Sterling is on the rise at Manchester City like never before in a week of ‘firsts’ for the Premier League leaders.
Raheem Sterling’s maiden hat-trick in senior football, came just 72 hours after the club posted its first annual profit since the Abu Dhabi takeover seven years ago.
The stock of both player and his employers continues on an upward trajectory, following City’s 5-1 demolition of Bournemouth, and Sheikh Mansour’s ambitious Mancunian ‘project’ declaring a £10.7m surplus for 2014/15.
As the 20-year old England starlet confounds his legion of Liverpool-obsessed critics, so too, City are finally able to stick it to those who decry the club’s transformation since 2008.
Under Sheikh Mansour’s ownership and Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak’s stewardship, City have been propelled from the brink of financial ruin to ‘the best run club in the league…’ according to eminent football finance analyst, David Bick.
Bick is a familiar figure on Sky Sports News whenever they require sage like comment and interpretation on football’s finances, so it’s a glowing endorsement of City’s off-the-field business strategy and on-field investments.
At £44m Sterling was fleetingly City’s record buy, and his three-goal haul against Eddie Howe’s side represented a nice interim dividend.
The first was the simplest of tap-ins.
The second was beautifully set up by KdB – Kevin de Bruyne, the only player to have commanded a bigger City transfer fee.
Lightning quick, Sterling latched on to the 30-yard through pass, sold the Bournemouth defence more ‘dummies’ than you’d find in the Baby Section at Boots, before a suitably soothing outcome.
Raheem’s ‘Triple Crown’ came via bizarre divine intervention as Jesus Navas somehow contrived not to score, leaving Sterling to shimmy and dummy once more, before slotting the ball home from six yards out.
Navas may have lost his composure to score, but it was his blistering pace that created the opportunity in the first place.
Similarly he provided the right wing cross to Wilfried Bony as the Ivorian swivelled with his back to goal, before firing home City’s fifth in the 89th minute.
Bony had earlier benefitted when stand-in keeper Federici spilled a Bacary Sagna cross, and the striker stroked in City’s second goal of the afternoon.
Pre-match, the £25m man acquisition from Swansea revealed he had suffered from Malaria during the summer, but was now ready to fill the void in Sergio Aguero’s absence.
His two goals doubled his career tally with City and delivered a timely confidence boost.
The novelty of the Premier League saw the South Coast visitors bring a large and enthusiastic support, helping achieve a record 54,502 attendance at the Etihad.
It was the second record-breaking milestone of the week for City, with the financial figures revealing revenues of £351.8m for last season.
Khaldoon simplified City’s fiscal position: “We are now a profitable business with no debt and no outstanding restrictions. Our financial model and strategic investment is proven to work.”
The Chairman put the achievement into an even rosier context when he added: “The fact we consider last season to be below par is testament to how far we have come in the last seven years.
“This is a level of ambition that we should not shirk or shy away from.”
It’s worth noting that for all of the jibes, media bias and bile from those who can’t stomach the success of the blue side of Manchester, the Swamp Dwellers of Trafford Borough actually had a higher wage bill than City.
The club is now valued at £676m, but place that figure alongside Sheikh Mansour’s family’s estimated overseas assets of £648 BILLION, and you get a measure of the staggering wealth of the City owner.
With UEFA’s ‘Financial Fair Play’ regulations already under scrutiny in the European Court, and the architect of the fatuous rules, Michel Platini facing potential criminal charges of corruption, what chance that FFP crumbles in 2016?
City have already shown they are no longer reliant on the funds of their generous benefactor, but it can’t hurt if, in the future, the Sheikh has the option of ‘topping up’ the coffers from his own personal wealth.
The rich seam of talent already within Manuel Pellegrini’s squad showed they could withstand the loss of their two finest players, maintaining their two point advantage at the top of the league.
Without a recognised left back due to injuries, Sagna played well in an unorthodox role, even managing to whip in a left-footed cross for Bony’s first goal.
Captain Vincent Kompany was an unused sub, with Pellegrini stating his skipper had been ‘unable to work’ on the Wednesday and Thursday, having played – against City’s wishes – for Belgium on Tuesday night.
One wonders if the trusted MP was making a point, but expect Kompany to be back for the Champions League visit of Sevilla.
Pellegrini’s plans to safeguard other key players ahead of Wednesday was clear as Yaya Toure was replaced with Fernando for the second half, de Bruyne made way for Nasri and Iheanacho was introduced for Sterling.
It didn’t quite go to plan with sub Nasri showing highly visible problems with his left hamstring.
Just what is it with this club and dodgy hamstrings i.e. Aguero, Kolarov, Delph and Nasri all at the same time?
Sadly the prodigious Iheanacho is not in City’s Champions League squad. He scored an exquisitely chipped 6th ‘goal’, only for it to be wrongly ruled out for offside.
Credit to a depleted Bournemouth, who didn’t park the proverbial bus or resort to gamesmanship, but had Aguero been playing the Argentine would probably have bagged the first ever double hat-trick in Premier League history.
Fair to say Sevilla and the Trafford Troglodytes will offer sterner tests.
Sevilla languish 12th in La Liga but, they did beat Barcelona 2-1 earlier this month.
Similarly, City’s other Group D opponents, Juventus and Borussia Moenchengladbach have underwhelmed in their domestic leagues, but proven extremely tough opponents.
Pellegrini should expect more of the same with the Spaniards – a match which sees Jesus Navas face his former team, with whom he spent 10 years, making 285 La Liga appearances and scoring 23 goals.
A win is vital if City are to progress to the knockout stages for a third consecutive year.
Champions League progression and ultimate glory, is the Holy Grail as far as Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon are concerned.
The only currency they deal in is ‘success’ – not a bad exchange rate for all City fans.
By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu