It is a foregone conclusion that this summer’s most frenzied transfer sagas are likely to involve the club from the blue half of Manchester. Thwarted in their quest to secure Champions League football, the metaphorical broom is poised to be swept at Eastlands over the upcoming months in order to make way for the anticipated wave of expensive summer recruits. As fans of the Citizens prepare themselves for the mouth-watering arrivals of some of the world’s biggest stars, it is becoming apparent that the following players may soon be consigned to the Manchester City scrapheap.
Unfortunately, the prominence of Manchester City’s millions and the arrival of Roberto Mancini have stunted the first-team progress of fans’ favourite Stephen Ireland. Following a terrific 2008/09 season which culminated in the Irishman being crowned Manchester City’s Senior Player of the Year and Greater Manchester player of the Year, Ireland’s battles with illness, injury and loss of form have seen the 23-year-old relegated to benchwarmer for large chunks of 2009/10. Having notched 13 goals in 50 appearances during 2008/09, the former Republic of Ireland international started only 16 times last season, with a further six appearances as a substitute.
A product of the club’s academy, the talented and creative playmaker impressed many with his performances in Manchester City’s midfield, with his frequent runs into the box leading to goals. Unfortunately for Ireland, the club’s tendency to deploy a 4-3-3 formation last season saw him marginalised, with the follically-challenged midfielder frequently unable to dislodge the more defensively-minded likes of Gareth Barry, Nigel de Jong and recent recruit Patrick Vieira. The scintillating form of Carlos Tevez and impressive displays of Manchester City new-boy Adam Johnson have both seen Ireland pushed further down the pecking order at Eastlands.
With Mancini expected to expand upon his midfield options, it may be the case that the midfielder from Cork will soon be in receipt of his Manchester City P45. It seems that Ireland is aware that this is the case, informing the Manchester Evening News that, “There is a question mark over next year for me. I don’t know what will happen. I am contracted to City and all I can do is carry on doing my job and performing well when I am called upon. If anything changes during the summer it will be down to the club, not me. It has been a difficult year because I care so much about my job. I care about my game and about the club but there is a lot of frustration bottled up because I have not played as much as I would have liked.”
Ireland’s availability is likely to put many of Manchester City’s rivals on red alert, with city neighbours Manchester United rumoured to be weighing up a £12m swoop for the Irishman. Sir Alex Ferguson is known to be a fan of Ireland’s talents, and is thought that he sees him as a long-term successor to the aging Paul Scholes. Such a cross-city transaction would previously have been thought to be unfeasible, but given that Carlos Tevez made the switch from Old Trafford to Eastlands last summer I have no doubt in my mind that this deal could happen.
Poached from Oldham Athletic’s ranks as a 13-year-old, powerful youngster Micah Richards may be another of City’s academy graduates to exit Eastlands this summer. The versatile defender, who is equally as adept at centre-back and right-back, emerged as one of the domestic game’s hottest prospects in 2006 but has thus far failed to live up to his early potential. Starting only 15 games for Manchester City in the 2009/10 season, the future of Richards will be in doubt as Mancini looks to shore up an often leaky backline.
Still only 21, it appears that Richards has time on his hands and City may not seek to cash in on the player just yet. However, a string of clubs are rumoured to be tracking the defender, with Tottenham and Manchester United thought to have the most concrete interest in the player. Harry Redknapp, a known-admirer of Richards and frequent buyer of English players, will see the opportunity to snap up Richards as the chance to mould another young, hungry British prospect into a fine first-team player, much in the same way he has produced the best from Welsh left-back Gareth Bale. Richards may also be tempted by the prospect of Champions League football at White Hart Lane, an opportunity that cannot as yet be offered to him at Eastlands.
Sir Alex Ferguson is thought to have approached Manchester City with regards to the defender before, and has identified the Leeds-born player as a future replacement for Gary Neville. With Richards eager to re-establish himself within the England setup, he may seek pastures new due to the anticipated influx of defensive players at Eastlands this summer. If he decides to spurn the chance to move to both Old Trafford and White Hart Lane Richards will not have rejected all foreseen exit routes as it is thought that Liverpool, Arsenal and Aston Villa are all interested in the defender.
Róbson de Souza, or Robinho as he is known to the world of football, is further proof that Manchester clubs have a tough time getting the best out of their £30m-plus signings. Signed in the most dramatic of circumstances on deadline day 2008, the Brazilian’s signing was heralded as the glamorous beginning of Manchester City’s glorious future, a marquee purchase to emphatically illustrate the Eastlands side’s new era of unfeasible financial clout.
Notwithstanding fears that the former Real Madrid man would struggle to handle the physical nature of the Premier League and those “rainy Tuesday nights away at Bolton”, Robinho managed to allay such fears with a string of scintillating displays as he finished the 2008/09 season as the club’s top-scorer. Whilst Robinho managed to endear himself to the City faithful with his archetypically Brazilian performances, critics noted the Brazilian’s alarming tendency to go missing away from home.
Despite very public flirtations with Barcelona during the 2009 summer transfer window, Robinho started the 2009/10 season at Eastlands. Dismayed by the departures of close friends Elano and Jô, and dogged by poor form, the arrival of Roberto Mancini acted as the catalyst for the playmaker’s temporary departure from the club, as Robinho returned to hometown club Santos on loan during the recent January transfer window. Since his return to Brazil Robinho has flourished, thriving in the warmer and more palatable surroundings of his homeland.
Although his loan deal is set to cease in August, it is clear that Robinho does not wish to return to the Manchester City fold, speaking of his return to Santos that, “I found happiness on the pitch here with a wonderful team that plays attacking, with a smile. It’s great to be part of this team and thank God that the work was crowned. Let me stay here quietly, it’s good. I hope this can be just the first conquest of my return.” It seems that the club are equally as keen for Robinho to remain at the Estádio Vila Belmiro, with club president Luis Alvaro de Oliveira Ribeiro stating that, “I want them (Robinho, Neymar and Ganso) to continue wearing the shirt of Santos. Robinho is guaranteed until at least August 4. The others will stay till the end of next year. Of course, that doesn’t depend only on me.”
Unfortunately Robinho’s permanent move back to South America is looking unfeasible, with Santos unable to afford the Brazilian’s wages. Alternative destinations for the Brazilian appear scant, with Barcelona failing to re-assert any of their earlier interest in Robinho. The forward’s high price-tag, wages and attitude are likely to act as a deterrent to most clubs, but if one were to take the gamble, they would be acquiring for themselves one unquestionably talented footballer.
Roque Santa Cruz
Arriving at Eastlands on the same day as Gareth Barry last summer, it would be fair to say that Roque Santa Cruz has failed to have the same impact in Manchester as he had had at Ewood Park over the course of the preceding two seasons. An impressive tally of 29 goals in 70 games at Blackburn Rovers persuaded then Manchester City manager Mark Hughes to hand over £18m to his former club for the Paraguayan’s services, but a paltry return of just four goals in 17 appearances has represented a poor return for the Manchester club. Grounded by injury for the first half of the 2009/10 season, Santa Cruz’s inability to display his Ewood Park form has seen the striker fail to dislodge the free-scoring Carlos Tevez and Togolese international Emmanuel Adebayor as Roberto Mancini’s preferred frontmen.
On his day the former Bayern Munich man is a handful for defences, with his towering aerial presence, composure and shooting ability frequently vindicating Mark Hughes’ initial decision to bring the striker to England for a mere £3.5m. Unfortunately this form has failed to follow him to Eastlands, and with City chasing the likes of Fernando Torres and David Villa, it appears that the forward is on his way out.
Liverpool were thought to be interested in signing the Paraguayan prior to his move to Manchester last summer, but they’re likely to be perturbed by his transfer fee and ‘injury-prone’ tag this time round. Rumours have emerged that Santa Cruz may be used as a makeweight in any deals City look to strike with German clubs this summer, as the Paraguayan is still thought of highly in the country after his eight-year spell at Bayern Munich.
Like Micah Richards, Shaun Wright-Phillips will be looking to move away from Eastlands this summer in order to re-establish his England credentials. The pacy winger has fallen out of favour at Manchester City under Roberto Mancini and will almost certainly be plying his trade elsewhere next season. Resuming his Manchester City career in August 2008 after four mixed seasons at Chelsea, Wright-Phillips initially flourished upon his return to his ‘spiritual home’, leading to his re-establishment within Fabio Capello’s England side. However, Wright-Phillips has started just seven games since the arrival of Capello’s compatriot Roberto Mancini at Eastlands, with the diminutive winger substituted in six of these outings. The unexpected successful Premier League transition of Adam Johnson and fruitful conversion of Craig Bellamy to winger have both rendered Wright-Phillips out of favour at Manchester City. Having publicly complained about the club’s failure to offer him a new contract and rumours of training ground disputes with Mancini, it seems a case of when, and not if, Wright-Phillips will exit Eastlands.
Having been usurped by Aaron Lennon (and, at times, Theo Walcott) of his right-wing berth in the England side, Wright-Phillips will be eager to secure first-team football for next season. With over 350 club appearances and 30 caps, any side looking to purchase the 28-year-old this summer will be acquiring a deceptively experienced campaigner. It is thought that Arsene Wenger is looking to bring Wright-Phillips to the club where his father is revered, with the Frenchman mooted to be weighing up a £5m bid for the winger. Given Theo Walcott’s failure to mature and produce consistency, the signing of Wright-Phillips could prove to be a bargain for the notoriously shrewd Wenger.
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