"All I knew is that I wanted to go to Europe.”
The January transfer window has seen a major signing for Manchester United in Omar Berrada.
But he is not a player for Erik ten Hag to slot into his squad. Berrada is the club’s new CEO.
The news was announced on January 20, 2024.
A statement read: “Manchester United is pleased to announce the appointment of Omar Berrada as its new CEO.
“The club is determined to put football and performance on the pitch back at the heart of everything we do. Omar’s appointment represents the first step on this journey.
“As one of the most experienced football executives at the top of European football, Omar brings a wealth of football and commercial expertise, with a proven record of successful leadership and a passion to help lead change across the club.
“He is currently serving as chief football operations officer for City Football Group overseeing 11 clubs across five continents and, prior to this, held senior roles at Barcelona.
“It is our stated ambition to re-establish Manchester United as a title-winning club.
“We are pleased that Omar will be joining us to help achieve that goal, so that, once again, United fans can see, in the words of Sir Matt Busby, the red flag flying high at the summit of English, European and world football.”
“Omar’s start date will be confirmed in due course; in the meantime, Patrick Stewart will continue as interim CEO.”
It is a huge appointment for Manchester United as Berrada had been Chief Football Operations Officer for City Football Group, which owns rivals Manchester City.
But who is Omar Berrada and what can he bring to help Manchester United reclaim their past glory?
Omar Berrada was born in France to Moroccan parents, however, he spent a lot of time growing up in the United States.
In 2004, he joined Barcelona as its head of sponsorship.
On his first venture into football, Berrada said:
“My first university experience was in the US but only for six months.
“I was going to do an engineering degree at a university in Massachusetts but I decided that it wasn’t for me.
“So in the middle of the school year, in December, I decided to leave and change. All I knew is that I wanted to go to Europe.”
Berrada has been part of Manchester City’s City Football Group (CFG) since 2011, joining as head of international business.
He worked his way up the City hierarchy through various roles such as Senior Vice President Group Commercial Director before becoming the team’s Chief Operating Officer in 2016.
Berrada was moved into a senior role in the City Football Group in 2020 and it is from that Chief Football Operations Office role with CFG that United have plucked him to be their new CEO.
Will it be a Loss for Manchester City?
Berrada’s ascension within Manchester City and CFG is a testament to his significant impact, making his departure a substantial loss for both the Premier League and the European champions.
With a history of close collaboration with City’s Director of Football Txiki Begiristain, his absence will necessitate a thorough reevaluation and restructuring of a crucial aspect of the business.
Anticipating United’s potential improvement under Berrada’s leadership, there is a recognition that they could pose a renewed threat in the coming years.
Beyond his commercial acumen, Omar Berrada was acknowledged for his growing influence in financial aspects of player negotiations, such as Aymeric Laporte’s signing in 2018.
Despite City’s on-field success in recent years, the meticulous selection of his replacement becomes imperative to prevent any destabilisation within the Premier League champions.
A Big Deal for Manchester United
On the other hand, the appointment looks to be a big deal for Manchester United.
The Red Devils are in disarray both on and off the field.
Fans have been clamouring for a CEO so that there is a figure keeping an eye on recruitment as well as the club’s long-term vision.
Berrada’s appointment will not change things overnight but it is a strong message to send within the first month of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s entry into the club.
Not only will things change but the long-term future looks bright enough for one of City’s top executives to cross over to the red side of Manchester.
Omar Berrada is an expert across the sporting and non-sporting areas, having witnessed Manchester City’s successful business model.
His main challenge is to get to grips with United’s current disarray and establish a workable model based on his experience with City.
Berrada & INEOS
Omar Berrada’s CEO appointment is the first big move to bring Manchester United back closer to the upper echelon of football’s elite.
After Sir Jim Ratcliffe acquired a 25% stake in the club, Sir Dave Brailsford was tasked with undertaking an audit of the club’s football operations.
Berrada’s early involvement with INEOS indicates that Ratcliffe means serious business and suggests a departure from the Glazer family’s tendency to reward mediocrity from within.
Despite years of underachievement, Manchester United still holds significant commercial influence and a large fan base.
There is an expectation that these assets will be utilised more effectively under new leadership, putting an end to the era of underutilising the club’s commercial might in recent years.
How he could unlock United’s Transfer Potential
Manchester United has been known for its legendary players but in recent years, one of the biggest criticisms is Manchester United’s transfer policy.
Players are being signed for huge sums but then fail to perform on the pitch. Meanwhile, outgoing players are sold for meagre amounts.
An example of this is talented midfielder Zidane Iqbal being sold to Dutch side Utrecht for a reported £850,000.
As CEO, Omar Berrada will oversee the recruitment of players which could, in turn, unlock United’s transfer potential.
In May 2021, he explained his outlook on building a squad:
“It always has been about finding the right squad balance between young players, players who are at their peak and players who can bring more experience.
“It has not been about investing in superstars, we like to find the right players and with time they become superstars because of the success of the team.
“It’s about ensuring that we find players that can adapt to our style of play, believe in our culture in place and then buy into it.
“We love making investments in players at different age levels and them blossoming and reaching their highest potential.”
A key example is Kevin De Bruyne. Berrada kept a close eye on him at Wolfsburg.
Since moving to City, De Bruyne has been regarded as one of the world’s best midfielders.
A more recent example is Julian Alvarez, who was a relative unknown when he was signed from River Plate. But his ability to seamlessly transition to European football has been incredible to witness.
Manchester United’s Financial Results
United recently disclosed its financial results for the first quarter of the 2023/24 season.
Notable points included a nearly 10% increase in the wage bill, attributed to new player acquisitions like Rasmus Hojlund, Andre Onana and Mason Mount.
The return to Champions League football also played a role, as the 25% wage cut from the previous season was lifted.
Despite a small pre-tax operating profit of £2 million, post-tax losses amounted to £26 million, including a £7 million tax credit.
Although Manchester City faces a commission hearing over alleged breaches of Profit and Sustainability Regulations (PSR), they continue to thrive financially, surpassing £700 million in revenues for the 2022/23 season.
In terms of player trading profit over the past five years, Manchester City ranks third, while Manchester United ranks 15th, trailing even smaller clubs like Burnley and Watford.
This reflects a flawed recruitment strategy impacting United’s ability to comply with PSR.
Despite United’s substantial spending, they have lacked a clear strategy in player trading, selling only £199 million worth of talent in five years.
The arrival of Omar Berrada could signal a shift in United’s approach.
While not an immediate solution, his influence might bring about strategic changes, addressing longstanding issues and potentially proving more impactful than recent high-profile signings.
Omar Berrada’s appointment as Manchester United CEO looks to be a positive in steering the club back in the right direction.
His experience during his time at Manchester City is welcoming.
However, it is reported that he will not officially assume the role until the summer.