MANCHESTER - Big-spending Manchester City aim to develop home-grown talent as they seek to conform to European financial fair play rules and submitted plans on Monday for a training centre they believe will be the best in the world.
Since being taken over by Sheikh Mansour three years ago, City have spent more than 600 million pounds on building a team that is among the favourites for the Premier League title.
That level of spending is unsustainable in the long-term though, the club says, and would also be difficult under European governing body UEFA's new financial fair play rules that aim to stop reckless spending on wages and transfer fees.
City believe the proposed training complex near their Etihad Stadium will be better than those such as AC Milan's renowned Milanello and will produce top players for club and country.
"We know that youth development has to be at the heart of this club. Investment in the transfer market has helped us reach a certain level, to stay there will take investment in player development, welfare and top-class facilities," chief football operations officer Brian Marwood told reporters.
"Everybody is getting quite concerned about financial fair play, it's not just us. We are quite comfortable in terms of the work we have done to date, we know we still have a huge amount of work still to do before we conform.
"This is part of that process - develop your own home-grown talent is a big part of what we do."
The rules say spending cannot exceed revenue from TV rights, gate receipts, competition prize money and sponsorship. Clubs that do not conform face expulsion from European competition.
Having just embarked on their first campaign in the elite Champions League, the last thing City want is to fall foul of those rules. Spending on infrastructure and youth development do not count as expenditure under the regulations.
City could not give details of the cost of the project which includes a 7,000-seater stadium for youth matches, 15 full-size pitches and accommodation on an 80-acre site.
It submitted the plans to the city council on Monday and said it expected to get a decision by the end of the year. The club is hopeful of getting the green light as the project includes commitments to providing community facilities.
Project consultant Nick Smith, who said City had done their research at clubs like Barcelona and Arsenal as well as training centres for non-football clubs such as the LA Lakers and New York Giants, added it would be "the world's best training facility."
Marwood said that seeing how many home-grown players European champions Barcelona had fielded in May's Champions League final had given City something to aspire to.
"If you look at Barcelona, they had eight home-grown players in the Champions League final and which is an incredible achievement," he said. "That is something that is an ambition for our football club."
It will not only be City who will benefit from the training centre with the club's former midfielder Patrick Vieira saying the England national side could also reap rewards.
"When you look at England, the number of players they produced in the last few years - I don't think they have produced enough talent," Vieira, now city's Football Development Executive, told reporters. "This is a lack of facilities maybe.
"I think having the facilities that can produce young players coming through around the country will give more opportunity to create more young players, it could benefit playing for the football club and the national team as well."
A big investment in youth development does not mean the end to City's spending on big name players though.
"I think there will always be a balance in terms of players that you purchase and bring to the club," Marwood said. "We have had accelerated investment for the last three years, we have probably crammed 10 years' worth into three."comments