Sunday 25 June 2017

City to wake from summer doze

Mark Ogden

A new batch of 'Welcome to Manchester' posters are being prepared to roll off the presses in English football's capital of trophies but, so far, there is not a splash of blue ink in sight.

Having dominated the domestic market in each of the summer transfer windows since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan's arrival at Eastlands in September 2008, with over £250m invested on new players during the 2009 and 2010 windows, Manchester City have yet to place so much as one petrodollar on the roulette wheel since securing qualification for the Champions League last month.

In contrast, Manchester United have emerged from two years of relative transfer market hibernation by fending off stiff competition to line up the signings of Atletico Madrid goalkeeper David de Gea, Blackburn defender Phil Jones and Aston Villa winger Ashley Young for a combined total approaching £50m.

After bemoaning the lack of 'value' in the market last summer, before delivering a thinly-veiled swipe at City by talking of the 'kamikaze' spending of others, Alex Ferguson has seized the initiative by moving swiftly and decisively as he attempts to rebuild his team following the retirements of Edwin van der Sar, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville.

United's spending is likely to continue. Wesley Sneijder remains the leading target, while interest in Samir Nasri and Udinese's Alexis Sanchez could yet develop into firm bids.

Yet while United are currently painting the town red with their investment, do not expect City to lay dormant for too much longer. Just be prepared for a new approach to a new reality. The landscape has changed for City and the financial muscle of the last two summers no longer carries the same power.

Compromised by Uefa's Financial Fair Play regulations, which are due to be phased in gradually from next season, and mindful of the necessity to offload the deadwood amassed during the early days of Abu Dhabi ownership, City must overcome new challenges this summer.

They must also learn how to win races for players when competing against the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Sharing a Champions League stage with the most illustrious clubs in world football is one thing, yet overcoming their history and glamour, and the kudos associated with wearing their shirt, is another matter when it comes to persuading Player X to pick Eastlands ahead of the Nou Camp.

Sanchez, Mancini's number one target, is a prime example. The 22-year-old Chilean winger is currently being courted by every leading club in Europe, including City, yet he has publicly stated his desire to move to Barcelona.

City's money might have been enough to persuade Gareth Barry to choose Eastlands instead of Liverpool two years ago, but bigger players demand bigger stages.

Jerome Boateng, City's German defender, alluded to the difficulties facing the club by claiming last week that he wanted to leave the club for Bayern Munich because "Bayern are bigger than City".

Until now, City's immense spending power has enabled them to lure the likes of Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Emmanuel Adebayor to Eastlands, but they did not have to fend off Europe's superpowers to get them.

While chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak and football administrator Brian Marwood remain of the belief that strategic additions of quality rather than quantity will suffice this summer, Mancini will not be scraping the barrel when it comes to new signings and could dip into a transfer fund approaching £100m this summer despite the FFP restrictions.

By offloading the likes of Adebayor, Wayne Bridge, Shay Given, Craig Bellamy, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Jo, Felipe Caicedo and Roque Santa Cruz, Mancini could generate in excess of £30m. Add the potential sale of Tevez and that figure will approach £70m, with a huge saving on wages.

Clearing that collection of misfits and cast-offs will be a challenge in itself, but it is one that must be addressed before the spending begins in earnest.

Telegraph

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