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In defence of Omar Berrada – A Week in the City



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They might not have played a football game this weekend but that didn’t stop Manchester City from having some drama, as David Ornstein broke the news that City Group Head of Footballing Operations, Omar Berrada was swapping the blue side of Manchester for the red side of Trafford.

The news came as a bit of a shock to everybody, with there being absolutely zero noise made about any potential switch of job before it was announced, which I suppose is par for the course for any job change. In the very public world of football, however, things rarely remain private, particularly when you’re dealing with Manchester United, who are leakier than Old Trafford’s roof.

The move provoked a lot of strong reaction on X (formerly Twitter) in certain quarters. I’m still seeing snake and rat emojis now when he’s discussed in conversation, I suspect the replies to the tweet of this article will contain a fair few. Of course, to us fans, the idea of ever switching allegiance from Manchester City to United is unfathomable, but there’s a rather important factor to consider here – Omar Berrada isn’t a City fan.

Now, if his old tweets are anything to go by, he’s not exactly a United fan either. He enjoyed a bit of Berting in his early years. However, ultimately he’s part of the business world, not the football world.

“But Manchester City are a football club!” I hear the cries, “How can this not be the football world?!”

Omar Berrada’s not out on the pitch at the Etihad Stadium every other week as 50,000 fans chant his name. Omar Berrada’s not celebrating with fans every week, soaking in the visceral experience of being involved with Manchester City. Omar Berrada’s not scoring any 13-second volleys against Manchester United in the FA Cup final or last minute winners against QPR.

Omar Berrada’s in an office somewhere at the Etihad Campus looking at spreadsheets. His sponsorship deals are not met with applause and cheers from thousands of loyal Mancunians which root him to the club and the community – if anything his best work has led to 115 charges being alleged against the club because nobody believes that he can possibly be that good at his job. It’s both the greatest compliment and also the greatest frustration a man in his position can experience.

He joined the club alongside Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain as part of the Barcelona contingent which have become synonymous with many City fans’ ideas of where the success has truly come from. The three of them are, for all their faults (and there’s many issues I have with the way they’ve run the club at points), unrivalled operators in their sphere and many have seen them as a trio which has risen through the club, particularly Berrada, whose LinkedIn page shows his rise through Manchester City and CFG in just under 13 years.

That’s an ambitious man if I’ve ever seen one. Ambitious men don’t often settle for jobs that are below the best they can possibly achieve and, whether we like it or not, CEO is probably the endgame when it comes to football clubs at a boardroom level. There’s been a school of thought that Berrada has been groomed to take over from CEO when Ferran Soriano eventually hangs up his European Super League flags and annual season ticket price increase emails and decides to call it a day.

The club are implying this isn’t the case, suggesting that it’s the CFG’s Chief Operating Officer, Roel de Vries (nope, me neither), who’s been touted as the one to take over. But regardless of how true that is, there’s no way Berrada didn’t think he had a shot or that it wasn’t his ambition to make it there one day.

For whatever reason, Berrada has obviously got the impression that the top job at City isn’t going to become available in the short term. Meanwhile, United have made their decision and, in an uncharacteristically sensible move, shot their shot.

Berrada has looked at the challenge of restoring a rudderless, anchorless, captainless ship to its former glory and, as any ambitious man who backs himself would, has decided to take it on. Of course, it ends one of two ways. Either the ship rises from the depths like the Durmstrang Ship in The Goblet of Fire, proud and majestic as Victor Krum leads the charge to glory, or his submersible is vaporised into dust as he attempts to investigate the wreckage of the Titanic.

Some fans have taken to the news as if it was Pep or Kevin De Bruyne jumping ship and not a member of Manchester City’s back office whose job title most people probably couldn’t identify this time last week. Boardroom members are certainly not people I’ve gained any emotional attachment towards but maybe I’m the weird one here.

He’s been offered a CEO job, an objective promotion for a man of his ambition, at (whether we like it or not) the head of one of the most recognisable sporting brands on the planet. He’d be an absolute moron to turn that down just so that he doesn’t hurt Ferran Soriano’s feelings and some City fans on Twitter don’t call him a rodent.

There are some other arguments that are more tangible than “yeah but he’s a snake because it’s United innit”. There’s the argument that, with relations between United and City being notoriously frosty, even when you remove the footballing aspect of things it’s still a rival move in a business sense and that there should be some loyalty felt to his current employers.

This is a pretty reasonable argument and I wouldn’t necessarily blame anybody for holding that opinion. However if we’re going to use boardroom relations as a barometer of whether or not Berrada can leave City to join them or not, then Berrada can only take backwards steps.

The rest of the “Big Six” (potentially with the exception of Chelsea) hate City and I’d be amazed if the atmosphere between City and any one of United, Liverpool, Arsenal or Spurs are notably different. If years of campaigning to get City convicted of any charges possible both within the Premier League and UEFA wasn’t already a big enough indication, the way the clubs went about the Super League behind City’s back before catching them on the hop at the eleventh hour and putting them in a terrible position was probably the nail in the coffin. To City, rivals are just rivals. I could be totally wrong but I just don’t think they see United (at boardroom level) as markedly different to Liverpool or Arsenal.

So that immediately rules out any other Premier League club, which is most of the biggest club jobs in the world. That just leaves Bayern Munich, who hate City, Real Madrid, who were equally as compliant in the Super League fiasco, PSG, who are a huge geopolitical issue, and Barcelona, who are a dumpster fire for all sorts of different reasons.

So where can Berrada go? Literally nowhere of a similar stature to Manchester City.

Another argument is that Berrada is now going to effectively be trying to undo the work that his friends at City have been putting together for the last decade. Well, I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. He’ll be trying to compete, yes, however the point has been raised by others (one which I’d not even begun to consider) that on a political level it might actually be a move which benefits City.

At these Premier League meetings, City are currently backed against a wall when it comes to the rest of the big clubs. We’re seen as the ones who are obvious cheats because of 115 charges blah blah blah, we probably don’t have many allies when it comes to the way we do business. However, we’ve just let our Chief Football Operations Officer and former Senior VP. Group Commercial Director join one of the select few clubs with the most sway in the league.

So yes, he’ll be trying to compete with Manchester City, which is his job really. If he went to any other club, he’d be trying to compete with City. At that point, it’s not a United problem, that’s just a “he’s not working for City anymore” problem, which is quite frankly unavoidable unless he stays at City for the rest of his working life. But he’d also be a sympathetic voice amongst our dissenting rivals when it comes to board meetings. He’s obviously absolutely fine with the way City operate, so he’s unlikely to suddenly change his views on this.

If you’re willing to just accept that your emotional reaction to a businessman leaving one company for their competitor is just a silly football reaction to something which is actually quite far removed from football, then that’s fine. Not going to blame you for the initial emotional response. However if you’re going to genuinely hold a grudge against our former Director of Commercial Parterships then maybe you’re just too much of a tippety tip top Bert for me.

By far the worst thing about the move is that it’s actually quite a serious move for the notoriously un-serious Manchester United. There’s absolutely zero doubt that Berrada would never have dreamed of entertaining this move had the Glazers still been in charge, so the fact he’s decided to go on the arrival of Ratcliffe means that he’s been sold a pretty decent project. He’s also somebody whose track record implies he’ll be a very capable man to lead them into their next phase, which is a bit of a concern.

There’ll not be an immediate turnaround as they’re currently a bit like that ship which was stuck in the Suez Canal, however this will no doubt speed up the process to some degree.

It is impossible to ignore that there are currently a large number of Premier League charges hanging over Manchester City. Charges which pertain to a period of time, regarding our sponsorship deals and their legitimacy, where Omar Berrada was in a very influential position regarding those sponsorships and commercial deals.

It’s therefore a logical assumption that Manchester United’s hiring of Berrada in spite of this fact, with absolutely nothing decided and his/City’s name by no means currently cleared, means that there is a tacit acceptance, or at the very least a strong expectation, in Stretford that there’s very little chance of any serious charges sticking.

We can all laugh at the absolute mental asylum (or whatever the politically correct term is for those these days) that United have been over the last decade, and we’d all be right to, however Jimmy boy is sadly not the Glazers. He’s actually a semi-competent businessman so, as much as there are plenty of rival fans who are happy to just say “yeah but we all know United are stupid so you can’t rely on that”, we can’t assume Ratcliffe is identical levels of stupid to the Glazers until we’ve actually seen some evidence of that.

The appointment of your first CEO, as the men in charge of running the football operation at United, is, in many ways, more important than even the manager. You don’t employ one of the key figures in what is allegedly potentially the biggest cheat job in sporting history when you’re going to be under severely intense scrutiny if it goes wrong if you think there’s even a 1% chance that he’s going down with some fraud charges pretty soon.

Who knows, this appointment of Berrada could turn out, in 18 months’ time, to be the proof that Ratcliffe actually is every bit as dumb as Joel and Avram Glazer. At least we’ve now found ourselves in a position where, if City do go down, a rather significant and influential part of United in their CEO will be going right down with us.

Some United fans will claim he’s fleeing the sinking ship, rather like, dare I say it, a rat. He’s getting out before the charges hit, which he knows is coming. Unfortunately, to disappoint the likes of Nick Harris, you only need to take one more glance at the LinkedIn job history earlier in the article to know that this is an extremely fanciful dream.

If you want to hear me discuss this in the immediate aftermath of the news, going into more of the arguments around Berrada’s departure and where he fits in with the looming 115 charges, with the full conversation leading to the clips from Andrew Dettmer in the tweet above, then you can hear me do so on the City Report Podcast below.