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.