It seems that every week there is a new rumour concerning the City Football Group and who they will purchase next One week it's a team in France, next it is China

What is for sure is that CFG, of which Manchester City is the biggest team, is quietly changing the way football is run City Football Group was founded in January 2013 as a holding company for its sports properties, owned and operated by the Abu Dhabi United Group That, in turn, is owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, one of the most powerful member's of the Abu Dhabi royal family in the United Arab Emirates CFG owns 100 per cent of Manchester City and Melbourne City FC, the group owns 20 per cent of Japanese club Yokohama F Marinos and owns 80 per cent of NYCFC The other 20 per cent is held by Yankee Global Enterprises, the American owners of the iconic New York Yankees baseball team, controlled by the family of George Steinbrenner

Last year CFG added two more properties; Club Atlético Torque in Uruguay and, most controversially, a 443% share in the Spanish club Girona An identical 443% share was owned by Pere Guardiola, Pep's brother Manchester City Women, alongside partnerships with clubs and academies across the world, from Ghana to Denmark, also come under CFG's umbrella, as do a number of companies offering marketing and other services

The aim, according to chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak, is to spread the City brand on a global stage “We have an ambition as a football group to have an organisation that is global and that will have multiple clubs as part of it,” Mubarak cold the club's in-house TV channel, CityTV The clubs have been re-branded to fit parent club Manchester City's look and feel Sometimes sky blue shirts are introduced, sometimes badges are redesigned, sometimes the name of the club is changed altogether As happened in 2014 when the group bought Melbourne Heart and controversially changed its name to Melbourne City FC

Business deals have followed connected to the Abu Dhabi royal family Manchester City famously signed a ten year, £400 million sponsorship deal with Etihad Airways, the national carrier of United Arab Emirates Given the huge increase from any previous sponsorship deal – and the fact that the company is effectively run by one of Sheikh Mansour's close relatives, Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan – the deal caught the attention of UEFA, who suspected that the deal didn't represent a fair market rate In the end UEFA approved the sponsorship deal, but fined the club a record £49 million for its lavish spending Those sponsorship deals have continued across the globe

Etihad signed a shirt sponsorship deal with NYCFC and also appears on the front of the Melbourne City FC's shirts A massive new kit deal was just signed with Puma which would apply to all CSG teams, except NYCFC, who are obliged to wear Adidas due to a tie up with MLS These globalised commercial deals – alongside booming TV rights revenue – and the shifting of some costly salaries from City on to its group, has helped to make Manchester City profitable, something that seemed impossible a few years ago given the £1 billion plus spent on transfers since Sheikh Mansour bought the club from deposed Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2008 Last year City announced that they had made a profit for a third year running, of just over £1 million in 2016-17 There was also record breaking revenue of close to £473

4million, placing City in the financial elite of world football And yet not all is rosy with how CFG operates, with its globalised stable of clubs raising issues about conflict of interests and controversy surrounding the movement of players between teams with the group When Spain international David Villa signed for NYCFC, he first went to Melbourne City FC for a month to gain match sharpness before being shipped back to New York for the start of of the season And then there was the issue of Frank Lampard, signed to NYCFC to much fanfare Instead, he went on loan to Manchester City

CFG later said the NYCFC announcement had been a mistake, but one that had far-reaching consequences The affair had shone a light on City Football Group, who were creating a network of clubs where players and staff might be interchangeable, potentially circumventing local transfer rules and creating all sorts of potential conflicts of interest There had long been worries about owners taking control of multiple clubs but this was clearly a structure UEFA and other governing bodies weren't prepared for At the start of 2016 the issue came up again, in relation to the signing of 23 year old Australian midfielder Anthony Caceres City paid his club the Central Coast Mariners the A$325,000 fee and promptly loaned him to Melbourne City FC

The move incensed Melbourne City's rivals as cash transfers between clubs are banned in the A League The head of Sydney FC, Tony Pignata tweeted that he believed “Caceres to City is wrong How can FFA allow this? There are no transfers between A-League clubs, yet it seems you can bypass” It left the the Football Federation Australia scrambling to close the loophole before it happened again His loan deal was extended for another season, before being loaned to Al Wasl in the UAE

He has now been loaned again to Melbourne City FC There is perhaps another issue other than clever financial tricks to keep City and its group afloat and in profit: the homogenisation of global football culture Mubarak has stated that the four clubs are just the start “I would say when the opportunity arises – and we are looking at opportunities – you can expect us to add to the number of clubs we have already within the organisation,” he told CityTV One next stop is likely to be China

Premier Xi Jinping, the man at the heart of China's current football revolution, visited City's training ground in 2015 A few months later, City Football Group sold a 13 per cent stake of the company to China Media Capital and CITIC Capital for close to $400 million, valuing the club at an astonishing $3 billion CMC was founded by Li Ruigang, often referred to as the “Rupert Murdoch” of China He is now a member of the CFG board Khaldoon al Mubarak said the move would “leverage the incredible potential that exists in China”

Yet some worry what this model – super imposing a uniform club culture around the world — will do for indigenous grass roots football “One danger is foreign clubs who see the opportunities in China actually doing something they would never do in their own market Branding locally,” said Rowan Simons, author of Bamboo Goalposts, a book about football's turbulent history in China “In the Beijing grass roots league you'd have Barcelona teams 1,2,3, where the branding goes all the way down and you won't have any organic teams with their own identity What a horrible world it would be if we one day we would see Barcelona Beijing v Manchester City Beijing FC” The model of borderless super brand football groups is likely to be replicated elsewhere, given the success so far of City Football Group as well as companies like Red Bull and the Pozzo family Even the likes of Leicester City's owner has dipped his toe in to owning a club in Belgium's second division as are AS Monaco Qatar's Aspire Academy has also purchased clubs in Belgium and Spain

UEFA's regulations aren't really built for this new form of ownership structure, which will become much more prevalent as the richest clubs get even richer Europe's governing body was faced with such a problem when Red Bull Salzburg in Austria and RB Leipzig in Germany both qualified, despite both being connected to the parent company of Red Bull The current rules ban the same owner having two teams in the same competition for the sake of integrity But UEFA's Club Financial Control Body approved both team's appearances The future of club football, it seems, is international