Sheikh Mansour went to Spain in a Lamborghini
Brought us back a manager, Manuel Pellegrini
If ever there was a chant to characterize the classless ‘big club’ pretentions of Manchester City, the latest Etihad Stadium refrain just about covers it. Wonderwall or Champagne Supernova it is not, but it highlights the attitude shared by owners and fans alike. Ferguson alluded to it during his final years as United manager, labelling them ‘the noisy neighbours’ and it is hard to disagree. Doing things quietly is not the way at Manchester’s second club, and City do precious little to endear themselves to the neutral. Whether it is throwing ludicrous amounts of money at second rate, foreign mercenaries, breaching FFP rules or spending £200m on a training complex to support an academy that has produced one regular first-team player (Micah Richards) in the past decade… You name it, City have done it.
Of course, Man City aren’t the first club to have received huge foreign investment. Chelsea set the precedent in 2003 when Roman Abramovich bought the club. Chelsea spent vast sums on players in the summer to follow and finished 2nd at the end of Abramovich’s first season before securing back-to-back titles. However, Chelsea had already qualified for the Champions League when Russian oil money was first pumped into the club and the spine assembled in that period remained consistent for the majority of the decade to follow; Cech, Drogba and Cole adding to Lampard and Terry.
City, meanwhile, have had a scattergun, chuck-money-at-it-until-it-works approach. For every Silva there has been a Jovetic, for every Aguero a Jo and for every Yaya Toure a Robinho. And football fans, jealous or not, despise it. Why? Above anything else, City are not a big club, nor are they deserving of a place at football’s top table. The vast swathes of empty seats at every home game and poor atmosphere prove it. Players don’t join Manchester City for the prestige of joining a club with rich heritage as they do Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal… they go to City to make a quick buck ala, Tevez, Balotelli, Robinho and birthday cake enthusiast Yaya Toure, et al.
The latest managerial speculation is pretty indicative of Manchester City’s place in the football world. Take Jurgen Klopp for example. A lively, quirky, heartfelt, German chap with an illustrious beard and a love of rock music…. If Klopp were on Match.com his tagline would be ‘strong personality seeking likeminded other half with a view to a stable, loving and passionate relationship’. The thought of Jurgen Klopp racing up and down the Eastlands touchline, kicking every ball, agonizing over every tackle and bouncing up and down with youthful delirium against a backdrop of empty light blue seats and passive drawls of “Ciiiiiiteh, Ciiiiiteh” just doesn’t seem quite right. As for the Guardiola rumours? What interest would managerial royalty have in Manchester City? Little, I suspect. Before the Qatari oil money arrived City were, with the odd exception, perennial strugglers with the aim of consolidation; they even spent the late 90’s in the third tier followed by yo-yo years between Premier League and the old Division One.
Since arriving at Manchester City in 2008, Sheikh Mansour has invested over £1bn in the club. One billion pounds. ONE. BILLION. POUNDS. That’s 500 Bugatti Veyron 16.4’s, one billion McDonalds Mayo Chickens with change to spare and enough to provide 7,353 African villages with fresh water for 20 years. Yet, despite the influx of incomprehensible wealth, City appear to be a soulless institution representative of nothing the Manchester community holds dear. A former-industrial, working class city with players from the four corners of the globe, some of whom complain about an absence of respect whenever they don’t receive a birthday cake despite pocketing £250,000 a week? Stop flapping your gums, Yaya and produce the form you’re capable of, yeah? And while we’re at it, Carlos Tevez was even worse – a 3-month strike because he wasn’t getting his own way?!
Stropping over Victoria Sponge and Argentine golfing holidays aside, where is the Mancunian heart? Joe Hart is about a close as it gets… and he’s from Shrewsbury. Sure, the £200m investment in a new training complex complete with a 7,000 capacity stadium for the youth team, 16 outdoor football pitches watered by 8 million-litre underground tank will help, but there are few signs of the current academy breaking through to the first team. For all the talk of longevity and doing things ‘the right way’, Manchester City appear to be remarkably ignorant of how to consolidate as a top level club. What good is bringing in Txiki Begiristain from Barcelona as Director of Football if the signings continue to underwhelm and underperform (ala Fernando, Fernandinho, Navas, Jovetic, Mangala)? What good is bringing in Guardiola’s contemporary, a man schooled in Barcelona’s prestigious La Masia, if the academy shows no signs of being a first team production line? What good is adding 8,000 seats to your stadium if you’ll only fill it when Man United are in town?
For all the oil money and nouveau riche attitudes present at Manchester City there is, at least, one bastion of consistency and class at the club. Vincent Kompany. Despite the constant upheaval of players, some of whom are utterly objectionable individuals, Kompany has stood tall on the pitch and represented the club off it with an elegance, eloquence and decency that belies his surroundings. Joe Hart and James Milner don’t possess the continental suave of their captain, but they don’t seem altogether bad blokes.
Maybe I’m jealous that West Brom don’t have a foreign benefactor? Maybe not. Either way, with £750+ million spent on wages and transfer fees, 2 Premier League titles, 1 FA Cup and 1 League Cup is a paltry return on the investment. Spending huge amounts of money in the search of regular trophies simply rubs people up the wrong way. As such, Chelsea have been usurped as the nations number one love-to-hate club; a hatred that promises to intensify in line with City’s increasing delusions of grandeur.