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Kissing cousins
A look at LaLiga

Kissing cousins

The theory is that Girona FC was bought as a feeder club for Man City and it can't be argued that they don't benefit from the link

Friday, 29 September 2023, 13:28

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There are two ways to look at the journey that has taken Girona FC to the top of LaLiga in what is just their fourth season as a top-tier club.

The medieval Catalan city has historically competed in lower league football and struggled to fill the seats in a compact 11,000 seat stadium; now, they are looking down on the traditional powerhouses.

Girona has mainly been known for the wonderful cuisine, boasting one of the world's top restaurants, and for its scenery that was the backdrop for the Game of Thrones. If they can beat Real Madrid for the second time in two seasons, they will create a gap at the summit of the table.

It should be romantic, but the story is tinged with cynicism. Girona are the Spanish cousins of Manchester City, part of the global network of clubs owned by the City Football Group (CFG). CFG is a subsidiary of ADUG, better known as the Abu Dhabi United Group.

The club President is Pere Guardiola, brother of Pep. Pere is the agent to superstars, such as Andrés Iniesta and Luis Suárez. Since the takeover in 2017, 15 players have signed from CFG affiliates. So, it's quite an old boys' network.

There was a theory that Girona FC was bought as a feeder club for City. Pep Guardiola told me in an interview a couple of years ago that he's frustrated by the lack of competitive football for developing players in England and the Spanish club has provided this. The likes of Douglas Luiz and Pablo Maffeo were farmed out to gain experience and they've played their part in the club's rise to the top league. Last season, Taty Castellanos was loaned from New York City and he weighed in with 14 goals, including four in one famous game against Real Madrid.

It can't be argued that Girona don't benefit from the link with Manchester City; in fact, sporting director Quique Cárcel admits to having a hotline to his equivalent in England.

This season's success isn't down to the men in Manchester pulling the strings though; it's down to sharp local management. Only two players, Yangel Herrera and Aleix García, have moved directly from the Premier League side. Coach Michel has assembled a team that plays a brash, attacking style of football. They're top scorers and 11 players have so far weighed in with a goal. They hit four at Granada and followed it up with five against Mallorca.

Yes, it's part of the CFG family, but it has its own colloquial brand. Barcelona is famous for representing Catalan culture, but Girona is the heart of the region where Catalan is the default language. FC Barcelona is global; Girona FC is very much local.

The team is part of a network that stretches five continents with 13 clubs, yet it very much has its own image too. They are the disruptors in the Spanish market - with corporate backing. The football is distinct and fun to watch. It's certainly fun to commentate on.

Despite the family connections, they've kept the development quiet in recent years but if the success continues it could be Pep v Pere in the battle of the brothers in years to come in the CFG/ADUG inter-departmental cup.

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