With an inevitable World Cup quarter final penalty shoot-out defeat to look forward to, the end of the football season announced itself with a one-sided FA Cup final – notably where Frank Lampard proved to be at the top of England penalty taking form – and the usual damp squib of a final weekend for my own team, Manchester City. Safely qualified for the Europa League, safely secured in their highest ever Premier League position and safely in command of three forwards having hit double-figures for goals, City played a somewhat understrength side for the visit to Upton Park, which saw, effectively, a post-season friendly.
Or, more-specifically, a pre-World-Cup-friendly-played-at-a-pace-where-nobody-wanted-to-get-injured. Except for Pablo Zabaleta, oddly, who seemed to be diving into anything that moved; one can only assume he expected that Diego Maradona would be potty enough to have selected 22 random Argentineans and a cat called Tiddles, with fleas and a limp, rather than stick to the conventional method of picking the best players available to him. He’s not exactly made sensible choices as an international manager thus far.
Anyway, I digress (not that I’ve reached my point yet, anyway).
City have four players that are in the England preliminary squad, better than Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal (who have three, three and one, respectively) and on a par with Chelsea. The irony being that it is both City and Chelsea who have been accused, by various commentators, pundits, column writers, broadcasters, football fans, managers, chairmen, average Joes, and, on one specific occasion, my Great Aunt Beatrice, of damaging the national team’s chances at major competitions by splashing the cash.
And, when looking at that England squad and seeing the goalkeepers listed as David James, Rob Green and Joe Hart, you have to wonder how one of the Premier League managers can see his (now former) player as the best young (sic) English goalkeeper. For starters, Ben Foster is just three years younger than Robert Green and a whole four years older than Joe Hart (I suppose that does make him young, in a sense… In the same sense that London is just a stone’s throw from Glasgow, when compared to New York). And, given the plaudits awarded to Joe Hart for the majority of last season and the criticisms Foster faced when he began the season in goal for United, you have to wonder what Sir Alex Ferguson has seen.
On a scale of one to Carson, I’d place Foster in-between a Fabianski and a Kuszczak.
The bigger irony, though, is that, while I don’t for one moment feel good that it has happened and while I feel nothing other than great sympathy for the club’s fans, Portsmouth have done more economic damage to the game than City or Chelsea. The latter two, while spending obscene amounts of money on transfers and wages, have at least been circulating money that they have. How the books were so badly managed at Portsmouth will only be known by a few people, but it’s not rocket science to know that spending money you haven’t got will only end badly – in this instance, the first Premier League club to enter administration and the constant worry that the club might soon not even exist.
Incidentally, I’m no Robert Peston, so should any of my economic advice – namely, don’t spend more than you have – is incorrect, I’d welcome the correction.
And here’s where we get to the crux of the matter: We’re now hurtling towards the summer transfer window like a Paxman interviewee towards a severe coronary failure and not even the looming World Cup can divert the press attention away from moneybags Manchester City. By all accounts, City will be launching another summer spending spree and that, no doubt, will result in another some of questioning morals, exclaiming about wages being too high, moaning about the size of transfer fees and the ill-founded, totally inaccurate, ignorant, hysterical opinion that, instead of spending £25m on one player, Sheikh Mansour could have built several hospitals.
I mean, it’d be a correct opinion; he could have built several hospitals with the money he’s spent at City… But it is his money, so I think it’s best to let him decide how he spends it, just as he won’t criticise you for buying whatever it is you like to buy to improve your business or to improve the fun you have in your leisure time.
On a side note: that money Sheikh Mansour isn’t giving to City players on wages is currently not making the British government any tax. As soon as a player moves to City, and you would think they would move to England if coming from abroad (since the commute from Europe is something of a non-starter), that vast sum of money they earn per week is subject to around 50% tax. Tax which can then go to building hospitals and the like.
Anyway, I’ve digressed again. Back to the transfer window.
In the last week alone, I have seen City linked in at least one media outlet (in no particular order) to signing: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Yoann Gourcuff, Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas, Yaya Touré, Kaká (once again), Marek Hamsik, Steven Gerrard, James Milner, Alexis Sanchez, Guiseppe Rossi, David Villa, Robin van Persie, David Silva, Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Shawcross, Franck Ribery, Luka Modric, and Jerome Boateng.
Still, it looks like the James Milner deal is being negotiated, so I suppose one hit amongst various other misses will be enough for people to keep reading, viewing or listening to the rumours and believe them. It’s almost as if these players have agents who might be feeding information to the press in order to get their clients a better deal and earn themselves a better cut. Almost.
Call me cynical.
Ignoring the obvious point that actually signing all of those players would be counter-productive (clearly, an extra squad of players on top of the current squad will do nothing to get them playing well together, nor will any of the left-out or dropped players be happy), City aren’t likely to be bringing in big name after big name after big name.
For starters, the team was two games away from a fourth placed finish last season and that tells us that not too much strengthening is required – especially giving that it was the daft draws at home to Hull, Burnley and Fulham (all from leading positions) and the failure to show up in either game with Tottenham that, had they gone differently, could have had City talking about a disappointing season for not having challenged for the title(!).
Without Champions League football, City will also find attracting players of that stature to the club difficult. Not impossible, mind you, just difficult – the prospect of turning City into a powerful Champions League force would have some pulling power, but not as much as actually being there already. The bonus, I suppose, is that next season won’t be leading up to a World Cup or European Championship, so the risk any potential transferees take in not playing in one of the best club level competitions is not that prevalent.
City are going to make moves this summer and one would imagine that they will be both successful and unsuccessful in bringing in several big names, as well as, by the looks of things, young, up-and-coming talent. Mancini preferred the signature of Adam Johnson in January over one of the ‘stars’ being speculated about in the press and on internet message boards. If I’m being honest, I didn’t see him being the success story he’s so far been, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. He’s become one of the ‘stars’ that Mancini didn’t sign… if that makes any sense.
And of the moves City make this summer, every one of them will have been predicted in some form of media outlet. I will virtually guarantee that; but it’s not an especially difficult thing to guarantee, given that I suspect something in the region of 90% of the transfer stories printed, written, broadcasted or told about City will be wrong, inaccurate and sourced by an agent with nothing more than their and their clients’ interests at heart.
Without the World Cup to be a distraction (and I fancy myself to win the sweepstake this time around, since I managed to draw both Honduras and Algeria), this would have been quite a long summer.
Written By David Mooney