Every big team should copy Manchester City’s All or Nothing documentary

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 15: Manchester City players at The Printworks on August 15, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Man City via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 15: Manchester City players at The Printworks on August 15, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Man City via Getty Images) /

The recently released All or Nothing documentary focusing on Manchester City’s 2017-2018 season delivers an entertaining, yet insightful view of the club.

Being Liverpool was the show that started it all, although it’s remembered more for Brendan Rogers’ motivational tactics, and the life-size self-portrait at his home, than as a trendsetter in the world of sports documentaries.

Juventus picked up the baton with their own Netflix special, First Team, which featured more candid behind the scenes footage, more melodrama befitting of an Italian opera and more interesting “actors”: world-class players such as Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini. However, the show seemed to fall short on uncovering the business of sport, and some of the subtleties of the dialogue were lost in translation.

The latest in this line of sports docu-series also happens to be the greatest. Manchester City’s All or Nothing documentary, which tells the story of their title-winning 2017-18 season, fires on all cylinders.

It has great behind the scene access to the tactical and physical preparation, insight into the business aspect of the club and a great cast of characters centered around manager Pep Guardiola. The show hits all the marks, serving up healthy doses of preparation footage without really revealing anything earth-shattering in terms of tactics, engaging the viewer in human interest stories ranging from the assistant kit manager to Abu Dhabi group honcho Khaldoon Al Mubarak.

Although the tremendous success of the show may be directly linked to City’s fantastic season, which will be next to impossible for another team to replicate, the general formula is there to be followed.

Much like HBO’s Hard Knocks NFL series, which has had a healthy stranglehold on the genre and the space, All or Nothing takes the viewer on a candid journey by providing a window into the soul of the team and interspersing it with views into the players’ personal lives.

Watching the City docu-series, you realize the reason it works isn’t necessarily the on-the-field success of the team, but rather the intimate level of detail that elevates the locker room atmosphere and the personal stories.

By the time the show aired the outcome of the season was very much beyond doubt. The moments in which we see the team pulling together for David Silva, whose baby son is battling for his life, are what good television is all about.

Seeing Guardiola cursing out his players as part of a motivational ruse intended to destroy any semblance of complacency within the ranks is the kind of sausage-making detail that sport-inclined audiences crave.

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No other team may achieve the accolades City earned last season, but every team has a version of Benjamin Mendy in their locker room, the jolly mood-lifter, or a lone-wolf who is afraid of watching scary movies on his own, like Sergio Aguero. Perhaps no other team will benefit from having Ben Kingsley as narrator, but there are other legendary voices ready to work.

The other thing this show does extremely well, something neither the Liverpool nor the Juventus shows did, is stay away from tired sporting cliches, whether of the verbal or visual kind, mostly by making an earnest effort to open up to the audience.

The success of All or Nothing raises the question of why every team doesn’t follow suit. The show serves as the best kind of propaganda, giving fans the sort of access they crave to their idols and helping cultivate new fans around the world.

This is pure gold in today’s battle for fan eyeballs and disposable income. Assuming other big clubs care about growing and developing their fanbases, and improving their “brand” in the golden age of media (spoiler alert: they do), we should expect more of this type of sports documentary from the other giants of world soccer.