Manchester City are the richest football club in the world, this much we all know, and because of those resources, they can pick and choose from the elite of the game as they like, being comfortably able to offer the sort of wages that only perhaps PSG and Chelsea can match. This then leaves some players on the periphery, with one of the best examples being Adam Johnson who has been heavily linked with a move away this summer, but the figures being mentioned are quite frankly ridiculous considering what he’s achieved in the game so far during a largely unfulfilled career.
Johnson moved to City back in 2010 from Middlesbrough for a fee in the region of £7m. He looked full of potential, a better winger than Stewart Downing ever was at the club and destined for big things. However, I argued at the time of the switch that it was like he had missed a stage out in his career, a step on the ladder as it were; he needed to prove himself in the top flight first and then ‘earn’ his move to a big-spending title-chasing side like City were always going to be.
He was always destined to fall out of the first-team picture the more that they invested in the squad and current manager Roberto Mancini seems to distrust him to start games of any magnitude. He made just 20 starts last season and completed a full 90 minutes on only six ocassions and they came against Bolton, Sunderland, Stoke, Wolves, Wigan and finally Arsenal in the Carling Cup.
The figure that’s been reported in various places has been around the £15m mark. Considering that he can’t break into the Manchester City side at present, that seems a huge amount to pay for him. Of course, you will pay a premium for English talent, but this is merely an example of a player’s reputation failing to match up to his ability. He rarely ever plays against the best sides for the current Premier League champions and in such a formidable side, coming in against the league’s lesser lights on home turf isn’t the hardest task around.
When you think of Adam Johnson, adjectives like ‘potential’ and ‘promise’ are often used, but he’s 24 years of age now. To put that into context, he’s the same age as Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema and Juan Mata and older than Mesut Ozil, Robert Lewandowski and Javi Martinez. He’s simply a lot older than you may think, and his career has stalled in a big way.
Tottenham and Liverpool are the teams to have been heavily linked with the winger and he’d fit into both sides superbly. He’d certainly offer them something that they’re both missing. Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale are two of the best wide-men in the top flight at present, but one is almost guaranteed to miss a healthy dose of the season through injury while Bale clearly fancies himself in a central role going into next season and he may get his wish as they attempt to keep their most prized asset happy.
Over at Liverpool, they’ve lacked a genuinely class winger since the days of Patrick Berger and Steve McManaman, and have had to put up with a whole deluge of underperforming strikers being shunted out wide in an attempt to grant them the opportunity to justify their huge fees. They’ve been through their fair share of dross over the years and could do with a bit more pace and width out wide and up top and Johnson would fit in with that.
I don’t doubt for one second that Johnson would prove a fine signing for the right club, he still has talent but he hasn’t had consistent first-team football for two years now, to pretend he’s worth anything approaching £15m is just plain silly. He still has some fairly glaring weaknesses within his game, he lacks both focus and concentration at times and has an ego the size of neptune.
The time has come for Johnson to prove himself over an extended period for a top flight side and to do that he’s going to have to look elsewhere. Mancini clearly rates him, but only to an extent, he’s never going to force his way past the likes of Silva, Nasri and Yaya Toure for a regular midfield spot. He fits the system but doesn’t have the crucial currency of status nor quite the ability to warrant a starting place.
A move away now may seem like a step backwards in his career but in reality he jumped two steps forward by moving to City in the first place and missed a crucial stage in his career, the sort of top-eight club that James Milner, Gareth Barry and Joleon Lescott were picked up from. At the right price, he could prove an excellent purchase but at £15m, he simply hasn’t done enough in his career yet to justify such a hefty fee.
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