In the build up to the Barcelona game, which was billed as make or break for Manchester City and their coach Manuel Pellegrini was quoted as saying that English players are too greedy. What he actually said was that it was difficult for him to buy English players because ‘they are too expensive’. Slightly different because there is a world of difference between what a player costs, down to the owning club, and what a player is worth, determined by any prospective purchasing club. Whether it’s a car, a house or a professional footballer the age old maxim of supply and demand rules. As far as a footballer is concerned he is only worth what a club is prepared to pay and how badly they want that player.
Pellegrini wants to improve the complement of domestic players at City (bearing in mind he offloaded Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry and Jack Rodwell – more on him later) because of the quota required by UEFA of home grown players.
The City boss said he was being quoted £35 million for players who he felt were simply not worth that amount and he used that as a benchmark – though one has to factor in when a ‘moneybags’ club inquires about a player eyes light up at the target club, human nature of course. Manuel even suggested that purchasing Raheem Sterling would cost £100 million! For a start one has to question who in their right mind would pay that crazy amount for Sterling, even a club that has paid out £327 million in the past four years, and therein lies one of City’s main problems.
Despite that enormous outlay on players only two of the incomers have made it as regular first-teamers, Demichelis and Fernando and neither of them has uprooted any trees. City have rightly come in for universal criticism that they have failed to freshen up their team, a vital factor in modern football especially at the highest level and particularly at City. At a club with such high earners, complacency that comes from not being pushed by others for a place in the team is the greatest enemy of all.
If you look at City’s conquerors on Wednesday, Barcelona have spent something like £281 million, nearly £50 million less, in the same four year period and they got Neymar as well as Luis Suárez, but are able to leverage a much more established youth setup.
So, what does Manuel Pellegrini do? In the first instance he has to wrest control of City purchases from whoever makes the decision over new signings, then maybe a huge proportion of what is spent is not wasted. Secondly, the lack of first team appearances and their establishment in the team would suggest that someone without too much football acumen has too much sway when it comes to recruitment.
If Pellegrini says £35 million is too much to pay for a player then he is left with two choices. Either make damn sure a player is worth that kind of money, or spend less and spread the risk.
Deciding on value and worth is a very subjective exercise and to be fair there isn’t a great deal out there in the market place especially with the home-grown factor to be considered.
Starting at the top of the scale Harry Kane would be an ideal City purchase. No need to go into detail about his qualities but if you had to pay up to £35 million for him, and it could even be less, City would get plenty of bang for their bucks. Make no mistake, Spurs, who need to raise £400 million to build their new stadium, would not baulk at selling their man of the moment. Ask Harry if he fancies playing alongside Sergio Agüero and in front of Silva and Navas!
At much less, per player, than the £35 million yardstick City could go for any of the following;
John Stones, Nathaniel Clyne, Ross Barkley or Patrick Bamford, while Danny Ings is a player who has been closely linked with City. Although he would only cost around £5 million, would he really displace or threaten Bony, Edin Džeko, or even Stevan Jovetić?
So players are out there who might not only do a job for City, but would benefit from playing with better players and would also satisfy the ‘home grown’ element that is such an important part of modern top-level football.
However there is a word of caution. Look what happened to Jack Rodwell after City plucked him from Everton. An England international, his world quickly imploded and he is now embroiled in a relegation struggle at Sunderland.
Unless Manchester City sort out who buys players and exercises more careful vetting, the club will go round and round in circles, be occasional Premier League champions but consistent Champions’ League bridesmaids.