During All Or Nothing, Manchester City’s recent documentary, there was a revealing contrast between the intensity of manager Pep Guardiola on the training pitch and the coolness of the club’s boardroom, where Txiki Begiristain plotted his next move in the transfer market.
Swivelling in his white leather chair, City’s director of football gave the impression that he was several moves ahead of his opponents.
Having Abu Dhabi owners, who have spent approximately £1.4bn on players alone during their 10-year reign clearly helps, but the former Barcelona director is keen to impress that it’s money spent well.
In a rare interview, he tells BBC Sport why some people cannot be trusted to spend money wisely, why City won’t tear up the team if they don’t succeed and why they are not yet feared in Europe.
‘We want to win this race. We need to do it fast’
“You can give money to all kinds of people.
“There are people who work and they do well and they spend all the money, and for nothing. They enjoy life for three or four years.
“Then you give money to people who want to do well. Of course, they have to run and do it quick – but they spend the money and it stays there. Then you see the project, the philosophy, the way to work, a way to play. Once we get success doing it this way, we know that it is going to stay here forever.
“It is true that we have spent a lot of money – that is because we want to move fast. We want to win this race. We need to do it fast. We need to spend the money.
“The other clubs got there because they have been spending money for 50-60 years. They have been signing the best players in the world, spending a lot of money that Manchester City could not spend.”
‘You don’t need to change 11 players every year’
“I know we cannot win all the time but that is the target. Everyone coming to this club has to know that we are here to win.
“Not winning is a failure. Of course, it is going to happen. We are not here to think: ‘We won the league last year, we will win it again in three years.’
“The club stays; the people do not. People need to be successful, otherwise others will come. They are not coming here just to enjoy life – they are coming to fight to win.
“We know if we don’t win, it doesn’t mean everyone will be out. If you fight, if you play well, if people are happy, if the idea is good and the idea works, then you change a couple of pieces in the squad and you are back again.
“You don’t need to change 11 players every year. You need to change two or three.
“If you win, you need to bring someone in to create competition. If not, you have to improve some pieces, but the idea stays and the work is there to try and win again.”
Are European clubs intimidated by coming to the Etihad?
“Not yet. We need to face those kinds of games. Getting to the semi-finals of the Champions League is the main target. Having the experience of playing in semi-finals helps you get to the finals.
“We have to become a winning club. It doesn’t mean we have to win the Premier League for the next 10 years. It means we have to fight for the title – really fight, be there.
“If you do that, you know you are going to fight for the Champions League. It is a matter of getting the experience to play in those games: that game to win the league; that game to win the semi-final of the Champions League. You need time for this.
“We are getting there. It is closer than we think. What happened last season helps now to become one of the favourites for everything. This is the pressure.
“It is not only about the players you have. It is also what the club means for the opponent. If you go to [Real Madrid’s stadium] the Bernabeu, you are playing against 11 players but you are also playing against the stadium, the history, everything. That history, that stadium, those players, affects everything – the opponent, the referee.
“The only way to become one of them is to always be a winning club.”
Do you plan to get more young Mancunians in the team?
“We are already working on it.
“The City Football Academy is a signal from the owners that they are going to be here for a long time, that they believe in this city and this club, and that project has a long life.
“There are two ways of finding talent. One is to look in the elite development squad and find who is coming through, who are the big names for the under-16s and under-18s. The other is when scouts come with names but they need to see the level we have here at home.
“If someone is coming they have to be better than what we have in the under-16s. One of the key things in our strategy, in all ages, is to try to bring in the best talent in the world.
“We start with English players, but then at 16 we can bring some talent in from Europe, so they have to compete with the English talent. Then when they are 18, we can bring players in from all over the world.
“I have to work for the next two seasons. You see the squad – who is coming down, who is coming up, which positions. We have very good people but you have to be ready.
“Some of the young players can get unbelievable offers from other clubs. You have to understand who wants to move, who wants to stay and what the risk is of losing players.
“You always have to be working on new talent coming. See the market – who is finishing his contract, who is not.
“There are three months [in the transfer window] that are unbelievable. Everyone is working, trying to find new talent.”