What the future holds for City’s frontmen

In what has been another dull season for Manchester City (ahem), it is widely expected that the summer transfer window will be a busy one. Garry Cook has often stressed that the original spending spree will be toned down after a couple of years to allow youth to come through, and obviously with one eye on the financial fair play rules. But while this may be true, it may well be a case of spending what we get in much of the time in the summer as there will be plenty more comings and goings.

And whilst there are still issues to sort out in defence, such as both full back positions (though Richards/Zabaletta may solve one of those problems), and while the midfield still needs a bit more strength, these two areas of the field are at last beginning to look a bit more settled.

Up front however, it is a different story. With one outstanding success story in that area of the pitch, it has been a mixed bag for the other strikers in the squad.

There is a theory I hold about Carlos Tevez, that many other City fans hold too. It is the theory that he is definitely going in the summer, come what may. The second he withdrew his transfer request in December, I smelt a rat (being naturally cynical). It seemed to me that a deal had been struck. Withdraw your transfer request, buckle down and play, and we won’t stand in your way in the summer – but we are not letting you go mid-season, and that is that. As was expected, transfer rumours aplenty have sprung up recently regarding Tevez – this is no surprise, regardless of whether he intends to leave, but the truth is I never expected him to stay more than 2 or 3 seasons, he is not the sort of person to stick to one club, and whilst it will obviously be a huge loss to City, we’ll move on, and play a system that will hopefully suit the remaining strikers better.

And as for those other strikers, it is hard to know what the future holds.

Edin Dzeko has had a difficult start to his City career, and yet I can’t help think, however stupid it may sound, that he will be a huge hit at City. I don’t think he has been awful when he has played, more that he is playing in a system totally unsuited to him. He needs width from other players, and plenty of crosses. It appears that we bought a player before thinking how we would fit him in, but perhaps the real reason we bought him is that City knew Tevez was leaving in the summer, and Dezeko is his replacement. Steve McClaren recently said that Dzeko took a year to settle in Germany, but once he did, there was no stopping him. I fully expect him to spearhead City’s attack next season. He certainly won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, so will be part of the squad for the 2011/12 season.

Mario Balotelli is of course Satan himself, in human form. He awakes early to feast on live frogs. Having dangled a young child out of his apartment window, he saunters into training late, before abusing the canteen staff and defecating on a random player’s car.Then it’s a light jog before going absent without leave, mowing down a reporter on the way out. He then entertains himself by chatting up married women in sleazy nightclubs before shouting abuse at passers-by as he walks home, where he finishes the day by catapulting burning rocks onto a nearby school playing field. Throughout all this, he does not smile once.
OK, maybe I exaggerated the training bit, but here is a player that is creating a name for himself for all the wrong reasons. The press have of course hyped up his every action to portray him as little better than a serial killer, but he does not help himself, and needs to grow up. The question is – will he? How long will Mancini’s patience hold out, how long will he remain here? His talent is beyond doubt. I cannot see him leaving City due to not being good enough. At the moment however he cannot be trusted to start every week. But again, a summer move seems highly unlikely. He too will be part of the squad next season, but Mancini will probably want plenty of back-up should the odd suspension or knee injury occur.

As for Jo, the day he leaves the club there will be the sound of 20,000 corks popping simultaneously around the Manchester area. I’ve tried to see what it is that prompted his purchase for such a ridiculous fee (or for any fee, for that matter), but I can’t. No City fan can. And the longer he stays at the club, the more opportunities he has to suddenly appear the pitch, as Mancini himself seems to think he has his uses. He must be pretty amazing in training.

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And let’s not forget Craig Bellamy. On loan at Cardiff, he has made noises recently about returning in the summer – he does not appear to see his future at Cardiff. I doubt it will be at City either, especially if Mancini is still the manager next season. Some City fans have bemoaned his absence this season, as in certain games his assets would certainly have been very useful indeed, but if he has fallen out with Mancini, there can only be one winner. He is coming towards the end of his career now, and the knees are getting weaker and weaker. I can’t see him putting on a (Manchester) City shirt again.

In a similar position is Emmanuel Adebayor. He has made it quite clear that he doesn’t want to play for City again, which isn’t going to give many City fans sleepless nights. The feeling is mutual. He is desperate to stay at Madrid. Mancinii has said he would have him back, but again I think we can expect a summer transfer. I was amazed that Real Madrid took him on loan, and I’d be even more amazed if they signed him permanently, as he seemed like nothing more than a stop-gap measure while Higuain recovered from his back problems. After a fairly promising start, I have read that Madrid fans are already showing their frustration at his performances. Either way, I don’t expect him to feature for City again, but he’ll have no shortage of suitors.

Roque Santa Cruz. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear for a third time. Mark Hughes’ biggest mistake by far, which is saying something. Currently failing to do the business on loan back at Blackburn, his huge wages will make him difficult to sell. Could be at City for some time, but hopefully only in the reserves.

As for the biggest forgotten man of them all, step forward Felipe Caicedo. Another City forward who hides his talents well, the Ecuadorian has however been banging them in for Levante, scoring 11 goals in 17 games. Expect a cut-price deal to be arranged in the summer.

If none of City’s strikers were to leave in the summer, I would still expect City to buy someone. And if Tevez were to leave, I still think they will buy one player. The press speculation points towards Alexis Sanchez. The tiny 22 year old Chilean currently plays for Udinese, and is widely in demand. A man of phenomenal skill, but another player who brings the odd problem with him, as there have been suggestions that he is not a consistent performer. He is certainly not a straight swap for Tevez, more resembling someone like Christiano Ronaldo, and he is more of a wide player, though he can play upfront too. He is certainly exciting to watch, and would add plenty of width to our team – I feel him and Dzeko could link up well, but I have only seen him sporadically so that is an opinion borne out of hope (should he sign of course) than experience.

If City buy anyone else, expect them to go for youth, a teenager. Perhaps for Romelu Lukaku, a 17 year old Belgian who plays for Anderlecht, and who has been linked over the past few months with virtually every big club in Europe. I’ve read that he has already signed a deal with City. I’ve read he has already signed a deal with Manchester United. I’ve heard he has already signed a deal with Chelsea. I’ve read he is being chased by Barcelona and Real Madrid. Who knows? He’ll probably go nowhere.

City’s buying policy in the summer is hard to ascertain – it depends partly on finishing in the Top 4, and it depends on the mindset of Carlos Tevez. Finding top-class strikers is one of the hardest things for a manager to do, partly explaining why their fees are higher than more defensive players. With all the money in the world, you can’t go and buy a selection of top-class players in any one position, as they will not be prepared to sit on the bench. And that is why buying young and hungry players may well be the way forward from now on. While City have a few promising youngsters in the academy such as Ibrahim, Nimely, and Guidetti, I can’t see them having more than the odd appearance next season. But with City desperate to break even over the next few years, Mancini and co, will be hoping that the Academy’s expansion will soon start pushing players through to the first team in every department. And Mancini’s summer strategy may involve looking at more wide players in forward positions rather than your traditional centre forward. Either way, it will be another interesting summer at Eastlands.