Top 5 biggest foreign clubs in City Football Group

Since buying Manchester City in 2008, the number of clubs in City Football Group (formerly known as Abu Dhabi United Group) has swelled.

The group holds majority and minority stakes in a diverse range of clubs. From historic household names, all the way down to lower league outfits and absolute newcomers to the sport.

Today, their outreach spans every continent except Africa, and even that could well change soon, with City CEO Ferran Soriano hinting as such in the Manchester Evening News only last summer.

Of course, they are not the only owners to have adopted the ‘multi-club model’ in recent years. But CFG are undeniably the most successful at this time, and have leveraged it to their financial and sporting advantage.

In this list, we're going to take a look at the top five biggest foreign clubs in the City Football Group.

Manchester City have been incredibly successful thanks to the City Football Group – Photo by Icon Sport

Top 5 biggest foreign clubs in City Football Group

5. Bahia

The most recent City Football Group takeover on this list is of Brazilian club Bahia. 

CFG purchased 90% of shares in the club situated in the coastal city of Salvador in 2022, with the remaining 10% staying with the prior ownership, including the rights to all of the club’s famous iconography such as shirt colours, emblems and badges.

Bahia have previously won two Brazilian Serie A titles, in 1959 and 1988. They have always been a powerful local force in their state, if not always wider Brazilian football.

The club has seen immediate success with CFG, winning their record 50th Campeonato Baiano (state championship) in 2023.

The importance of Bahia to CFG is that they are located in Brazil, where some of the world’s finest players have been produced for generations. Using their wealth, they can build a strong stepping-stone to Europe for young Brazilians.

New York City FC won their first trophy in 2021 – Photo by Icon Sport

4. New York City FC (NYCFC)

Going back over a decade, the first club to join Manchester City in the City Football Group was New York City FC. The club was born out of a collaboration between CFG and baseball giants the New York Yankees, who paid the $100m MLS franchise fee.

The connection between Manchester and New York's blue factions took no time to gel, with former Man City midfielder Patrick Vieira being the club’s first manager, while Frank Lampard joined NYCFC directly from Man City in his twilight playing days.

NYCFC have also had David Villa and Andrea Pirlo as previous designated players, but it is more than just a retirement home for Europe's giants of the noughties. Argentine starlet Taty Castellanos memorably went there from fellow CFG club Torque, going on to bag 49 goals in 101 MLS appearances.

Taty was also part of the squad that won NYCFC a maiden trophy (the MLS Cup) in 2021, setting the club up to be not only a youth-nurturing side, but also one that could boost the capabilities of young American players in time for the 2026 World Cup.

Troyes supporters have made their feelings towards City Football Group clear
Troyes supporters have made their feelings towards City Football Group clear- Photo by Icon Sport

3. ES Troyes AC

City Football Group purchased a majority stake in ES Troyes AC in September 2020. A yo-yo club of French football, Troyes’ greatest achievement was their adventures in European football in the early 2000s, the peak of which was their 2001 Intertoto Cup win.

The club saw immediate success after the takeover, winning the 2020/21 Ligue 2 title, and by the December of their first season back amongst the elite, they stood a respectable 15th. However, manager Laurent Batlles was sacked for reportedly refusing to adhere to CFG's demands to favour younger players and mandated signings.

He was replaced by Bruno Irles, but his successor met the same fate for the same reason in November 2022, despite having guided Troyes to survival. Then in came Patrick Kisnorbo of Melbourne City (another CFG club), and his tenure was disastrous, culminating in relegation at the end of 2022/23.

In a scenario that seemed unthinkable during the Batlles era, Troyes dropped yet again this year, putting them in the third tier of French football for the first time since 1996.

Supporters have felt used by CFG, with the 2022 signing of Savio pointed to as an example. The Brazilian winger was signed for a club-record £6.5m, but never saw the pitch for Troyes, instead going on loan spells to PSV and Girona.

Savio will move to Manchester City this summer.

Photo by Icon Sport

2. Palermo

City Football Group’s presence in Italy takes the form of Palermo. CFG purchased 96% of the club in 2022. Formed in 1900, Palermo have a rich and storied place in Italian football.

Their last golden era came in the 2000s, when they were a regular feature in the UEFA Cup and Europa League.

The Sicilians have boasted some superb players too. with Fabrizio Miccoli, Luca Toni, Josip Iličić, Paulo Dybala, Javier Pastore and Edinson Cavani amongst their greatest alumni.

Palermo finished sixth in the 2023/24 Serie B, and are in with a chance of returning to the top flight for the first time since 2016/17 through the playoffs.

Daley Blind has been one of Girona's best signings – Photo by Icon Sport

1. Girona

The final club on our list are Girona, fresh off a remarkable third-placed La Liga campaign.

City Football Group purchased 44.3% of the club in 2017, and were the group’s first European venture after Manchester City. Interestingly, another 44.3% of the club was purchased by ‘Girona Football Group’, a consortium controversially led by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola’s brother, Pere.

But whatever the opinions may be on that takeover, results on the pitch have been miraculous over the past year. After finishing 10th in their first season back amongst Spain's elite, Girona have exceeded all expectations in 2023/24, guaranteeing their maiden Champions League appearance with some incredible runs of form.

Thanks much to some particularly sharp shooting from Artem Dovbyk, they've also managed to break a streak of 11 La Liga seasons where Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid locked out the podium. They will finish third irrespective of what happens on La Liga‘s upcoming final weekend.

Girona's links with Man City have played a very obvious part in this success, with 16 transfers involving their sister club since the takeover.

William Evans is a football and politics fanatic. A first-class graduate of UEA's Broadcast and Digital Journalism MA course, he also achieved a first class degree in politics and media studies during his time at UEA.