Veysey
Manchester City are considering appointing a Barcelona executive dream team in a move that would send shockwaves through European football, Goal.com can reveal.
Former Barcelona vice-president and general manager Ferran Soriano has emerged as the favourite to become the club's new chief executive, with Txiki Begiristain, the former Nou Camp dealmaker, working alongside him as director of football.
City’s Abu Dhabi owners have not yet made their final decision on the make-up of the club’s new high command but are close to authorising the most radical shake-up ever to how a leading Premier League outfit is run.
Soriano, who was on the Barcelona board between 2003 and 2008 as the club grew rapidly to become the second highest earning in the world, is the City board's chosen candidate to become the new CEO following a four-month search to find a successor to Garry Cook.
Goal.com understands that the 44-year-old was not on the original five-man shortlist drawn up by headhunters Odgers but he quickly emerged as a leading candidate when the club’s Abu Dhabi owners widened the search for a figure with a significant football background and made the final shortlist when it was narrowed down to two people.
City have also met with Begiristain, 47, the former Barcelona technical secretary, as they consider emulating the European champions’ model of success.
Soriano’s contacts, wide experience of football’s corridors of power and his role played in the spectacular growth of Barcelona’s fan base and worldwide appeal have impressed City’s top brass.
The lifelong Barca fan and chairman of Spanish airline Spainair since 2009 also speaks English and is well known at European football’s top table. At Barcelona he had a spell as general manager and was a member of the executive committee of the now disbanded G14.
It is believed that City want Begiristain, who spent seven years at Barcelona before leaving in 2010 when his ally Joan Laporta was replaced as the club’s president, to work alongside Soriano and take charge of the club’s recruitment policy.
At the Nou Camp, Begiristain oversaw a talent drive that brought the likes of Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o and Dani Alves to the club.
It would be regarded as a huge statement by City if Abu Dhabi give the green light to the former Barcelona pair as a leading Premier League club has never before been run by executives with impeccable European credentials.
“Soriano is well suited to the post,” a source told Goal.com. “He is a football person who knows his way around European football politics and has experience of running arguably the biggest club in the world.
"He is also a smooth operator, very well known among the big clubs, has commercial expertise and speaks very good English.”
However, the arrival of Begiristain could have severe repercussions for Brian Marwood, Cook’s close ally who is currently the most senior football administrator at the club and has been a key figure in one of the most lavish recruitment drives in football history over the last three years.
Cook resigned from his €2.35 (£1.96) million-per-year role last September after conceding he made an "error of judgement" in mistakenly sending an offensive email to the mother of Nedum Onuoha, the City defender, which prompted an internal investigation led by the club’s chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak.
John Macbeath, who took up a director’s position at Etihad Stadium in February 2010, was installed as City’s temporary CEO but he is set to step aside soon.
The appointments are not believed to be imminent but City expect to have a new executive team in place within the next few weeks.