Last summer Abu Dhabi’s finest walked through the doors of Eastlands with a promise of greatness. Later that day they displayed their intent to the world by pulling off an enormous coup by securing Brazilian star Robinho from Real Madrid. Almost a year later and many lie unconvinced, whilst many Manchester City fans, including myself, will tell you, Rome was not built in a day and a world class football team will not be either.
When the transfer window slammed shut last September the world’s eyes lay on East Manchester as City paraded their marquee signing. With the return of Shaun Wright Phillips and the encouraging signings of Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta the stage was set for a highly successful season. Unfortunately though, football has a way of tying a dreamers feet firmly to the ground. City can be fairly happy with their season with a terrific home showing and a strong run in the UEFA Cup. The issue with City’s season has been a dreadful away record that has undoubtedly cost the club a UEFA Europa League spot and possibly the group of players heading Mark Hughes’ summer hit list. Garry Cook will tell you that City missing out on Europe will make little difference to the blues summer transfer activity, the rest of us however may see thing differently.
City could easily challenge the top four next season with three realistic signings. And the three Galacticos in question? Messi? Kaka? Ribery? Not quite. Many of City’s problems last season lay in defense. Richard Dunne had a rollercoaster of a season, at times displaying the qualities that won him four consecutive player of the season awards. Too often though, Dunne’s performances were rash and calamitous. See Newcastle away for full details. Micah Richards has possibly been City’s biggest disappointment this season. Since bursting onto the scene with a last minute header against Aston Villa back in 2006 Richards has been the gem in City’s crown. Last season though, it just didn’t happen for him. Why? It certainly hasn’t been through a lack of commitment. One theory is that he gained too much muscle over the summer, which in turn stifled his key asset, that being his pace. Others feel that Dunne’s form along with Micah playing once again with a new right back at his side in Pablo Zabaleta may have hindered his performances. The truth is that whatever has happened to Dunne and Richards over the past season, they simply haven’t been good enough on a regular basis. And City could solve this with one giant swoop of the cheque book for Everton’s Joleon Lescott. The Everton defender has produced fine form over the past season, earning himself a place in Fabio Capello’s England squad in the process. The only initial sticking point to signing Lescott would be the reluctance of David Moyes to let him go. This problem could easily have been side stepped with a bid of £20 million. Okay twenty big ones seems excessive but Manchester City can afford to be excessive. The clubs only advantage over the top four is cash flow. This though would not now be enough thanks to the blues missing out on a European spot. With the shadow of the World Cup next summer hanging over every player there is little chance that Lescott would leave a club playing in Europe to join a team that isn’t. He simply wouldn’t risk missing the opportunity to display his talents on the big occasions and the same goes for candidate two, Gareth Barry.
In January Manchester City spent almost £20 million on Nigel De Jong from Hamburg. A transfer that drew plenty of criticism to the club seeing as they could have purchased the player for a quarter of the price had they waited until the summer. De Jong has applied himself quite well with a number of decent performances and the team clearly missed him during European games for which he was cup tied. If however, Nigel De Jong is worth £20 million then Gareth Barry must be worth somewhere around the £50 million mark. Barry has been a consistent performer for Villa for a number of years now with great passing ability and intelligent play. He is also a player who is clearly itching for a fresh start. The Liverpool saga last summer only goes to show that Gareth Barry doesn’t feel he can achieve all he wants at Aston Villa. Had they qualified for Europe, Manchester City could very well have secure Barry’s signature. It’s not difficult to imagine what Mark Hughes and Garry Cook would be telling him. The problem is though that City cannot sell a dream of the future to an England fringe player when a World Cup lies around the corner. And this is the problem that City will face all summer long. How do they sell the vision to transfer targets when the club hasn’t qualified for Europe? The answer. By signing Carlos Tevez.
The Argentinean has been nothing short of world class during the 08-09 season for neighbors United and yet due to financial reasons the Premier League champions simply cannot afford to buy him. Queue Manchester City’s only advantage over the top four. ‘It’s a World Cup season’ I hear you cry ‘Tevez wants European football’. This however, is not necessarily true. Tevez’s agent Kia Joorabchian has been quoted as saying that Tevez would sacrifice European football in order to play on a more regular basis. This, plus the fact that Tevez and his family are settled in the area and the fact that City already have an Argentine player at the club in Pablo Zabaleta, places the ball firmly in City’s court. And with the signing of Tevez City would also be gaining an invaluable negotiation tool. By displaying that the club has secured the services of two world class players within a year City could easily attract other top players. Whatever happens this summer it’s certainly going to be busy at Eastlands.
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