The season Girona is putting together in LaLiga has the potential to be the biggest story in the history of the Spanish top flight. After 20 games, the club in the northeast of Spain leads the league. Girona only made its first appearance in LaLiga six years ago. After finishing 10th in the 2022/23 campaign, Girona has emerged into the class of elites in Spain. The club leads the league after 20 games with just one loss.

That is something its ownership group is used to. In August 2017, City Football Group, or CFG, purchased 44% of Girona to add a Spanish side to its impressive portfolio of clubs. The jewel in the crown of those clubs is Manchester City, which has had no shortage of success in England and now Europe. CFG applied that success to Girona, but it did so without the extravagant spending Manchester City experienced when its takeover happened in 2008.

What Girona has been able to do is far more organic, and it is indicative of sustainable growth in LaLiga. Girona is set up for the future to make it successful without the dependency on City Football Group. Here is how the Spanish side joined the upper class of clubs in Spain.

The proper appointments on and off the field

When CFG took over just shy of 50% of the club in 2017, Pere Guardiola became the brains for the Spanish side. Pere Guardiola is the brother of City manager Pep Guardiola. Pere made a name for himself in the soccer world as an agent traditionally representing Portuguese and Spanish players. Some of his more notable clients include Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta, both of whom had immense success with FC Barcelona.

His time as an agent built up the clientele and knowledge base to have a deep understanding of the Spanish soccer scene. Pep Guardiola has always had a knack for identifying talent in players. Perhaps some of that rubbed off on Pere during his spell as an agent. He maintains that position as an agent working with Sports Entertainment Group. His connections there contributed to some of Girona’s recent signings.

None of those are as important as the appointment of Michel as the manager of the club. The Spanish boss was successful in getting clubs into LaLiga. In his first full seasons with Rayo Vallecano, Huesca and then Girona, the clubs earned promotion to the Spanish top flight. However, those clubs instantly fell to the Segunda. Girona has been a different tale. The Catalan club finished 10th in its return to the top flight.

Michel’s tactics led to a free-flowing and fearless style of play that Girona still exhibits today. In the 2022/23 campaign, Girona scored 58 goals in that season. Only four clubs, including Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, scored more goals. Subsequently, Girona’s big flaw was defending. Girona was top five in goals scored, but it was bottom five in goals against with 55 concessions.

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Combining young signings with experienced players

To combat the leaky defense, Girona made several key signings in both seasons that have developed into a far more resolute defensive side. By no means is Girona perfect defensively, but it is a massive step in the right direction to go along with the consistent goal-scoring abilities up top.

Eric Garcia and Daley Blind joined from Barcelona and Bayern Munich, respectively, on loan. The pair has been a mainstay at center-back in Michel’s side.

To their left is Miguel Gutiérrez. Girona signed Gutiérrez from Real Madrid ahead of the 2022/23 campaign. The 21-year-old played in 34 LaLiga games last season. It was not an overtly strong showing in those games, but it was invaluable experience after a total of 10 appearances in two seasons with Real Madrid. This year, Gutierrez has started 19 of Girona’s 20 games. He has been a remarkably consistent presence in his left-back spot with several standout performances.

On the other side of Girona’s defense is Yan Couto. Couto presents the benefits of being part of the City Football Group. Girona cannot rival the pockets of Barcelona and Real Madrid. However, being in the same group as Manchester City allows for easy loans for players between clubs in the same organization. Yan Couto is still under contract with Manchester City. However, he spent last season and the current campaign on loan from City. The 21-year-old has made 19 appearances on loan this season, and he has provided six assists from his left-back spot.

LaLiga success is not the end-all for Girona

There are concerns, though, that the links with Manchester City put a cap on what Girona is able to accomplish. Domestic success is one thing, and there are no other City Football Group teams in Spain. Therefore, Girona can finish as high as possible, and that could even be the title this season.

Yet, there is a situation in UEFA’s regulations that two teams with the same majority owner cannot compete in the same competition. The rule prevents a monopoly on European soccer. Also, if the two drew against one another at any stage of the UEFA Champions League, ownership would prioritize Manchester City, as it is always a favorite to win the Champions League.

However, Girona does not have a majority owner. City Football Group only owns 47% of Girona. Even though it owns Manchester City entirely, the ownership of Girona does not go against UEFA’s current rules. Therefore, Girona would be allowed to play in next season’s UEFA Champions League if it maintains a top-four standing in the Spanish top flight. In 2023, the club earned its UEFA license to officially open that door.

That remains the goal for Girona. Winning LaLiga may be too lofty of a dream this season. Girona has thrived in its third full season under Michel to maintain pace with Real Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti’s side holds a game in hand, though, and Real Madrid dominated when it played Girona earlier this season. Still, there is no stopping Girona from qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next season.