IF YOU think about it, Manchester City’s upturn in fortunes — literally — has been rather good for football.
The amount of money they throw around is disgusting; but everyone apart from the Premier League’s big four has probably been quietly happy with their noisy new neighbours.
I mean, who doesn’t like a neighbour who spreads the love around?
When City manager Roberto Mancini completed the £19mil transfer of Lazio left-back Aleksandar Kolarov, he took his summer spending to more than the rest of the Premier League combined.
There have been a few other transfers by other clubs since then that have reduced that quite shocking ratio, but the £78.5mil that City have dished out on Jerome Boateng, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Kolarov is still around 45% of what the entire EPL has spent on player transfers, which at press time stood at £175mil.
And City are just getting warmed up.
They have been chasing a big-name signing all summer as if that alone would count as an achievement; though if they did manage to sign either one of Fernando Torres, Edin Dzeko or Mario Balotelli, the latter being the most likely at the moment, it would indeed be a significant step forward for the club.
But for the rest of the footballing world, it simply means more money.
City’s owners from Abu Dhabi, UAE, are simply pouring more and more cash into the game, and they’re not showing any signs of slowing down.
That means clubs like Lazio could benefit from nothing short of a jackpot with sales such as Kolarov’s.
It’s not that Kolarov isn’t a good player, it’s just that his price was way too inflated. Torres, Dzeko and Balotelli will each cost at least £30mil, which will take City’s spending past the £100mil mark.
Another reason why City’s spending has been good for football is because the traditional footballing powers are finding the price for elite players like Torres so inflated that they have to look elsewhere to unearth new talent, rather than purchasing established stars.
Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and even Chelsea are going through relative periods of austerity. None of them have signed anything close to a top footballer since City came along. The EPL’s latest star additions — Silva and Toure — both opted for City, and so it seems, will Balotelli.
That in turn forces big clubs to find players in relatively obscure clubs and spread some of their riches there too.
And City aren’t just throwing money around now. New Premier League rules dictate that clubs must submit a squad list of only 25 players for the season who will be eligible to play in league, not including players aged 21 and below.
With such a big squad built over the last couple of years, City will have to either sell the players they won’t be able to include in the final 25, or have them stay around in the club without being able to play any league football while they continue to eat away at City’s ridiculous wage bill.
In essence, it’s going to be a fire sale. Quality players like Craig Bellamy, Stephen Ireland, Roque Santa Cruz, Jo and Shaun Wright-Phillips could be going on the cheap to some lucky clubs, while Bolton have already signed Martin Petrov for free.
Out-of-favour record-signing Robinho, bought initially for £32.5mil, would also probably leave at a cut-price deal since the player himself has expressed his desire to leave.
The more worrying part, however, is that Mancini seems to be losing touch with reality, though one could hardly blame him considering the immense wealth at his disposal.
It started out with just a quip about how the traditional football powerhouses were now ”scared” of City. Then recently, he moaned about how other clubs jack up prices whenever City come knocking for one of their players, saying: ”When Manchester City want to buy a player, other clubs ask much more than is normal. This is not good and it is not right. Until today, it is only City that are moving the market.”
That one quote sums up both sides of the story. On the one hand, he is right: the market is moving thanks to a constant stream of millions supplied by City.
However, Mancini now thinks he can publicly announce his interest in players ranging from Torres to James Milner — with seemingly no regard to cost — and still think he can buy players for cheap. If you want to flaunt your cash, then you’d better be ready to shut up and pay up when people start charging you a premium fee.
And that’s Mancini’s problem. The way he’s been spending and talking up targets has been almost flippant. So while the rest of the football world continues to enjoy their flashy nouveau riche neighbours, the new folks themselves would probably do well to take a reality check before the season starts. Money can only take you that far in football.
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