Saturday 25 November 2017

Mancini's men forced to run before they can walk among Europe's elite

Mark Ogden

There was something of an irony in Manchester City announcing German fashion house Hugo Boss as their latest corporate partner prior to the Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund.

Thanks to their winless start to their second campaign among Europe's elite, City risk being all dressed up with nowhere to go, with the possible exception of the odd Thursday night out in the Europa League, once the serious business takes place in this competition.

But with the club expected to announce multi-million pound losses once again when they post their results for the last financial year in the coming weeks, a positive performance in the Champions League is crucial for the club's off-field ambitions.

Yet the Premier League champions find themselves in the unfortunate position of having to run before they can walk alongside Europe's established superclubs.

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan's mammoth investment and last season's title success have perhaps inflated expectations of Roberto Mancini's team beyond their realistic level.

Expensive

But that is the price on City's rather expensive ticket and, despite Mancini conceding in the summer that his squad lacked the quality and numbers required to win the Champions League, they are still expected to progress from a group which contains three former European champions in Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Ajax.

City, despite their stellar line-up, are still learning the ropes in Europe's blue-chip competition, as was evident against Dortmund, but their performances come under intense scrutiny.

Internally, success in the Champions League -- progression to the latter stages, at least -- matters in terms of the club's reputation and brand growth.

But the comments of Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke prior to this game hinted at negativity -- and even envy -- directed towards the club by some of those they are attempting to outdo in Europe.

Speaking about Uefa's plans to implement financial fair play regulations, which will come into effect in the 2014-15 season, Watzke aimed a thinly-veiled dig at City's reliance on Sheikh Mansour's generosity.

"Uefa must find the thin line between sponsorship and excessive back-door funding -- they must show strength to expel big clubs," Watzke said.

"No tycoon should be allowed to pump crazy money into a club with sponsorship from five companies he controls. If that happens, financial fair play will fail."

Watzke's comments highlight the battle City still face for acceptance.

Irish Independent

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