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Man City vs media: Pep's right - but it's not personal (just think Chelsea)

COMMENT: Correct, Pep. The media did want Liverpool to win the league ahead of your Manchester City. But you need to know. And surely you do. That it was never personal...

It's been building. The frustration. Even exasperation. Over the lukewarm coverage of City's successful title defence this season. With the manager, Pep Guardiola, manning the drum, the fury reached it's zenith at the final whistle of Saturday's FA Cup triumph. A City fan barnstorming his way into the media box, predicting those behind their laptops to do another round of reporting on Liverpool and Mo Salah ahead of any genuine acknowledgement of his team's historic domestic Treble.

And to be fair. Like with Guardiola. This supporter was right. But again, this isn't personal.

Instead, this is about numbers. Economics. And the reality is, no matter the success of City during the Sheikh Mansour era, the current Premier League champions aren't box office. At least not yet...

Which is perhaps where this frustration of Guardiola stems from. At Barcelona. With Bayern Munich. He was in charge of institutions. Massive entities that can - and will - drive the news cycle. In Spain. In Germany. And across the globe. If something happens at Barca or Bayern, it's not just news. Most importantly, it's commercially viable news. In contrast. At this stage in the club's development. City barely rank in the daily cycle of football stories around the world. It's through no fault of their own. It's simple reality. Guardiola jumped from one foundation of the game to another, before essentially taking on a development project.

But they'll get there. Though it will take time. And the likelihood of Guardiola being in charge when City is recognised globally is pretty thin.

Liverpool shouldn't be City's benchmark. Nor neighbours Manchester United. It's Chelsea that should offer the City brainstrust some inspiration of how to not only break into the elite, but by sheer global popularity, maintain their status no matter (or is that because of?) the upheaval that routinely engulfs the club.

But, as mentioned, this will be no quick fix. The foundations of today's Chelsea were laid well before Roman Abramovich and Jose Mourinho swept in 15 years ago. And, in contrast to City's approach, it was done differently. Far, far differently.

This column would argue the transformation of Chelsea. From being a peer of clubs like City, to now dining at the same table as Barca and Bayern, began over 25 years ago. From Glenn Hoddle's appointment. Through to Ruud Gullit's promotion and Luca Vialli's arrival. In his final years in charge, Ken Bates gradually established Chelsea as a gold-dust club. And with those gold-plated names came the headlines, the interest and eventually Abramovich to capitalise and bring a new stature to the club.

For the media. For the average fan. It was an irresistible mix. Big personalities like Mourinho and Didier Drogba. Coupled with the sustained success achieved under the Special One. Within a decade, Chelsea had gone from the dog track and John Bumstead, to record transfer spending and back-to-back titles. Across the world, their popularity skyrocketed. And as the local media moved themselves online, the global popularity of Premier League clubs, rather than domestic interest, drove the headlines more and more.

The good news for City is this trend is now being masked. They'll have their own R&D. But we see it here, at City stories can now catch fire during the day. There's a real interest in the club. And as this column is sure other outlets are experiencing, content related to City is now commercially viable.

The club isn't at Chelsea's mark yet. But from Roberto Mancini to Manuel Pellegrini and now Pep, the sustained success is having it's affect.

However, as mentioned, this could still be a slow burn. Particularly given the club's approach. This team has been built in Guardiola's image. Strong willed. But low key. There's no great personality to drive popularity. It really is about the football.

And you suspect, for as long as Guardiola remains in charge this is how it will be. It may frustrate the marketing team inside the club. And there may be some envious glances in the direction of Turin and what Juventus have experienced this season. But no-one can argue with the success Guardiola's approach has brought.

So it will be a slow burn. Getting those headlines. That recognition. It will happen. But there's also economics. And Guardiola needs to understand City aren't a Barca or Bayern. This isn't personal, Pep.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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