On Monday, the Premier League will face a legal challenge from Manchester City armed with statements from around a dozen clubs, supporting the competition’s defence.

Each is backing the top-flight’s tightened rules on associated party transactions, which the four-in-a-row champions feel are an unlawful attempt to stop them in their tracks and end their era of domination.

Many believe City, who also face 115 charges of breaking financial rules in November, are guilty of cheating their way to success. 

But that has not stopped swathes of rivals raiding them for coaches, players and staff. 

Here, Mail Sport examines what officials at the champions are wryly describing as the ‘Cityfication’ of the Premier League and what chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak feels is clear evidence that they are doing things ‘the right way’.

Manchester City – headed by owner Sheikh Mansour – have launched legal action against the Premier League

The Premier League have already charged Man City with 115 alleged breaches of financial rules (pictured: Premier League CEO Richard Masters)

The Premier League have already charged Man City with 115 alleged breaches of financial rules (pictured: Premier League CEO Richard Masters)

 

Next month, Omar Berrada will start what is arguably the biggest job in English football when he takes over as the chief executive of Manchester United.

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But when the highly-regarded 46-year-old strolls through the doors at Old Trafford on his first day he will be met by a host of familiar faces. Toby Craig, the newly-appointed chief of comms, will be one. Jason Wilcox, the former Blackburn Rovers winger and now United technical director, another. The three all have one thing in common — they worked together around four miles to the east at Manchester City.

Berrada, Craig and Wilcox are not the only ones to cross the great divide in what is now a thoroughly well-trodden path from one end of the Mancunian Way to the other. When Berrada heads into United’s recruitment department he will see no fewer than five members of staff who have spells at City on their c.vs. And his first meeting with marketing will no doubt see him face-to-face with global partnerships manager Josh Dawkins, whose introduction to football came as an intern at the Etihad Stadium.

Some may feel that this is only natural. That in the high turnover, transient world of football — and especially in a two-club city — such instances would be common.

But the City alumni stretches beyond their neighbours across the Premier League and, indeed, Europe. It is why chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak recently told of his pride at the exodus and why some in the club are branding it the ‘Cityfication’ of the competition. While the consensus among certain rivals and the league itself is that they are doing something wrong in taking staff from across the club, Al Mubarak sees their actions and says otherwise.

In particular, officials at the Etihad see the influx of former City employees at Old Trafford since the arrival of new part owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos, as evidence of their own success.

Indeed, Ratcliffe himself — a boyhood Red brought up within walking distance of where the Etihad now stands — has gone on record to salute City’s success and even laughed when he was asked about them setting the ‘blueprint’. ‘We have a lot to learn from our noisy neighbour,’ he said (before adding that he would like to knock them off their perch.)

On the subject of perch knocking, the growing and often toxic rivalry between City and Liverpool has not stopped those in positions of power at Anfield from getting in on the act.

Omar Berrada will start arguably the biggest job in English football when he takes over as the chief executive of Manchester United next month

Omar Berrada will start arguably the biggest job in English football when he takes over as the chief executive of Manchester United next month

These are the clubs around the globe with managers, coaches, executives, groundsmen and backroom staff formerly employed by clubs owned by City Football Group.

These are the clubs around the globe with managers, coaches, executives, groundsmen and backroom staff formerly employed by clubs owned by City Football Group.

In May, Pedro Marques was named director of football development for Anfield owners Fenway Sports Group. Marques was tasked with rolling out the vision of the City Football Group (CFG) when they began to add clubs from across the globe to their portfolio and became the club’s first global lead for football performance.

It is no coincidence he is now at Liverpool, who are looking at adopting their own multi-club model and, following City’s lead, have brought Marques on board.

Multi-club ownership is one of the areas in which City have come under the microscope and for which they have attracted criticism. Moves for players and staff between clubs within the same ownership group come under the very same Associated Party Transaction rules which were tightened in February and which have triggered City’s legal challenge.

Elsewhere Justice Ellis, who spent close to six years at City rising to head of marketing, is the Merseyside giant’s director of strategy. He may not be a household name but Lee Nobes is one of the most important people on Liverpool’s bench. Nobes has been head of physiotherapy, tasked with ensuring the wellbeing of the likes of Mo Salah, Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez, since 2018. Nobes spent 11 years at City, working with managers from Sven Goran-Eriksson to Pep Guardiola.

One of the allegations levelled at City among the 115 charges is that they falsely inflated sponsorship deals with companies linked to their Abu Dhabi owners as a method of injecting extra cash into the coffers which allowed them to sign the top players. But such accusations have not stopped a number of rivals, including Everton, from taking staff from their commercial department.

On the football side, the list goes on. At the highest level the managers of the two north London rivals have worked within the City Group. At Arsenal, Mikel Arteta is joined by no fewer than six ex-City employees. At Tottenham, Ange Postecoglou works with fellow Aussie, chief football officer and ex-chief executive of CFG China, Scott Munn.

In west London, Chelsea co-sporting director Lawrence Stewart spent two years as head of performance analysis at City. Stewart will soon be working with new Stamford Bridge manager Enzo Maresca who joined from Leicester where he spent a year after departing his role as assistant to Pep Guardiola in east Manchester. Chelsea are one of those thought to have sympathy for City’s position.

Vincent Kompany - Pep Guardiola's iconic captain at Man City - has taken over as Bayern Munich manager

Vincent Kompany – Pep Guardiola’s iconic captain at Man City – has taken over as Bayern Munich manager

Mikel Arteta - a former Man City assistant manager - is joined by six fellow former Citizens staff members at Arsenal

Mikel Arteta – a former Man City assistant manager – is joined by six fellow former Citizens staff members at Arsenal

Tottenham's chief football officer, Scott Munn, is the ex-chief executive of CFG China '

Tottenham’s chief football officer, Scott Munn, is the ex-chief executive of CFG China ‘

Al Mubarak (right) stated that seeing former City staff members and youngsters alike flourish elsewhere is 'testament that we're on the right track'

Al Mubarak (right) stated that seeing former City staff members and youngsters alike flourish elsewhere is ‘testament that we’re on the right track’

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Man City launch legal action against Premier League in move which could help club defend 115 charges

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While they would not comment publicly thanks to the ongoing legal situation, those at City see the above as evidence that their success is not down to breaches of financial regulations. 

That they have not simply bought their trophies. That excellence on and off the field rather than financial doping has been at the heart of what has been a stunning era for the blue half of Manchester — and that others are desperate to buy into it.

In his end of season address, Khaldoon Al Mubarak more than alluded to it. ‘Frankly, (it makes me feel) proud,’ he said. ‘It tells you we are very good at what we do at every level.

‘When you see, and I use the word graduates, players at the academy level, players at the first team level leave and go and have successful careers. Coaching staff, medical staff, physios, senior executives that are being sought after by the best teams in the world. I think if anything, that’s testament that we’re on the right track.’

His next words felt like they were paramount. ‘It confirms that we’re doing it right,’ he added. Others clearly agree — including some of those whose witness statements may well paint Manchester City in a very different light tomorrow.

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