When Sheikh Mansour purchased Manchester City in 2008 it signified the start of a new era in English football, with The Citizen’s emerging as the new superpower of the domestic game as the Abu Dhabi Group made astronomical investments in all aspects of the club.
The money provided by Mansour and his partners has enabled City to re-shape the very essence of the club with vast swathes of cash being spent, for the most part, wisely on infrastructure, a new purpose built £200 million training centre and links with clubs in the United States, Australia, Spain and the Far East.
The club’s new-found financial muscle has also allowed them to shake-up the transfer market, with an estimated one billion pounds being spent on players since 2008, that has seen the arrivals of prestigious figures and world-class personnel such as Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero.
However, not every penny spent by Mansour in the transfer market has been a success. Here The Boot Room looks at four of the worst Manchester City signings of the Sheikh Mansour era.
Roque Santa Cruz
Mark Hughes had previously worked with the Paraguayan striker whilst at Blackburn Rovers where the forward had scored an impressive 23 goals in his debut season in English football. However, a string of injuries the following year had left Santa Cruz short of form and fitness whilst there were some early signs that his goal scoring accomplishments of the previous season had been little more than a flash in the pan.
Despite the warning signs, Hughes still elected to spend £18 million to bring the striker to the Etihad Stadium in the summer of 2009 where he signed an exaggerated contract that would tie him to the club for the next four years. The Welshman had obviously been viewing the Paraguayan forward through rose tinted spectacles because Santa Cruz looked a shadow of the player that had burst into English football in 2007.
During his four-year stay at the Etihad Stadium the striker scored four goals and made just over twenty appearances as injuries, a seeming inability to make an impact in matches and the arrival of other star names coincided with his diminishing ability. He was shipped off on loan to Blackburn, where he failed to score, before temporary season-long moves to Spain with Real Betis and Malaga where he experienced mixed success.
Santa Cruz departed City in the summer of 2013 following the expiry of his contract having made little impact at the club despite the heavy cost the initial transfer fee and four years’ worth of wages.
Prior to joining Manchester City Wilfried Bony was one of the hottest strikers in European football having averaged a goal every other game whilst at Swansea City. The imposing Ivorian appeared to possess all of the characteristics to become an outstanding forward – power, strength, pace and an instinctive presence around the eighteen yard box – although supporters at the Etihad Stadium would see very little of that during his stay with the club.
In January 2015, City purchased the striker for £25 million and signed a contract that was rumoured to be worth in excess of £128,000 per week. What an expensive, disastrous decision that would turn out to be.
Bony struggled for game time at the Etihad Stadium and never looked capable of holding down a regular first team spot despite the supporters willing him to be a success. His lack of playing time appeared to facilitate a dramatic diminishment in his physical ability and instinct in front of goal and he was quickly cast into the depths of reserve team football.
He scored just six goals in his first two seasons with City before he was sent out on loan to Stoke City. Unfortunately the striker failed to make any impact in The Potteries and by December he had had been consigned once more to reserve team football, this time in a red and white strip.
Bony returned to the Etihad Stadium in the summer and was purchased by Swansea City for half of the fee that they had sold him for three years previously.
By the summer of 2012 Jack Rodwell had emerged as one of the brightest, young English talents in the modern game after bursting into first team football at Everton. The central midfield was mobile, strong and appeared to possess an impressive range of passing that had many predicting that he would soon be a regular starter in the senior England squad.
Roberto Mancini opted to invest £12 million in the then 21-year-old and there was a genuine excitement around the Etihad Stadium that the club had purchased a player that, seemingly, had vast amounts of potential.
Unfortunately for Rodwell his debut against Southampton would exemplify his struggles at Manchester City. He was directly responsible for both of the goals scored by The Saints and, although City would ultimately win the contest 3-2, he left the field with a shell-shocked look etched across his face.
The following two years would not be much better for the youngster. He made less than 30 appearances for City, the vast majority coming from the bench, and he appeared completely incapable of fitting into life at an elite football club. City quickly decided to cut their losses and in the summer of 2014 the club, somehow, managed to convince Sunderland to pay £10 million for Rodwell’s services – where he would become part of the team that suffered relegation in 2016.
Pep Guardiola is recognised as one of the greatest football coaches / managers of the modern era and his arrival at the Etihad Stadium in the summer of 2016 was a definitive statement by the club that Manchester City intended to join the elite of European football.
Bizarrely, one of Guardiola’s first actions as manager was to shake-up the goalkeeping department where he opted to freeze out long-standing first choice ‘keeper Joe Hart. The England international was eventually excluded to Italy, where he joined Torino on a season-long loan, with Claudio Bravo being brought in for £15.4 million from Barcelona as his replacement.
The suggestion was that Bravo was more confident and adept with playing out from the back with his feet, a key aspect of Guardiola’s style of play, although it soon became apparent that the Chilean could not use his hands!
Bravo was immediately thrust into the City first team and never truly looked comfortable in the rough and tumble of Premier League football. He seemed incapable of saving a shot, at one point conceding eight goals from eight shots on target over the duration of a month, and made a number of high profile errors. By Christmas he had been replaced by reserve team goalkeeper Willy Cabellero, who would be released at the end of the season, and in the summer of 2017 Guardiola spent £35 million on a new first-choice goalkeeper, Ederson Moraes.
Has Leroy Sané been wrongfully dropped from Germany’s World Cup squad?
The 22-year-old will not be featuring in Russia.
It was today announced that the 22-year-old – who made Joachim Löw’s original 27-man provisional team – did not make the official 23-man tournament squad. This arguably comes as the biggest shock of the squad announcements so far.
Sané made 40 appearances this season in all competitions for City, scoring 14 goals and gaining 19 assists along the way in what was undoubtedly the best season of his career.
His performances and statistics were enough to gain him the Premier League’s ‘Young Player of the Year Award’ for the 2017/18 season, further adding to the surprise of his absence from Löw’s World Cup squad.
Germany’s record in recent tournaments is as unquestionable as the strength and depth they have within their squad. To make the final cut of Löw’s World Cup team is a feat within itself and Sané deserved that accolade this summer.
Making the squad at the expense of Sané; Mesut Özil (Arsenal), Sebastian Rudy (Bayern Munich), Julian Draxler (PSG), Mario Gomez (Stuttgart) and Timo Werner (RB Leipzig).
Sané has similar attributes to these five players which is why it is difficult to comprehend any argument for the City wingers absence.
With the exception of Leipzig’s Werner, all of the above scored fewer goals last season than Sané and, on top of that, every player also had far fewer assists than the City winger, with the next closest to him being Arsenal’s Özil with 12 (seven behind).
In fact, if you add Rudy, Draxler and Gomez’s assists together (13), you’d still have six fewer than Sane’s. Combine all of the major statistics relevant to an attacking midfielder/forward’s role, Sané is ahead of every name on this list.
It obviously isn’t all about the statistics, however, and when you consider the calibre of attacking teammates Sané had to work with this season, it is understandable why his personal statistics are so high.
However, a World Cup squad should be the 23 best men at that time to represent their country.
When you consider the jaw-dropping football Manchester City played in this record breaking Premier League season – and Sané’s significant impact in that – surely it is inconceivable to think that he is not within the best 23 players of his nation.
It is difficult to second guess an international manager with the record of Joachim Löw. However, compile all of the statistical evidence with the eye test and it is difficult to understand how Leroy Sané will not be representing Germany in Russia this month.
Manuel Pellegrini’s poor China record should give West Ham cause for concern
The Chilean international looks set to join the Hammers.
With spells at some of the world’s most successful clubs, the Chilean is certainly an impressive acquisition for the Hammers.
Yet Pellegrini’s most recent coaching assignment has been nothing short of mediocre, a sign that should slightly worry West Ham supporters.
Pellegrini officially left Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune on Saturday, after just under two years at the club.
The Chilean was appointed in August 2016 and registered an unspectacular record at the club.
Pellegrini’s first season ended with Hebei in fourth position, yet the club missed out on AFC Champions League qualification by one place.
This year, the team has taken a dramatic step back in the opening months of the season.
Under Pellegrini’s management, Hebei China Fortune currently sit eighth out of the 16-team Chinese Super League.
The side has only picked up just 15 points from 11 matches to date, a disappointing return considering Pellegrini has talents such as Ezequiel Lavezzi, Hernanes, and Gervinho at his disposal.
As the Chinese Super League is a far less important and internationally relevant league than La Liga or the Premier League, Pellegrini can perhaps be forgiven for not taking his job as seriously as his past assignments at Malaga, Real Madrid, and Manchester City.
Yet, his Chinese struggles are worrying nonetheless, as ideally West Ham supporters would like to be acquiring the services of a manager who enjoyed success at his most recent club.
In all, the ex-Manchester City manager still has a Premier League title to his name, a fact that makes his recent tough spell in Asia less concerning.
Nevertheless, Manuel Pellegrini’s underwhelming time at Hebei China Fortune reveals that the manager still possesses flaws and should not be expected to work immediate wonders at West Ham.
Record-breaking Manchester City show Pep Guardiola was right not to change his philosophy
The Spaniard won his first Premier League title in swashbuckling style.
When Pep Guardiola was appointed as manager of Manchester City in the summer of 2016 it is fair to say that his arrival was met with a mixed reaction throughout British football.
First, there was obvious excitement throughout the blue half of Manchester. Guardiola was widely regarded one of the best managers of his generation after trophy-laden spells with Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
He was renowned for the exciting, possession-based style of play that he implemented and the team that he built at the Nou Camp at the start of the twenty-first century produced some of the best football of the modern era.
Then there were the sceptics – and there were plenty of them. The comments were predictable and filled with clichés, unevidenced assumptions and meaningless jargon.
It was suggested that Guardiola had only won trophies with clubs where the race for the title was a two-horse race at best and that he had always inherited world-class players.
Furthermore, it was claimed that the Spaniard’s total-football philosophy would never work in the hustle and bustle of English football.
His technical style of play would come unstuck in the so-called ‘best league in the world’ and would not be effective on a cold, wet Tuesday night at places like Stoke City in front of a tribal, raucous home support.
In his debut season with Manchester City some of the negative predictions appeared to be coming true.
Despite winning all of their opening 10 games of the season under Guardiola, City experienced a poor run of form during the Christmas period that left them trailing their title rivals.
The team were unpredictable and inconsistent during the second half of the campaign and heavy defeats against Everton (4-0) and Leicester City (4-2) left many onlookers wondering if Guardiola had finally been sussed.
The Spaniard never shied away from the critics and he staunchly defended his philosophy despite some poor results and vowed that he would not change his style of play.
City finished the season without a trophy and the sceptics went into the summer proclaiming how they had correctly predicted Guardiola’s failure.
What a difference a year can make.
City’s last-gasp victory against Southampton on the final day of the season rounded off what has been a record-breaking campaign in which Guardiola’s team have swept aside all before them in the Premier League.
The list of achievements is remarkable.
City this season have set new records for most consecutive wins (18), most goals scored (105), most wins (32), most away points won (16), most points (100), the biggest goal difference (+79) and the biggest points gap (19).
Suddenly the sceptics are beginning to look incredibly foolish.
In truth, it is hard to remember a campaign in the modern era where one team has been dominant from start to finish in the way that City have been. Furthermore, not only have the won, but they have won with style.
Guardiola’s playing philosophy has clicked over the last twelve months, undoubtedly aided by effective recruitment during the summer, and the team have played with flair, energy, creativity, pace and innovation.
Opponents, barring perhaps Liverpool, have simply not found any way to combat City’s free-flowing football.
Critics will still point to an early exit in the FA Cup against Wigan Athletic, where City played most of the game with ten men, and defeat in the Champions League to Liverpool, where a poor first half at Anfield effectively ended the tie before it had begun, but the success of Guardiola’s style of play is undoubted.
No one is suggesting that the Spaniard needs to alter his philosophy to meet the demands of the English game anymore.
Instead, it is English football that will need to change in order to meet the challenge of Guardiola’s football revolution.
The concern for other Premier League clubs is that City are threatening to establish themselves as the new dominant force in the domestic game. There is nothing to indicate that Guardiola or the team that he has assembled will be loosening their grip on the Premier League trophy any time soon.
The future is bright. Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, John Stones, Leroy Sane, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Aymeric Laporte and Ederson are all under the age of 26. This is a group of players that is still improving and will be hitting the peak years of their career over the next half-a-decade.
Manchester City’s success this season is just the start of what could turn into a period of unrivaled dominance, further underlining that Guardiola was right not to change his philosophy.