This has been a record transfer window. The amount of money spent by clubs is likely to pass the £1 billion mark, if it hasn’t already done so while I have been writing this article.
The two biggest spenders are, arguably, the two with the most money. They can spend obscene amounts on players without batting an eyelid. The fact that they occasionally have to sell players to “balance the books” is actually an accounting exercise and isn’t strictly a necessity, particularly now that the Financial Fair Play rules have been relaxed or binned. I’m not sure which is correct.
Over time they will both recover the money they have spent through a myriad of marketing methods including additional ticket sales, shirt sales and more sponsor attraction. They do not recoup their money as quickly or as easily as some people, myself included at one time, seem to think. There is an excellent article on this very subject, going into great detail about how transfers work and the potential for making back the fees paid out, in the Guardian. For anybody interested here’s the link.
Anyway, Manchester City, to date, have bought Leroy Sané, Ilkay Gündogan, John Stones, Claudio Bravo, Gabriel Jesus, Nolito, Marlos Moreno, Gerónimo Rulli, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Pablo Mari and Aaron Mooy. Bringing these players in has cost the club more than £160 million (Source: Transfermarkt). Meanwhile, Manchester United have acquired Zlatan Ibrahimovic and bought Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mhkitaryan and Paul Pogba and have spent just less than £160 million (Source: Transfermarkt).
So it could be argued that, for the outlay, City have conducted the better business having brought in eleven new players whereas United have brought in just four, although I haven’t yet worked out the logic in replacing England’s 29-year-old goalkeeper with a smaller, 33-year-old version from Chile, but I am sure Pep knows what he is doing.
The four United recruits, however, should walk straight into the first team and improve it. Of the City new boys, only John Stones, Ilkay Gündogan, Nolito and Claudio Bravo can expect to be regular starters. Leroy Sané will, more than likely, be given an early chance to impress, so it is up to him to try and cement a place in the team. Whether or not he will remains to be seen.
Now the question is; which is more important? The “here and now,” or the “then and there?” In other words, is it very important to prepare for the future at clubs like United and City these days?
Neither manager tends to hang around at a club after two or three years so, if that is the case here, then Guardiola has certainly bought some players who will be of more benefit to whoever follows him as Manchester City manager. Maybe he wishes it to be part of his legacy but, if so, he will be remembered much more if he wins the Champion’s League and a couple of Premier League titles than he will by bringing three or four young players to the club.
Mourinho appears to have already decided which way he is going. He has sent a few of the younger players out on loan and has sold a couple. He has brought experience into his squad and is looking to add even more experience with a new centre half.
Jose has definitely bought for the “here and now” whereas Pep seems to have gone for a little of each. Some for “now”, some for “then”.
Both managers will be judged on what they win, not what they spend. One is however, to a certain extent, dependant upon the other. The manager can be the best in the world but he is only as good as the players representing him on the pitch. By the way, the only time a manager is judged on what he has spent is when he wins nothing, just ask Louis van Gaal!
Of the new arrivals I expect City and United to field roughly the same number of them. As I mentioned earlier all four United signings will be regulars and three or four of the City ones will so, in that respect, they have had a similar transfer window.
City have managed to bring in quantity and quality for their money. The quality is obvious among the bigger names, whether the quantity also proves to be quality is something we will only find out over the coming months.
United have gone for quality and it would appear that Jose Mourinho is gambling that this is the best way to go to bring the title back to Old Trafford.
The wisdom of which is the best, or the right, way of doing things is, at the moment, impossible to know. They have both spent a lot of money and they have both made some very good signings. So the question posed by the title, in that respect, is rhetorical.
What will make this season one of the most fascinating ever is finding out which one of the two, if either, is right and if it turns out that one of them is right, then we will have the answer to the question.
The original article can be found on the excellent Why Say Anything?
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