In September 2008,  Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan acquired Premier League club Manchester City.

The Citizens had gone 32 seasons without winning a cup, their last being the 1976 Football League Cup Final when they beat Newcastle United 2-1 at Wembley Stadium.

Since the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates took over at Man City they have won three Premier League titles, one FA Cup and three League Cups, completing the double twice in the 2013/14 and 2017/18 seasons respectively.

However, their quest for European success continues with City’s best finish being Semi-Finalists during the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League campaign where they were knocked out by Real Madrid.

Kevin De Bruyne celebrates winning the Premier League Trophy in 2018
(Photo by Victoria Haydn/Man City via Getty Images)

Now after being in the Maltese Premier League for just three seasons, Gżira United are hoping to follow a similar path to Sheikh Mansour’s Man City.

United finished 8th in the first season in the top flight with a total of 33 points to their name.

However, just one year later Gżira had secured a place in Europe for the first time since 1973–74 when they faced Norwegian side SK Brann in the First Round of the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Despite beating UE Sant Julià 4-1 on aggregate in the 2018/19 Preliminary round, United were knocked out by FK Radnički Niš in the First qualifying round, losing 5-0 on aggregate.

However, this was nothing to be ashamed of considering Gżira had been playing second tier football just three years prior.

“We are really proud of our achievements last season but we are surely not resting on our laurels,” Darren Abdilla, the Gżira coach said last summer.

“The club is very ambitious and our main goal this season will again be to try and qualify for European football for another season.

“We are aware that competition is getting tougher and tougher as all our rivals have strengthened their ranks in the close season but I am confident that we have the quality to challenge for top three position come the end of the season.”

Club President, Sharlon Pace has played a major part in Gżira’s rise to the top of Maltese football. The 38-year-old is a former player himself having retired from the game in 2016 after a five-year spell with Gżira.

Pace started his career with Valletta at the age of 21, he then went on to play for clubs such as Sliema Wanderers and Balzan.

Maltese International Justin Haber currently plays for Gżira United
(Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The Gżira United President has recently claimed that he has a long-term plan for the club to turn professional in the next three years and for there to be a 5,000 seated stadium built with state of the art facilities as well as offices that will be also used by the University of Malta.

Pace has already shown his commitment to his project at Gżira having signed high profile players such as Amadou Samb, Zach Scerri and most recently former Man City youngster Myles Beerman who has arrived at the club on loan from Scottish giants Rangers.

Players have also arrived from abroad with former AC Milan and Italy U17 star Gianmarco Conti joining the ranks alongside Cameroon international Justin Mengolo.

Myles Beerman (left) has joined Gżira United on loan from Rangers.
(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Pace’s side recently played Italian giants Fiorentina in the Visit Malta Tournament last month.

The Lillies took part in the tournament against Gżira and Hibernians as part of their four-day training camp on the island following the Serie A TIM winter break.

United, who are currently sponsored by JEEP paid tribute to former Fiorentina defender Davide Astori by wearing shirts with his name and number on.

Astori died in his sleep at a hotel in Udine prior to Fiorentina’s match against Udinese last year. The cause of death was proven to be cardiac arrest determined from an autopsy conducted two days later.

Gżira United are currently unbeaten in the Maltese Premier Division having won nine games and drawn six.

However, they are currently third in the league, three points from the top spot currently held by Valletta who controversially beat second-placed Hibs on Sunday 20 January.

Infographic created by Charlie Russell

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