Manchester City vs Barcelona: Familiar faces on and off the pitch

Arguably the tie of the Champions League last 16 draw has pitted Manchester City against Barcelona; the contenders for European dominance to take on the most successful side on the continent in recent years.

Despite a friendly fixture between the sides in 2009, these clashes will be the first time that the teams have faced each other in a competitive environment.

Regardless of this fact, there will be a level of familiarity in the tie, as a number of former figures from the Camp Nou outfit now are on the books of the English powerhouses.

Ferran Soriano acts as the current chief executive officer of Manchester City, but spent a five-year spell as finance vice-president of the Catalan club between 2003 and 2008.

The multi-lingual executive was held responsible for increasing profits at the Camp Nou club while Joan Laporta presided in Catalunya. In September 2012 he was brought to the Etihad Stadium and charged with the global promotion and monetisation of the newly-rich Premier League outfit. However, he has faced the brunt of Sandro Rosell’s anger at City’s reported offensive approach to pry key figures away from Barcelona.

Txiki Begiristain played for the La Liga giants for seven years on the pitch, and spent the same length of time as the director of football at Barcelona between 2003 and 2010.

He now fulfills the same role at City, and has the job of instilling some of the effective football principles found at the Catalan outfit in the Manchester club.

Yaya TouréOne man will be determined to achieve success on the pitch, as he takes on his former employers. Yaya Touré wore the Blaugrana jersey for three years between 2007 and 2010, winning two La Liga titles and the Champions League crown.

Despite this, the presence of homegrown hero Sergio Busquets meant that the Ivorian was not guaranteed a consistent place in the Barcelona starting XI, and he was forced to play at centre-half on occasion also – most notably in a European final.

Touré was allowed to leave Camp Nou in 2010 to join City, and has matured into one of the best central midfielders in the world at the Etihad Stadium. The African was in the shadow of the likes of Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Busquets during his time at the Spanish club, and was a victim of not being a La Masia graduate.

When City take on Barcelona in the first leg at the Etihad Stadium in February, expect Touré to a driving force in the hosts’ attempts to overpower, outmuscle and comprehensively beat their opponents. The talisman certainly has nothing to prove to himself, the City hierarchy or the football community in England.

However, he will hope to make Barcelona regret their willingness to allow him to leave Catalunya, as he is a much more rounded and complete player now than he was in his time in Spain.

The victor of this tie has every chance of going all the way in this season’s Champions League, with 180 minutes of top-class action guaranteed. The tie is also a symbolic match-up between the old and new powers in the European game, and with a number of familiar faces thrown into the mix it should be an explosive encounter.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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