As the cameras panned around the Stadium of Light on Sunday, the sight Manchester City’s bench dampened the mood. Their substitutes looked forlorn and dejected as they watched their side lose to a Darren Bent penalty in injury time. One of those miserable looking City stars was Emmanuel Adebayor who was sent on with 15 minutes to play. The squad taken to Sunderland cost a combined £270 million. Unsurprisingly a number of expensively acquired footballers will continue to line their bench. The former Togo international has been the most vocal of the players who have recently found their starting opportunities constrained. But after knowingly signing for a club which will stop at nothing to attain success can Adebayor et al have any excuses?
The former Arsenal striker has started on the bench for all of Manchester City’s Premier League games this season. Despite registering a respectable 14 goals last season, Carlos Tevez has been earmarked as their lone front man, supported by two wingers. Roberto Mancini has never disguised his admiration for the Argentine who he ranks amongst the best forwards in the world. The former Fiorentina, Lazio and Internazionale manager has additionally expressed his view that new recruit Mario Balotelli will soon be mentioned in tandem with such celebrated names. Adebayor is not the only player at Eastlands frustrated by the lack of playing time; Shay Given, Jo and David Silva are all eager to showcase their talent.
It is the Togolese forward who has articulated his dissatisfaction most fervently though. He told TalkSport, “If I’m not playing, and there is a team that comes in for me, then I will definitely be on my way out because I’m a footballer and I love playing.” Yet a week earlier he was unequivocally committed to City, “I am very happy to be part of this club. I know there are a lot of things being written that I will be leaving, but I am not. I love it at Manchester City.” He would not be the first footballer to make a u-turn in the space of seven days but his comments have irked the club’s football administrator, Brian Marwood. The former Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal player has emphasised the club’s intention to build a successful, competitive squad and has urged the likes of Adebayor to recognise their place in that project. He cited their obligations as contracted professionals and reiterated the importance of giving the manager a selection headache.
Nonetheless Marwood and the fans would understand the frustrations of highly paid players not getting game time. It is often seen as a virtue that players are not simply content to pick up their wages from the sidelines. But for Adebayor and those who have arrived since the takeover by Sheikh Mansour can they feel justifiably aggrieved? Stephen Ireland’s protracted rant on his departure from City featured this salient advice for an future targets: “They want two players in each position and it will be down to them to see how they work that.” Every new signing at Eastlands has hailed the club’s ambition and desire to succeed. Greeted to rapturous applause last summer, Adebayor’s arrival was no different as he said the team would soon be one of the best in the world.
Manchester City players must realise that the club’s ambitions do not stop at a fifth place finish or by breaking into the previously impenetrable top four. The unwavering ambition of the club translates into buying some of best football talent around which will persist until they compete directly with Europe’s elite sides. This steely insistence on success extends to the manager too who would not be expected to stay in charge if the club fail to qualify for the Champions League this season. Adebayor and others can feel discontented and unfulfilled but not surprised.
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