Manchester City’s Signingless Summer
Manchester City are the only Premier League club yet to sign a new player. They have done some vital business in the window, like securing the signing the long term services of manager Roberto Mancini and captain Vincent Kompany. But City fans, since the sea of cash revolution of 2008, have come to expect a little Hollywood to their summer. We’ve come to revel in the disapproving glances and condemnation of football folk when we spend £25 million on someone or other. Last summer, it was Nasri and Aguero for a combined £60 million (for the record, you could get two and a half Olympic opening ceremonies for that shit), and just because we like the notion of throwing our money down the drain now and again, £10 million for Savic (argh). But this summer has been a rude awakening; outspent by Norwich, Swansea and West Brom, we spoilt ones have had to watch everyone else’s excitement and optimism that comes with new arrivals, and remember the glory days of summer ’11. Admittedly, a title win has eased this process somewhat.
So why has this happened? Well, as must be abundantly clear, I have no inside line. I’m not a football agent or the secret online alter-ego of Joe Hart (although if I were, I would totally say that), but I can put forward a few theories. Firstly, I think the negotiation of Mancini’s new contract probably had something to do with the lack of activity in the early going. He’s a smart man, and he must have known that passing time strengthened his position. And with your manager in what was presumably a long contract negotiation, you’d assume that would distract him and the club from transfer business. A bit of me and mine first, perfectly understandable after bringing the first title to a club after a 44-year wait. But why then after mid-July, and Mancini’s bumper five-year contract was announced to the media, did things not get rolling ?
Well, I think financially, Man City have taken a couple of stances this summer that have both in their own way led to deals not being done. One is their belief that Fifa Financial Fair Play is real, imminent and about to blow down some houses. While other clubs such as Chelsea and PSG have treated the FFP rules filtering in over the next couple of seasons with the same sense of seriousness that the world takes Steve Kean with (AKA none at all), Man City are breaking their backs to comply with a set of rules that may will be toothless anyway. Of course they may not be toothless, and a couple of years from now, City fans could be thanking their lucky stars, but from where I’m standing, PSG in particular have no chance in hell of complying by the 2014 deadline. Are UEFA going to kick them out of the Champions League? Man City clearly think they will, hence the lessened extravagance, and the much reported notion that the club are insisting on the sale of deadwood such as Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz before any new signings can be made. Got to balance them books.
The other? Well I think the City board/owners/conglomerates have decided that as standing Premier League Champions and standing first team in Manchester, our negotiating status has changed. That they don’t have just money to offer any more, but legitimate and real possibilities of success, and as a consequence of that seem to be no longer willing to go the extra ludicrous mile in regards to wages and transfer fees. In the negotiating for Eden Hazard, for example, City were unwilling to go beyond the £110,000 a week wage mark, claiming that Hazard was unproven and young, and not worthy of world class money yet, and “damn, we just won the Premier League, shouldn’t he want to come to us?” Valid points, and points Chelsea didn’t care about and with an assist from their Champions League victory, consequently locked down the deal of this extremely talented and promising player. There that one went. City are being similarly conservative with the seemingly endless RVP merry-go-round, unwilling to lay the down the conversation-ending bids of yesteryear, and it’s looking increasingly likely they’ll lose the player in the process.
Both of these strategies, for better or worse, are ensuring lost targets. Do I think City will make no signings this summer? No. I’d expect at least two players at the Etihad before the summer, but I don’t think they will be first choices, for I think City might have lost out on those. Positionally speaking, I think they actually NEED three players this summer. A centre-back – Daniel Agger, Javi Martinez, Daniele De Rossi – to either replace Lescott (harsh, because Lescott really rose to the occasion last season, but word is Mancini is out to replace him), and partner Kompany or to cover Lescott and Kompany, as Savic looks whack and Kolo Toure looked less than assured last season. A winger – Lucas Moura, Younes Belhanda – because while the City midfield has many things, it doesn’t have much pace, and City certainly do need a plan B of speed when skill isn’t working. And a defensive midfielder – Javi Martinez and Daniele De Rossi again – because while Barry is much better than most people believe, he’s not getting any younger and a long term replacement is probably needed, and seeding them into the team while Barry is still there makes a certain amount of sense.
But Manchester City seem set on signing a striker. And a big name one at that. As a fan of the club, this baffles and infuriates me. The only reasoning I see for City signing RVP is to stop United from signing him, because City currently have seven strikers on their books, and besides trying to sell Adebayor and Santa Cruz, there’s Aguero, Tevez and Balotelli, who to me are probably off the table; no matter how many rumours you hear about Tevez, there’s too much promise in his partnership with Aguero. Dzeko being sold is a possibility – he’s certainly had his moments, but all things considered, he’d be the guy to see the door for a RVP or an Higuain. Me? I’d sell Dzeko to Milan, and promote John Guidetti into the rotation of four. Guidetti, 20, scored 20 goals for Feyenoord last season in a season-long loan, and seems poised to be at least given a chance. Rather him as a fourth striker than another big salary guy we can get 3 or 4 years out of. But City seem unwilling to make the jump on these things.
Regardless, I don’t think all this huffle and stall will affect City too much next season. Their starting eleven can still stand up to any in the league, and Tevez coming back may essentially function as a new signing, and like I said, the imminent partnership between him and Aguero will make City a better team than they were last year (in the six games the two started together at the end of last season, City conceded three goals, scored 18 and had a win record of 100%) and I’m not worried. That said, Chelsea and Manchester United are making the improvements they needed to make, and City have to be weary of complacency and arrogance. They are not our friends.