Transfers Latest: Manchester City swoop Guardiola... Messi next?
A dream four years in the making was finally realised when Pep Guardiola was announced as Manchester City's next manager, a development the club's billionaire owners hope will transform world football on and off the field.
On it, the respected 44-year-old, currently seeing out his final season with Bayern Munich, will be handed the simple target of winning the Champions League within the three-year contract he has agreed, and which will pay him a reported 20 million euros ($21 million) a season.
Off the field, and into the realm of football finance and commercialisation, City believe Guardiola will eventually help elevate them to the level of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona, not only because of his own profile and standing in the sports world but because of the quality of player he will be able to attract to Eastlands.
A mooted attempt to sign Barcelona's star striker Lionel Messi has long since been back page gossip for English tabloid newspapers but now, with the world's wealthiest club having signed, arguably, the world's best manager, such a move no longer sounds quite so fanciful.
It is precisely that kind of signing City will be hoping to pull off this year, in an attempt to improve on their displays in Europe which have so far seen them fail to progress beyond the last 16 of the Champions League.
But, of more far-reaching importance, the arrival of a global footballing icon like Messi would help City in their aim to become the most famous and successful football club on the planet, instead of just the wealthiest.
Signings such as David Silva and Sergio Aguero rank among the greatest talent ever seen in the Premier League but those players, and the rest of the current City squad, lack the commercial clout and presence carried by a Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar.
A deal late last year saw Chinese consortium CMC invest £265 million for a stake in City, leading to reports the club will tour China later this year, where Guardiola may be unveiled for the first time.
In such relatively 'new' football markets, Guardiola will carry far more impact than his predecessor Manuel Pellegrini and the level of high-class superstar City could now attract will lift the club even higher in terms of their global presence.
This was the vision City had in 2012 when they first approached Guardiola before being rebuffed and turning to Pellegrini as a distant second choice a year later.
City's Spanish executives Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain continued to drive the courtship, with Guardiola's move eventually developing into the worst-kept secret in the industry.
"The team is going to play way better football and that is some statement because they already play great some great football at times," said former Barcelona forward, now TV pundit Thierry Henry.
"They will play better under him. He will come in and some guys are going to have to leave the place, trust me.
"When he came to Barcelona he wanted some players out. He did the same to Bayern Munich.
"He will do the same in Manchester. The one thing you can be sure of - he wants to dominate."
That will be music to the ears of City executives and one thing appears guaranteed about the new regime at the club - there will be plenty of activity in the close-season transfer window.
Guardiola must determine whether injury-prone club captain Vincent Kompany is the man around whom he can build his defence.
It would also appear to be the end of the road for fans' favourite Yaya Toure who fell out of favour in their time at the Nou Camp.
Of course, it is the incomings that will make for greater interest and a number of his former stars at Bayern and Barcelona will inevitably be linked with City.
English clubs took their spending on players for the season soaring past 1 billion pounds on Monday, but the biggest signing on transfer deadline day.
A relatively quiet final day for Europe's mid-season transfer window saw the biggest deals done by mid-table Premier League clubs.
Everton shelled out 13.5 million pounds to bring Senegal striker Oumar Niasse from Russian Premier League club Lokomotiv Moscow while Stoke City shattered their club record by signing French midfielder Giannelli Imbula from Porto for 18.3 million pounds shortly before the window closed.
Deloitte said the 175 million pounds ($252.42 million) spent by English clubs was the highest for a January transfer window since the 225 million spent in the 2010/11 window.
Manchester City, who spent 100 million pounds in the summer to bring in Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, did not add to their squad in the window but Guardiola is unlikely to be the only big-name arrival at the Abu Dhabi United Group-owned club in July.
City's current manager, Manuel Pellegrini, stunned a pre-match news conference on Monday by saying he would leave the club on June 30.
Shortly afterwards, City announced that Bayern Munich manager Guardiola, one of the world's most respected coaches who won 14 titles in four years at Barcelona, including the Champions League twice, had agreed a three-year contract.
His arrival will more give weight to the Premier League's claim to being most attractive league in the world.
City's rivals sat up and took notice, with Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp saying Guardiola was on a mission to conquer Europe.
"Pep won everything in Spain, nearly everything in Germany, so I think he wants to win everything in England, that is clear."
Unfashionable Stoke, who sit ninth in the Premier League, broke their transfer record when signing Swiss forward Xherdan Shaqiri from Inter Milan in August for 12 million pounds but blew past that figure with the capture of Imbula on Monday.
Relegation-threatened Newcastle United spent a reported 25 million pounds on England internationals Andros Townsend from Tottenham Hotspur and Jonjo Shelvey from Swansea City.
Fellow strugglers Sunderland also made a clutch of signings while Watford, Bournemouth and Norwich City have all been busy.
Ominously for fans of bottom club Aston Villa though, not a penny was spent to boost their seemingly hopeless task of avoiding relegation, leading to speculation about the future of manager Remi Garde.
"We've seen Premier League clubs again use the January window to invest significantly in playing talent," Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, said.
"Total gross spending this season has reached £1bn for the first time."
The big-spenders were not limited to the Premier League.
Such is the lure of the riches in the top flight that Championship promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough pulled off one of the biggest deadline day deals by signing Scotland striker Jordan Rhodes from Blackburn Rovers for an undisclosed fee reported to be around nine million pounds.
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