With the signing of former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor, Manchester City have now spent about £80million on players this summer, including the capture of Roque Santa Cruz, Argentine Carlos Tevez and England’s Gareth Barry. These are impressive signings and definitely signal the intention that Man City’s new owners mean business in their threat to storm the Premier League this season. This is not the end of the spending either, as executive chairman at the City of Manchester has already said that City will keep spending until manager Mark Hughes is happy with his squad. A bid for Everton and England defender Joleon Lescott has been rejected, and it has been made very clear by Hughes and the rest of the club that Chelsea captain and fan-favourite John Terry is their primary transfer target. On the arrival of the new billionaire owners their ambitions were made very clear, instantly putting in a £30million bid for Torres, and trying to snatch Dimitar Berbatov from their red rivals in a last ditch offer on the final day of the transfer window last summer. In these financially insecure times it is clear that Man City are willing to flex their financial muscles and cash in on collecting a Premier League winning team. However the question I wish to ask about all this big money spending and ambition is this… If Man City were to win the Premier League this season, or to finish in the top 4, will the footballing talent and achievement of the players be tainted by the obvious kamikaze financial process that brought them all together?
We have seen something similar to this before, in the arrival of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich to Chelsea before the 2003/4 season. In that first summer they spent over £100million, including the signing of Inter Milan’s prized forward Hernan Crespo for £17m, Damien Duff from Blackburn for £17m, Adrian Mutu for £15m, Veron, a somewhat failure at Man Utd for £15m, as well as Joe Cole, Wayne Bridge and Claude Makelele amongst a host of other players. The following summer, after the first wild summer of spending only achieved 2nd (despite only being beaten by an unbeaten Arsenal) and once Mourinho was installed that next summer saw Drogba bought for £24m, Carvalho and Ferreira for £35m between them, and Robben and goalkeeper Petr Cech cost another £20m. After 2 seasons at the club and nearly £200m spent Chelsea finally won back to back Premier League titles, playing some excellent football and scoring some stunning goals, in the 04/5 and 05/6 seasons. Make no mistake, despite the ludicrous money spent Chelsea became the team that everyone wanted to beat. In an interview Man United’s John O’Shea said that Chelsea had become the ‘new team to hate’ taking Man United’s crown. Yet whilst Chelsea had achieved such success the financial basis on which this team was built lead many people to say they had ‘bought’ the title. This of course can be challenged by saying that it was the excellent football played by the team and managerial talent of Mourinho that allowed all these big-money egos to co-exist as a Premiership winning force and to a certain degree this is true, but quite simply without the huge sums of money spent on the players transfer fees, their wages and also the manager, Chelsea would not have been able to win the league. Winning the title a second time with relatively few additions in 05/6 helped subdue the opposing claims, and also with an English backbone of Lampard, Terry, Joe Cole, Glen Johnson and Scott Parker, fans had a reasonable amount of time for Chelsea even with the money.
Manchester City will find themselves in this position, however I feel the pound-note coloured taint on the Premier League trophy will be even more visible if City were to lift it this year, and any tactical or technical brilliance on the pitch will no doubt be smothered by the obvious notion that Man City will have bought the title. With the £100m bid for the Brazilian Kaka in January Man City proved that they were willing to spend ridiculous amounts of money for success. No matter how good a player, £100million pounds is obscene. In perspective, that amount of money spread to every team in the Coca-Cola Leagues two (tier 4) would bring 6 clubs out of administration and allow all 24 to survive with a green numbered balance at the end of each year for the next 20. The reported £500k per week wage he was offered could pay for all of those 24 clubs players wages for several months. Manchester City have the advantage that they can go to any struggling club in Europe (for example Valencia), offer them a stupid £40m offer for a player, and the other club would have to accept them because it will keep them in business for a few years. £40m is nothing to City, and thus could acquire the best players in the world by dealing with these cash-strapped clubs.
This move for Kaka also sent out a message to other clubs and players that City are willing to shell out stupid money to achieve their success, and thus Arsenal receive a bid of £22m for Adebayor (even Arsenal’s faithful will tell you he’s not worth that), who is now one of 9 strikers at the club. As much as these players want to play regular first team football, you’re not going to argue with £100k a week while you’re waiting your turn. Thus, despite the obvious ambition of the owners and the exceptional calibre of players they are bringing to the club, every player who goes there will get tagged with Benitez’ ‘Money, money, money’ label that he placed on Barry. For both Barry and Adebayor, who (Barry in particular) could have easily gone to play for any of the “big 4”, Man City seems like a step backwards.
The difference between Man City and Chelsea not only lies in the complete insanity of the money City are paying opposed to Chelsea who paid just over the asking price of the players they brought in, but also if you look at where both clubs were in terms of rankings before their respective owners were brought in.
Despite Chelsea’s last winning of the English title before 04/5 being in 1955, since the creation of the Premiership have never been relegated, and since 1997 have never finished below 6th. Their style of football had always been inviting, colourful and always had a sting in the tale, they were able to acquire world stars such as Zola, Gullit, Di Matteo and Vialli, and were always regarded as one of the top sides in the league.
10 years ago Man City were in the then ‘Division 1’ (now the Championship), having just been promoted from the division below in the worst period in the club’s history. The blue side of Manchester was almost lost underneath the metropolis being built by the red side. (A red side who, I might add, have won the Premier League 11 times and have not once been regarded as having ‘bought’ the title, and whilst people may slam Sir Alex for his alleged manipulation of referees or the fixture list or whatever, no one can reject that his teams show more determination to win the league, and play appropriate football for doing so.) Whilst Chelsea have been a stable, successful Premier League team in the last 15 years, Manchester City have been up and down the divisions, and never finished above 8th in the Premier League since their return in 2002/3. Chelsea were already heading in a positive direction when Abramovich took over, and already had Lampard and Terry, yet City have had nothing better than mid-table obscurity, which is why a sudden rush to the top of the division would no doubt been singularly looked at as an achievement of the financial muscle of the billionaires, not of the players or the staff (which is a shame). Even if City don’t win the League and perhaps win a Cup, or achieve a Champions League spot, they have put themselves in a position where any success will be void of any credibility, and the brilliance of the players will be overlooked and instead people will instantly remark about the money.
Despite all I have said, I still do not believe Man City’s team is better than Chelsea, Man United or Liverpool, and I do not believe that they will waltz to the top of the league. However I think that should they prove me wrong, it will be purely because of the obscene hoards of money they’ve thrown at players that will have bought them success, and it will be to the detriment of all the teams who genuinely work hard to train youth players, scout foreign teams for hard earned signings and graft and fight to become the best in the business. Man City claim their new players will be exciting for the Premier League. A title that has been clearly ‘bought’ instead of ‘earned’, exciting?… I think not.