Manchester City face a big summer. After a lethargic season, the ageing squad needs a refresh and some young blood is needed. But the spectre of Financial Fair play (FFP) still looms over the club like a vicious head cold.
After last season this summer is hugely important, yet City’s transfer dealings will be dictated by the whims of UEFA.
Michel Platini has said that the rules would be relaxed somewhat this summer amidst criticism that the rules protected the established rich clubs and stop the new money from joining the elite clubs. But those teams already in breach of FFP – Monaco and PSG – may not benefit from the change. it remains to be seen if City will benefit, but they may have to keep plodding along under the yoke of Michel Platini’s fleeting fancies.
And so City are willing (forced?) to pay exorbitant transfer fees – within their own business structure, presumably – for young English talent. It makes sense. They need younger players, and in order to compete in the Champions League they need homegrown talent. So far only Joe Hart and Richard Wright are homegrown players in a sky blue shirt. The sale of James Milner and Scott Sinclair along with the fact that Micah Richards was released, mean that City will have to find ways of filling their quota of English talent – or at least English trained talent.
Hence £40m bids for Raheem Sterling, potential interest in Jack Wilshere and the fact that the media see any young English talent as a possible target for City. Even Fabian Delph has been touted too.
But what can City do?
For years the market for English talent has been hugely inflated. Big transfer fees have been paid for Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, even City have paid over the odds for Joleon Lescott and Gareth Barry. None of those players were huge successes at their clubs, Carroll and Downing were flops, really.
[ffc-gal cat=”manchester-city” no=”5″]
But that’s the position City are in now, and it’s not really City’s fault. They’ve done the ‘buy up the young English talent’ thing. James Milner and Gareth Barry were good servants, Joe Hart remains one of the best goalkeepers in the league and England’s number one. Other than that, Joleon Lescott, Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell and Adam Johnson have all come been and gone, with none of them convincing in a City shirt.
FFP was designed to do exactly what it says on the tin – promote fairness in footballing finance, allow the smaller clubs to compete with the bigger clubs, make sure clubs can’t buy success or spend beyond their means. That all sounds great, but the reality is far from that. Far from promoting fairness it has reinforced the old boys’ cabal at the top of World football, the rich get richer whilst those with lofty ambitions who could not afford to expand in the 1990s are left banging their heads against a glass ceiling.
Manchester City are forced to comply with FFP by paying stupid prices for young English players. You might even say unproven English players – the likes of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling will probably be wonderful players for club and country in the future, but both have managed just one season at the top of their game.
To pay £40m for that is madness, no matter how good that player may be in the future. And City might have to pay closer to £50m to prize him away from the despairing grip of Liverpool’s Boston-based owners.
All in the name of fairness.
This is a big summer in the history of Manchester City. The club are doing all the right things. They’re building a sustainable club, based around a wonderful ‘campus’ where all aspects of the club will be based – the elite men, the development squad, the academy, women’s teams and business people all housed under a single roof. It’s a self-sustaining club of equality, or at least that’s the vision.
City are following the Barcelona model, and they can call themselves ‘more than a club’ too. The Citizens have shown a remarkable ‘citizenship’ – Abu Dhabi United Group, City’s owners, will build 6,000 houses in East Manchester, investing £1bn in the area. The scale is unprecedented. Can many governments lay claim to such an investment, let alone a private group? City’s new training complex was built mostly by a local workforce with apprentices and trainees gaining valuable experience working on the construction.
Perhaps we’re going to have to redraw our definition of ‘fair’ if we’re to buy into Platini’s vision of FFP.
FFP is anything but fair. City’s vision is remarkable, no club can lay claim to such a vision. Barcelona remain the most integrated club in the World – their youth players come through the ranks every year and their value to Catalans is emotional and vital – but City have a vision to rival it. City have a vision to create an institution in Manchester that rivals the work done by Barcelona in Catalonia. Hopefully minus the fraud investigations.
This is a huge summer for City, and they’ve put a lot of faith in their manager Manuel Pellegrini to build a squad that is capable of keeping City at the top whilst complying with FFP. And if City fail, they could see their project unravel, and that really would be unfair.