Man City must aim higher still
This time last year, I wrote a piece arguing that Manchester City were setting their sights in the transfer market pathetically low.
For a club with almost limiteless funds, putting Craig Bellamy and Nigel de Jong at the top of the transfer wish list was a bit like a Lottery winner hunting through the racks of last year’s suits at TK Maxx.
Since then, their dealings in the transfer market, with the exception of moves for Carlos Tevez and possibly Emmanuel Adebayor, have shown a similar lack of ambition.
As well as Tevez and Adebayor, City have signed Joleon Lescott, Kolo Toure, Gareth Barry, Roque Santa Cruz and now Patrick Vieira, who is returning to the Premier League at the age of 33. Most of them are decent players. None of them are from the top drawer.
It may seem perverse to criticise City when they have just won their fourth successive league game, a Tevez-inspired 4-1 success over Blackburn Rovers, to climb to fourth place under an ambitious new coach in Roberto Mancini.
Yet now, with the Champions League a realistic target and no one in the Premier League looking beyond their reach, this is precisely the time they must set their sights much, much higher than the rollcall of mediocrity they’ve spent the last couple of years assembling.
What is Roberto Mancini’s coaching philosophy? What sets them apart from the other clubs, like Aston Villa, with their noses pressed up against the Big Four glass?
How many non-City fans could tell me what their first choice midfield is? Who is the player pulling the strings? What are the team’s defining characteristics? Are they ruthless counter-attackers led by the bustling Bellamy, reformed Rusholme Ruffians inspired by Robinho (or Stephen Ireland) or do they have aspirations to pass teams into submission?
You can see why City might be reluctant to shop at the high end of the market after two high-profile failures — first Robinho, who has not done much to suggest Real Madrid were unwise to let him go, and then the 100 million pound rebuff from Kaka — but they should not let that discourage them.
I’m not saying City need to make a “galactico” signing in the 100 million pounds range. They should, however, be shopping for elite internationals at the peak of their careers, the sort of players who can really stamp an identity on the side. Patrick Vieira? Five or six years ago, maybe.
Once City have established an identity, they should find it easier to attract more top players who find the prospect of playing for them appealing from a football point of view.
Tevez was a good start. Next on the list should be David Villa, Franck Ribery, Kun Aguero, Andres Iniesta, Karim Benzema, and if they want to be really cheeky, Nemanja Vidic and Cesc Fabregas.
PHOTO: Manchester City’s new signing Patrick Vieira (L) poses with manager Roberto Mancini during a photocall at the club’s Carrington training complex in Manchester, January 8, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble