Manchester City’s defence of their second Premier League title in three years is hampered by two great lengths of red tape – the dubious Financial Fair Play regulations and the eminently more laudable ruling on ‘home-grown’ players.
The hypocrisy, corrupt practices and self serving sentiments of FFP have been well documented, as has the fact that if City are to comply with their FFP punishment, their net transfer spending is limited to £49m this summer.
Previous statements from City Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, suggested that the UEFA imposed transfer budget ceiling was broadly in line with City’s plans…so no real problem.
The pending announcement concerning the acquisition of Eliaquim Mangala at a reported £31.8m will just about empty the UEFA sanctioned money pot. The earlier arrivals of Fernando (£12m) Willy Caballero (£4.4m) Bruno Zucilini (£1.5m) and Bacary Sagna on a free, mean City’s available credit is approximately £300,000 – whoopee do…that’ll go a long way, but only if your name’s Accrington Stanley.
The five new additions to the Etihad are all meritorious to varying degrees, but they all have one glaring drawback – not one of them can lay claim to any English ancestry or, slightly more likely, three seasons being trained between the age of 15-21 years, by a club or clubs in England.
It leaves City with too many players from overseas and not enough meeting the criteria of eight home-grown for the Premier League and, for next season only, five for the Champions League (the number reduced from eight in line with City’s squad reduction from 25 to 21 players as part of their FFP punishment).
As things stand at least one foreign player will be excluded from Premier League duties in 2014/15 and two from Champions League participation, the question is who, and do they leave City on permanent or loan deals?
Either way, it necessitates raising further transfer funds, money that City are able to spend provided their outgoings don’t exceed incoming fees. If the idea is to ‘kill two birds with one stone’ it would appear that City need to buy players who fit the home-grown criteria.
City’s present crop, to be brutally honest, contains only a trio of players who can justify inclusion in a 25-man squad, namely Joe Hart, James Milner and Gael Clichy.
Dedryck Boyata can consider himself very fortunate to have a new two year contract and the same goes for veteran third choice keeper Richard Wright, on a 12-month deal. The two are effectively ‘passengers’ and wouldn’t be at City were it not for UEFA requirements.
Those who remain could easily find themselves as transfer pawns as City seek to build up a credible transfer pot. England internationals Micah Richards and Jack Rodwell, former England U-21 winger Scott Sinclair and Swedish international striker John Guidetti seem destined to go.
The departures of out of contract Gareth Barry and Joleon Lescott means City are well shy of the quota. The conundrum is further complicated by what represents good value for money in the grossly inflated English transfer market.
Put into perspective, German World Cup winner and Bayern Munich regular Toni Kroos (24), is joining Real Madrid from the Bundesliga champions for £20m. England international Adam Lallana (26) has gone from Southampton to Liverpool for £25m. Lallana is a very good PL player, but it’s a farce when Kroos, at two years younger, and having won almost every honour in the game costs £5m less.
If City are to invest in talent that could genuinely improve the quality of the squad – not just fringe players – it’s going to cost and cost BIG TIME. Such moves can only be financed by the sales of household names, players who, ideally would be staying at the Etihad.
Will Yaya Toure, an iconic talisman who has been integral in all City’s recent success, be throwing his toys out the pram when he is finally called to account for all the shenanigans cooked up by himself and his abhorrent ‘agent’, the disgraceful Dmitri ‘slimeball’ Seluk – the man who put the yuk into Ukrainian?
Placing sympathy and empathy aside following the tragic passing of his younger brother, Ibrahim, Yaya has been a right pain in the rear from the moment he turned 31 years of age.
Does he want out? If so, who is prepared to buy him at what would not, or certainly should not, be a bargain price? Are City even prepared to contemplate his departure?
Despite Alvaro Negredo’s recent interview with MCFC TV, where the Beast declares he is happy to stay at City, doubts still linger whether the lure of a move back to Spain, could still see him depart by 1st September.
The Beast is very popular with the fans, and rightly so, but if – if – his family are unsettled and a Spanish side is prepared to pay £20m+, is it beyond the realms that he could yet say adios?
Javi Garcia, vastly improved last season to the extent he kept Fernandinho out of the starting XI in the PL title run-in, is a known target for Rafael Benitez’s Napoli.
Stevan Jovetic has reportedly been the subject of much interest from Inter Milan who would love to take him back to Serie A, after he previously flourished in Italy with Fiorentina.
Matija Nastasic – again the focus of alleged interest from Serie A’s finest, including Juventus – could be a prime candidate for a loan or a cash move. The benefit of not selling the young Serbian defender is that he does not presently count as one of the quota of foreign players, as he is still only 20.
If City were to raise substantial sums from the sales of two or more of their most popular foreign stars, it might, just might pave the way for some shock big-name purchases.
Names such as Everton’s Ross Barkley are reportedly on the radar, but at the usual over-inflated PL premium. It’s amazing that England had a hideous World Cup campaign, and yet players from these shores cost far more than their more accomplished international counterparts.
With the men from Goodison Park already owing City £2m as part of Gareth Barry’s loan deal and Roberto Martinez keen to take Jack Rodwell back to Everton, there’s certainly some food for thought.
The Sky and BT television deals are the obvious answer as to why so much money is slushing around English domestic football, but it’s still seems daft paying huge sums for what is effectively raw and unproven talent e.g. Barkley, Lallana and £30m Luke Shaw.
Paul Pogba – championed as a natural born replacement for Yaya at some stage – would cost mega bucks if he transferred back to the right side of Manchester this time around – and he would qualify as home-grown thanks to his mis-spent youth at the Theatre of Screams.
Whether Juventus’ interest in Nastasic could help smooth a deal is perhaps wishful thinking, but who knows?
As things stand City have a squad very capable – especially if it stays fully fit for most of the time – of retaining their domestic title, despite the big-spending of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manure and Liverpool, the latter coughing up money derived from the Uruguayan Dentistry Association.
With 46 days before the transfer window closes there is still plenty of time for transfermeister Txiki Begiristain and Manuel Pellegrini to sort out at least one, maybe two, comings and up to half-a-dozen goings, to balance the respective 25-man and 21-man squads for England and Europe.
With hindsight, FFP penalties are perhaps having more of an impact, in the short term, than previously envisaged, but City have the experience, know-how, togetherness and talent to negotiate such challenges.
City have come a long way in a short time and have never been in better shape than with Manuel Pellegrini at the helm.
It’s not fanciful to believe City can improve on last year’s double trophy haul, after all, who would ever have imagined a scenario whereby a Manchester City manager would one day turn down the chance to manage Brazil?
You couldn’t make it up!
By David Walker