When John Obi Mikel criticized Manchester City’s transfer policy it seemed a strange statement to make. The Nigerian international may not have been at Chelsea since Roman Abramovich arrived, but he will be fully aware of his own club’s lavish spending over the last seven years. Although Chelsea have curbed their spending gradually, as their oligarch tightens the strings, only Manchester City have more disposable income to shell out. Although not on the same level as the years of spending around the £100m barrier each summer (£111m in 2003 and £91m a year later), Mikel still arrived in the same spell that Chelsea splashed out £30m on Andrei Shevchenko – the less said about that the better – and so must surely understand that Chelsea are one of the only clubs in football that can’t complain about the bulging wallets at Eastlands.
“It’s not about how much you spend but the team you have. We have a team here, Madrid keep buying players but they don’t have a team, and that’s one of the problems Man City will have this season.”
It seems a bit rich, no? Part of his reasoning must come from the fact that during his tenure in Chelsea’s first team, there hasn’t been the same overhaul of players that happened in the years just preceding his arrival. When a club acquires an owner with the financial gravitas that Man City and Chelsea have done, it will take a few years to get the formula right. Chelsea’s transformation from mid-table mediocrity to unquestionable title contenders was already underway. From the beginning of Glenn Hoddle’s reign, Chelsea’s fortunes were on the up, and his successors carried on with his work. It did however, take Abramovich’s money to push the club over that last stretch; the difference between a third place finish and winning the league.
It is difficult to imagine Chelsea getting to where they are today without their Russian owner. Signing players aside, Jose Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti reads like a who’s who of some of the game’s most impressive managers, and their wages (as well as severance payments in certain cases) would have been difficult to pay without the wealth that the club have, as well as the fact of attracting them in the first place.
Mikel’s comments may be nothing more than trying to ruffle the feathers of their rivals, mind games simply to tighten the vice that surrounds Mancini and his team as the pressure and expectation at Eastlands builds. It would have had a much better affect, aside from the fact of making Mikel himself look less blinkered, if he had simply talked about a group of new players who may take time to gel together. As a Chelsea player, the one thing he couldn’t mention was money, and he did. Chelsea have a more settled team than Manchester City, and that is what Mikel was eluding to, as well as the fact that his side are still better equipped to win the league, but his comment have done neither he, nor his club, any favours. Whether it is actually what he believes or not, Mikel should have remained dignified in the public eye: potentially saying that Man City will offer a bigger threat this season than the year before, but it will still be a challenge for their team. Or even, over-hyping them; calling them genuine title contenders would apply far greater pressure for Mancini and his players, rather than ammunition for them. Mikel would be wise to remember how his wages are catered for, and rather than get whipped up in a media spat, show he plays for the better team when they meet on the pitch.
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