City Football Group does a three-way handshake to bring Troyes loanee Sávio from Girona to Manchester in the summer

Controversial or just business Sávvy player swapping?

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 6th February 2024

The transfer window might be closed but Manchester City have managed to secure an acquisition in time for next season as they have reportedly agreed a deal to bring La Liga star Sávio to the club in a few months’ timebut, technically, he’s already on the book at the City Football Group.

For anyone unaware of the City Football Group (CFG) structure, the Abu Dhabi United Group run the football-based holding company which in turn operates 13 different clubs around the world, including Man City, Girona, New York City FC, Troyes AC and Palermo, just to name a few.

All that being said, Sávio, who is currently on loan from the aforementioned French team Troyes, has lit up the Spanish league ever since he joined Girona back in 2022, of which the CFG currently own 47%.

With five goals and seven assists to his name and shining as one of the key players in the club’s remarkable title charge this season, having finished sixth in Spain’s second tier just a short while ago in 21/22 and only just managing promotion through the playoffs, City are now set to bring him to the Etihad.

Since all three clubs are owned by the CFG and the overarching private equity company, very little money is likely to change hands.

While Blues will rightly be excited about the eventual arrival of the 19-year-old Brazilian winger, who claims he had lucrative offers from multiple clubs but refused as he knew “one day [he] would play for City”, football fans elsewhere are wondering if this is all kosher.


As The Athletic‘s Nick Miller shared in a post via X: “A classic bit of multi-club nimble footwork this. Savio was signed by City Football Group’s Troyes – their record signing, in fact – but has never played for them, was loaned immediately to City Football Group’s Girona, & is now being sold to City Football Group’s Manchester City.

One commenter said, “This has to be illegal there’s no way this is possible”, while another particularly sarcastic remark read: “These negotiations must‘ve been incredibly difficult.” Given all three clubs are affiliated, any money exchanged will go back into virtually the same pot.


The fact is, no matter how much you want to question how ‘fair’ moves like this are, it’s considered above board and is by no means the first. Former City fullback Angeliño joined back in 2015 and was immediately loaned out to New York FC and Girona before eventually making just six appearances for his parent club in two years and being ultimately moved on.

Chelsea have been accused of similarly monopolising young talent for many years; Watford and Udinese have all used similar player-swapping methods too alongside the likes of the Red Bull football teams.

Read more:

Jack Harrison’s case was similar only in reverse; he joined New York through their youth programme and was then officially sold to City in 2018 without playing a single game for them in three seasons after being sent straight to Middlesborough and then successive spells at Leeds United before joining them on a permanent deal.

As Miller went on to add, he wasn’t “even suggesting there’s anything wrong with this per se. Just that this is the reality of being in a multi-club group: the smaller teams are no longer independent entities whose success is the ultimate priority – just vessels through which the ‘parent’ club funnels things”.


However, as many others online have noted, the implications this has on said smaller teams like Troyes could prove to be damning, especially when you take into account they were relegated from Ligue 1 last season and could potentially even slip into the French third division if their form continues.

City might be getting yet another extremely promising attacking squad member when Sávio joins them in the summer — with the deal supposedly set to be complete by the end of this month — but he will remain with Girona for the rest of the season as they look to win the league for the first time in their history.

Meanwhile, Troyes, of whom City are still the majority shareholder, could go down yet again whilst watching their most expensive player ever move on without ever even pulling on the shirt.

With everything else hanging over City’s head at the minute, you can at least see why it’s rubbed more than a few people the wrong way.

For all the latest news, events and goings on in Greater Manchester, subscribe to The Manc newsletter HERE.

Featured Images — Savio/Girona FC/La Liga (via Instagram)