City Football Group chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak has praised the progress its Australian affiliate Melbourne City has made under new coach Warren Joyce and lauded the development of two of its young stars, World Cup hopeful Daniel Arzani and defender Nathaniel Atkinson.
Al Mubarak also marked the continued success of City's women's team, and said efforts still had to be made to grow the market for sponsors and fans of the women's game.
In a review of the group's season, in which headline business Manchester City won the English Premier League, the Emirati entrepreneur said season 2017-18 had also been a step in the right direction for Melbourne City.
They finished the regular season third on the A-League table before losing to Newcastle in a semi-final.
Melbourne Victory's surprise grand final win has, however, denied the Australian affiliate of the CFG a place in the Asian Champions League, which it had been targeting and looked to have secured.
I have a lot of confidence with the manager we have and the team we have right now, next year will be a better season.Khaldoon Al Mubarak
Nevertheless, the City chairman say “it’s been progress. We have achieved our best result this season in terms of standing, so the team continues to grow and evolve.
“We’re getting closer to winning the A-League. This year was a good season, I think we were unlucky with injuries and some results not going our way but, nevertheless, we improved from the previous season.
“I have a lot of confidence with the manager we have and the team we have right now, next year will be a better season.”
He was particularly pleased with the way City has been able to nurture its younger players and bring the most promising up through the first team, where Arzani and Atkinson have now become regulars.
“These two players have been outstanding this year. Arzani is becoming really one of the most talked-about players out of the A-League full stop.
“I think that shows you, we have the academy, we have the infrastructure and we’re giving these players the chance.
“Both these players are young players that have been given chances to perform at the highest level at Melbourne City and to compete day in and day out.
“They’ve done that and hopefully they’ll stay and compete and continue to grow in our organisation.”
Arzani has impressed to such an extent that the 19-year-old is currently training with the Socceroos in Turkey, hoping to force his way into the 23-man World Cup squad.
“That would be an incredible achievement and I wish him all the best,” Al Mubarak said.
“I’m sure if he does get chosen for that squad he will do great.”
City's women, meanwhile, have won three successive W-League titles, making them the most successful club in the competition's history.
''We have to continue to support these teams, allow them to develop in a footballing sense ... to allow the fan base to grow,'' Al Mubarak said.
''Melbourne is a big success for us in the women's game, and we have to continue to bring in the right sponsors who will ultimately make this game more and more sustainable.''
Michael Lynch, The Age's expert on soccer, has had extensive experience of high level journalism in the UK and Australia. Michael has covered the Socceroos through Asia, Europe and South America in their past three World Cup campaigns. He has also reported on Grands Prix and top class motor sport from Asia and Europe. He has won several national media awards for both sports and industry journalism.