When Sheikh Mansour arrived in September 2008 his message to Manchester City fans was clear: 'We are building a structure for the future, not just a team of all-stars.'
The billionaire owner delivered on his promise this week as City unveiled what can only be described as the world's best training facility.
The club have spent somewhere in the region of £150 million and £200 million to create the City Football Academy, a start of the art facility that has left the likes of Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi jealous of his City counterparts.
Six longs years of intense research, spending, preparation and building work finally came to fruition on Monday, and the end result has left everyone impressed, just ask Pablo Zabaleta.
The Argentine defender signed for the club on the eve of Mansour's famous takeover, and saw the facilities close up when his national team took a sneak peak last month.
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Zabaleta said: "We came here with the Argentina national team when we played against Portugal last month and the players were very impressed with it – even Lionel Messi."
"We came here with the Argentina national team when we played against Portugal last month and the players were very impressed with it – even Lionel Messi"
The eye-catching Etihad campus is situated in view of the club's Etihad Stadium, and linked by a bridge over Alan Turing Way, meaning everything the club needs is all in one place.
No stone has been left unturned when it comes to the design of the complex which features 16 specialised pitches for all age groups and departments, from the first team, through the Elite Development squad and women's team all the way down to the junior youth teams.
Manuel Pellegrini's first team's facilities include pitches with three different surfaces, to help them tailor their training, while goalkeepers Joe Hart and Willy Caballero will use a unique half-pitch. Maintaining such a vast site takes hard work, and to ease the job City have installed an 8.1million litre water tank under the site to keep the pitches watered with recycled rain throughout the year.
Situated within the facility is a 7,000 capacity stadium, to stage Elite Development Squad and women's fixtures.
Home from home
In the main building on the site, a whole floor has been set aside for bedrooms for players from all teams, and will house the first team the night before home games. The bedrooms were fitted out by a number of sleep experts, and Zabaleta insisted there's no where he'd rather be, even his own home.
"It’s better than being in a hotel. It’s more private here, we don’t see people around and it’s more comfortable for the team," he said.
"The facilities – the dressing-room, the spa, even the canteen is fantastic – everything you can imagine is there.
"As a player, you come here each day thinking “I’d rather be here than my house!” I could spend eight or nine hours here."
"As a player, you come here each day thinking “I’d rather be here than my house!” I could spend eight or nine hours here"
Past, present, future
Everything about the facility, from the numerous pitches dedicated to youth development, the three separate gyms and the hydrotherapy recovery area is futuristic. Such is the desire to shape a better future for the club, it's academy products and the community as a whole, there is even a sixth form college located on site.
But, despite the obvious nod to the future, City have been sure not to forget their past. The grand opening was overseen by Tony Book, the club's most successful captain. Book lifted a First Division title and an FA Cup, as well as helping City become the first English club to lift domestic and European honours in the same year when they claimed a League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup in 1970.
The buildings on the development also have iconic moments in the club's history plastered on the walls, including, predictably, a giant picture of Sergio Aguero celebrating his Premier League winning striker in 2012.
Furthermore, each graduate of City's academy has a plaque of their own, showcasing the number of hopefuls who made it at the club. However, one man is missing from the list; Ched Evans. The convicted rapist was, understandably, not represented with a plaque although Joey Barton, who also spent time in prison, was given one.
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