It was conducted quietly, and for the quaint sum of just £10 million, but Manchester City were the subject of the summer's most modern transfer saga. The bidders were not rival clubs but two gargantuan online entertainment companies.
While Amazon won the rights to produce a behind-the-scenes documentary on Pep Guardiola and his billion-pound revolution, Netflix settled instead for an access-all-areas series with Juventus. Federico Palomba, the Serie A champions' co-chief revenue officer, announced the partnership with the immortal words: "Collaborations of this kind confirm our passion for innovation and being, in every sense, a Sport Entertainment brand."
City are yet to make their own grand unveiling, perhaps because the leaked details of their Amazon deal have rung some urgent alarm bells for both Sky Sports -- who are keen to protect their £4 billion investment from prying eyes -- and the Premier League, whose stranglehold on matchday proceedings is an obstacle Amazon will have to overcome before they can capture a single angry dressing-room bust-up.
Red tape aside, Amazon may have got their timing spot on. The Manchester City brand has been subject to some serious polishing over the last few years -- a new badge, the grandly-named Etihad Campus (which cost over £200m) and their growing global network of clubs under the City Football Group banner, such as New York City FC, Melbourne City FC and Yokohama F. Marinos -- while an innovative social media strategy has already begun to break down the traditional footballing barrier of "access."
On the pitch, more importantly, there may never be a better time to get under the skin of a Premier League club.
Depending on when the cameras are allowed behind the scenes at the Etihad, Amazon could be the proud producers of a documentary charting either Guardiola's emphatic first Premier League title or, the following season, their attempts to take things to a whole new level while under the pressure of being the team everyone wants to beat. Either scenario -- if the promise of being granted full access is realised -- should have subscriptions going through the roof.
Before all that, though, there are the awkward practicalities of embedding a documentary crew within one of the elite clubs in a league not renowned for allowing a peek behind the curtain. That alone means that the behind-the-scenes football club documentary is not the most prolific of genres, but it is rich enough to have established some golden rules for any manager and squad brave enough to bare all.
(Don't) keep your cool
"What happens in the dressing room, stays in the dressing room."
That might be an enduring mantra for any manager trying to keep a lid on his near-mutinous players, but it doesn't lend itself to documentary-making. By definition, the sanctity of this hot, fractious, energy-drink-soaked space has to be invaded, because that's where the gold lies. Almost every televised attempt to infiltrate the heart of a football club has been based heavily around the highly watchable phenomenon of the "Half-Time Rollicking."
For better or worse, man-management might have evolved a little since Neil Warnock's constructive feedback -- or, indeed, the terrifying John Sitton's infamous, profanity-laden, invitation to dinner -- but Guardiola will have his own unique intensity to bring to the documentary party. The wide eyes, the unnerving passive-aggressive grins that appear out of nowhere, the hushed-but-earnest tone of his voice: Pep's high standards come with more than enough theatre.
Tempt the players out of their shells
Generally, it's the manager that's the star of the show: a multi-tasking control freak who is first into the training ground in the morning and the last to leave at night. As the season unfolds, you're invited to suffer with him. The players, meanwhile, are often quite distant figures, a living, breathing, running, chest-thumping, limping and complaining support cast.
If one of them does briefly come to the fore, it's usually not for the ideal reasons. A young Raheem Sterling, for example, being singled out by Brendan Rodgers for some mild backchat during the filming of "Being: Liverpool," the toe-curling 2012 series by Fox Sports.
Elsewhere, players can end up being collateral damage under the weight of their manager's ego. A memorable moment during 1993's "That's Football!," which charted the rise of Swindon Town to the Premier League under Glenn Hoddle, saw the accidental but exquisite destruction of a player's confidence during a simple shooting drill.
Swindon player-manager Glenn Hoddle motivating John Moncur in training by being four thousand times better than him, c.1993 pic.twitter.com/YX2QmryEDk
- Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) December 15, 2016
Whatever format City's documentary takes, you suspect that the players -- on whom so much money has been spent and so much expectation is placed -- will take more of a prominent role.
Thanks to a general distrust of the press in the UK, a fan's weekly access to players is usually limited to perfunctory postmatch interviews and the rock-solid formula of "great to get the three points today, fans were fantastic as always, on to the next game!"
Fortunately, there are certainly some characters among the City squad (the irrepressible #sharkteam creator Benjamin Mendy), some complex egos (ice-cold perfectionist Kevin De Bruyne) and a senior figure to watch over them all (Vincent Kompany). All eyes might not be on the relentless Guardiola after all, but getting his squad to stray from the party line will be one of the biggest challenges.
Losing makes for better TV than winning
There's not much in it, but a deflated, devastated dressing room tells you more about the sporting psyche than a squad of ecstatic players in their underwear spraying some champagne around. A film crew were allowed into Sir Alex Ferguson's inner circle as Manchester United travelled to Istanbul to face Galatasaray in 1993. A stifling 0-0 draw sent the Premier League champions out on away goals, at which point -- in post-editing -- the fearsome Ali Sami Yen Stadium roars were juxtaposed with a silent United dressing room, with Ferguson simply staring at the floor. It was a blunt, effective snapshot of what failure means.
As things stand, devastating defeats might be something of a problem for City's documentary-makers. But, unless they storm to a swashbuckling Treble, there will inevitably be a moment where Guardiola's men fall short -- and the cameras will be there to witness it.
So what can we expect?
Even without Amazon's sizeable investment in the project, this feels like a big moment for the genre of the football-club documentary. No matter how slick the production and how eagerly it is promoted, though, the crucial aspect will always be that of access: getting closer to elite players than ever before and learning something beyond how tough Fernandinho thinks Burnley made it for them in the first half or if Sergio Aguero was happy to score a hat trick.
There are perhaps too many image-rights deals for it to be a warts-and-all experience like many of its predecessors, but it would be a huge shame for a fascinating modern club and manager to not let their guard down.