The Man City Abu Dhabi takeover completely changed the fortunes of the club in the Premier League. Once firmly established as a mid-table club, the takeover in 2008 meant in just a few years Manchester City were battling for the top honours in English football. Having cash-rich owners meant the club's finances saw an influx of funds which directly affected Man City's activities in the transfer market.
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Former Man City defender, Pablo Zabaleta revealed that after the Man City Abu Dhabi takeover was completed, players in the locker room joked about the club signing some of the top stars in world football like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. In 2008, Cristiano Ronaldo played for Man City's arch-rivals Man United before he left the following year to join Spanish giants Real Madrid. Meanwhile, Lionel Messi has so far been a one-club man and continues to be a key player for Barcelona.
Speaking to La Nacion, Pablo Zabaleta revealed that the club owners were looking to make some big-money signings after the takeover and the players jokingly prepared to welcome Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi at the club. Zabaleta said, "Ten days after my arrival, the purchase of the club by the people of Abu Dhabi is executed. Four days later, they invest £40 million for Robinho and there I said, 'Now what do I do? I'm going to last six months here.'"
🗣| Zabaleta says City players joked about Messi and Ronaldo signings after takeover..— City Chief (@City_Chief) May 7, 2020
“We took it a bit as a joke and...in the locker room we started putting 'Messi', 'Cristiano Ronaldo'. We were sh*tting ourselves."
[via Goal] pic.twitter.com/iHeuKyYG5Y
Despite not being able to sign Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, the Man City owner did splash heft amount of cash in signing some of the top talents in world football. The likes of Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho, Eliaquim Mangala, Kevin De Bruyne, Aymeric Laporte, Riyadh Mahrez and Rodri joined the club for a sizeable transfer fee. Last summer, Man City owners signed Rodri from Atletico Madrid for a club-record transfer fee of £62.8 million (€70 million). The signing of top players along with incoming managers had a direct impact on the field as Man City won the Premier League title four times last decade and lifted a host of other domestic trophies.
Meanwhile, Pablo Zabaleta left Man City for West Ham in 2017 after playing over 300 games for the club. While stuck in quarantine, the 35-year-old is left contemplating early retirement from football as sporting activities remains halted due to COVID-19 outbreak. Zabaleta admitted he wished he could have another year in top football in a different country. However, the current lockdown means his future plans are uncertain.