Thursday 30 March 2017

Carry On

City to prove faith in Mancini by giving him more funds to spend in january sales

Roberto Mancini retains the support of Manchester City's owners despite some disappointing results in recent weeks. Photo: Getty Images
Roberto Mancini retains the support of Manchester City's owners despite some disappointing results in recent weeks. Photo: Getty Images

Ian Herbert

Manchester City's Abu Dhabi owners are convinced that Roberto Mancini can deliver them the Premier League title in his first full season -- and they are ready to back their belief in him by returning to the transfer market next month.

Mancini has insisted that a top-four finish -- the target he was set by the City board in August -- is the limit of the club's ambition for this campaign and, though the board appreciate that the unpredictability of the season, manifest in Monday's 2-1 home defeat to Everton, could deliver any outcome, there is a genuine belief that they could win the title for the first time in 42 years.

The board's conviction that Mancini is the man to lead them is such that he has not been set a 70-point target, as his predecessor Mark Hughes was, and must instead achieve only a top-four finish.

With that goal in sight, the club will attempt to sign Edin Dzeko, Wolfsburg's prolific striker, in January, to reinforce a front line in which Carlos Tevez has been asked to shoulder too much responsibility.

City believe that the move for Dzeko will not be straightforward -- talks broke down in the summer because the German club's £45m valuation was £15m higher than City's -- but the strong first half to the season strengthens their appeal to the Bosnia international.

Tweaks

There will not be a vast outlay in January, with only minor tweaks considered necessary at a club which has concluded that Craig Bellamy will not return when his season-long loan spell at Cardiff City is over. But the signing of Dzeko is a significant aim, considering the unpredictability of both Tevez and Mario Balotelli.

At 24, he falls within the younger age range of players that City feel they can work with as they seek Champions League qualification.

Though there is still some disquiet about the light in which Hughes' departure from Eastlands cast the club -- there is a feeling at the highest level of the club that City were vilified for Hughes' sacking simply because news of Mancini's appointment leaked out at the Italian end -- Mancini's approach to the job has delighted the board as much as the team's position.

Their belief in him was evident in the decision to sign Balotelli from Internazionale this summer, a move Mancini was intent on and which he was determined to drive through.

Balotelli yesterday underwent an examination of his left knee, which he injured against Everton. As Mancini had suspected, there is no cause for concern and he will be fit to play at Newcastle on St Stephen's Day.

The kickabout that Mancini's staff had with the club's executives at the club's Platt Lane academy last Sunday underlined the feel-good factor pervading through the club.

Assistant coach David Platt went through chief executive Garry Cook with a tackle that left him on his backside, while an eye-catching overhead kick from chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak -- no mean player -- was tipped away from the top corner by a newly recruited kitman.

The main impression left on the City board members after these occasional matches is the time Mancini always seems to have on the ball.

Judging by their belief that the club are realistic challengers for the title, the Italian also seems to have a substantial amount of time on his hands to build on top of the one-year tenure he chalked up on Monday.

The defeat to Everton might have been a painful one for the watching al-Mubarak, who is understood to prefer watching City alone, such are his agonies at times, but the sensation was nothing compared with the uncertainties the board felt in the last four months of the Hughes tenure.

The board was prevaricating about the Welshman's future even before last season began, because they felt he was too closed off to the idea of bringing in outside help to make up the tactical and technical deficits at the club.

Mancini's relationship with al-Mubarak is far closer and he is trusted in a way that Hughes wasn't.

But while the target set for Italian is less specific, the stakes are far greater as City move towards the era of UEFA's Financial Fair Play regime which demands that, from 2013, clubs must lose no more than £13m per year or get shut out of European competitions.

City lost 10 times more than that -- a total of £133m -- in the 12 months to May 31, 2010, and privately acknowledge that their £121m wage bill for that period may hit £150m in next October's end-of-year results because the signings of Jereme Boateng, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Aleksandar Kolarov, Mario Balotelli and James Milner have not even been accounted for yet.

It means al-Mubarak and Cook need to increase their revenues at a colossal rate in very short order to bring their losses anywhere near UEFA's figure, and failing to achieve Champions League qualification is an outcome they do not want to consider. No pressure then, Mancini.

That top-four finish is part of the plan vastly to increase the club's global revenues, with the belief from within Eastlands being that they have barely scratched the surface yet.

Though City admit that some of the Premier League teams who play in red -- namely Manchester United and Liverpool -- have got in so much earlier to the Asian markets that making City a household name there will take a long time, they do consider potential for corporate sponsorship revenues deals -- or 'commercial partnerships', as they are known -- to be vast in the Middle East and North Africa.

A potential stadium naming-rights deal is also a significant factor.

It is understood that the board do not feel there will be huge resistance to that idea, as there might have been at Maine Road, since the identity of the new stadium is not that clear anyway.

It is Eastlands to some, CoMs (City of Manchester Stadium) to others, and simply the Temple of Doom to Alex Ferguson.

Manchester city council owns the stadium, which City lease, but the club own the naming rights.

Another significant part of the medium-term plan is development of the land surrounding the stadium -- 80 acres of land has been acquired in nearby Openshaw West.

Though the traditional football model of leasing to a supermarket is not an objective, there is potential to exploit the land asset. These ideas, as well as making the stadium pay its way on non-match days through conferencing and the like, are more imminent than increasing the capacity of Eastlands beyond the current 48,000 capacity to 60,000, even though the club have already undertaken a 14-month study of stadia around the world.

The stadium won't be expanded until City know that they can fill it and though any such investment would fall outside the aegis of owner spending accounted for within the FFP rules,

City know that it will not happen quickly enough to help in the push towards the golden £13m loss figure.

But there is no disguising the fact that access to Champions League football would surpass all these ideas.

The TV and match-day revenues are only a part of it. At a stroke, elite European football would increase the club's potential to pull in elite players without the softener of colossal wages, and to persuade those already at City to stay. (© Independent News Service)

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