The date was 6th May 2012. The occasion, Mammoth!. The Etihad was shaking with a 50,000 strong fleet attending what appeared to be the grandest of concerts that the stadium (and formerly Eastlands) ever hosted. Liam Gallagher lip syncing to “Hey Jude” and Diego Maradona dancing in disbelief.
The goosebumps experienced by television audiences all over the world were consequential evidence of the fact that the 4 minute “na-na-na na” coda at the end of “Hey Jude” will remind the whole world of the day the City of Manchester was painted Sky Blue and white, again!
It was a befitting reminder for glory days from 44 years ago (For the uninitiated, Hey Jude was released in August 1968 by the Beatles after Man City had won the title in May and its been associated with that very memory by City fans ever since)!
After a brief euphoric fixation with Sergio Aguero and his last gasp goal, it slowly dawned upon the world that the credit for the achievement went primarily to one man – Roberto Mancini. This is a man who dealt with players moaning their way to vacations in South America and setting fire to houses for fun. He dealt with in-house problems and matched Sir Alex in mind games with composure. The ever so composed Mancini, however, threw all his poise to the wind to join the entire stadium in thunderous celebrations on the final day. That simply speaks volumes about how much effort went into securing this title.
It is easy to discredit the achievement by accusing him of having ‘bought’ the title, but in his defence, Kenny Dalglish and Harry Redknapp proved it far beyond doubt that spending bucket loads of money does not necessarily translate to winning titles. But there is also one thought which probably came across the mind of the Italian. Had it not been for a miraculous final 4 minutes, the bellwether that was Manchester City, would have ended the season with zero honours! He would certainly not accept the dismal performance in the Champions league/Europa league and the knockout punches from United and Liverpool in the domestic cups without trying to do something about it next season.
Which brings us to the “Billion dollar” question (Pun intended) – What transfers should/will take place at Manchester City in the current transfer window? Here’s a brief analysis.
Robin Van Persie - There is a very slim chance that Arsene Wenger will let his captain depart this summer, for morals are already down after having lost Fabregas and Nasri last season and seeing their talismanic striker walk out would leave the Arsenal camp in tatters. Having said that, he only has one year left on his contract and has only managed to play 1 season injury-free till date. Any resistance to a new contract might just tempt Arsene to accept the enormous 40-45 million dollar deal City have to offer. There is no secret that Mancini wants him at the Eastlands and it is very rare that he does not get what he wishes for. We’ll just have to wait and watch how this one plays out.
Gaston Ramirez - The 21 year old has been raising a significant number of eyebrows at Bologna as transfer market rumour mongers are tipping him to end up at the Etihad next season. Ramirez might just be a low cost alternative in midfield but that is probably irrelevant for there is considerable acceptance of the fact that money is not an object of worry for Mancini. However, there is a possibility that even the 400 million stadium deal won’t pass the financial fair play rules filter and in that situation Ramirez might just prove to be a very healthy signing.
Edinson Cavani - The Napoli striker has been the quintessential example of forwards who succeed in Italy. Good with his feet, even better with his head, the Uruguayan could provide some much needed aerial threat in the box – one department that needs to bolstered at City. However, should a deal for Robin Van Persie be struck, the very few Cavani-to-City rumours floating around will probably fade out sooner than expected.
Younes Belhanda – Montpellier will probably be very concerned about the future of Belhanda after losing Giroud to Arsenal. The attacking midfielder from Morocco is only 22 and has had a sensational season at Montpellier. It might be a good long term signing for City but it seems unlikely he will be able to find a place in the starting 11 over Silva/Johnson/milner in the central MF/Right wing region.
Javi Martinez- Athletic Bilbao’s recent surge in Europe has been contributed immensely by Martinez. The defensive midfielder, who can also be employed as a defender when required, was being closely monitored by both Manchester giants. Only 23 , Martinez would have been a welcome figure in the City camp but looks to be headed either to Bayern Munich or Barcelona according to latest reports. It would, however, be a premature assumption that City have given up on their quest for his signature by now. Given the War Chest that Mancini holds, you never know. Another wait-n-watch scenario.
Martin Skrtel - City have reportedly stepped up interest in Liverpool’s Skrtel after it was made very clear by AC Milan a few weeks ago that Thiago Silva will not be joining them this season. Although the 20 million pound tag attached by Liverpool is debatable, it will probably not deter Skrtel, who might be tempted to move in order to play Champions League football this season.
Back At The Camp
Adam Johnson- Adam Johnson should be highly disappointed by the amount of playing time he has seen this season. A man possessed, his vision and lethal left foot could probably work wonders for any top side in Europe. Rumours are rife about a move to Liverpool but there are several other clubs willing to sign the talented youngster.
Carlos Tevez - The Argentine changes his mind faster than women change shoes! Only Mancini himself knows what he plans to do with Tevez because he has already fooled the world once before when he went back on his word by letting Carlos ‘play for the club again’. Desperate times, desperate measures? Could very well be! Yet, with Aguero providing a similar style of playing upfront and the ominous arrival of a certain Dutchman from Arsenal might just mean the end of the Manchester era for Carlos Tevez.
John Guidetti: Apparently Newcastle, Swansea and Rubin Kazan are all monitoring the availability of Guidetti after having a fantastic season on loan to Feynoord where he scored 20 goals in 23 appearances. Of all options, Rubin Kazan seems most lucrative in terms of chances to play in the Champions League but moving to Russia is no easy task for players used to playing elsewhere. The option of sending him on loan also remains as Guidetti might just turn out to be Mancini’s saviour in the new financial fair-play era to come!
Edin Dzeko: Edin Dzeko’s market value seems to be the same in the current market in comparison to his move from Wolfsburg even though he has scored very few important goals for City. Dzeko managed a decent job with finding the net 14 times in the Premier League season but having been relegated to the role of super sub for most of the season, Dzeko might be inclined to a move to either out of Bayern Munich or Juventus. For his contribution to the club in the past season, Mancini will probably not let the move materialize for Dzeko who has provided the team with a healthy plan B when Aguero and Balotelli have failed to find the net in games.
Emmanuel Adebayor - Currently on loan to Tottenham, the ‘almost 2 meters’ Togolese International has impressed Harry Redknapp in the past season with his commitment on field. 17 goals and 11 assists in the Premier League also let him into the good books of Spurs fans. Therefore, Adebayor moving back to Manchester seems highly unlikely given the abundance of strikers at City and the relative scarcity of the same at White Hart Lane!
Nigel De Jong- De Jong was rumoured to be on his way out of City before he categorically denied opting out. The “rogue” midfielder committed his future to the club and has been an asset for the club with his solid defensive covering giving ample freedom for the midfield to attack without worrying too much about being caught on the counter. More specifically, allowing Yaya Toure to display his box-to-box magic more often. The only fathomable move away from City would then be in a player plus cash or swap deal, perhaps to a defensively frail side (Read: Arsenal – home to RVP). But anyone’s best guess – De Jong is here to stay.
All in all, Roberto Mancini might not really be interested in shuffling his team around too much. Building a firm unit takes years and one cannot bet against the same set of highly talented players doing much better in Europe this year. The style of play adopted by City last season will be even more fluent as there will be more cohesion and strength in this very unit after being involved together for a season of success. We may, however, expect a couple of names moving in, especially with Chelsea already throwing their weight around in the English transfers saga. But Mancini will have to be very careful with his spendings this year with the credibility of the Etihad stadium naming rights deal hangs in the balance. Should that not go as expected, he might just have to execute slick austerity measures and big sales to ensure the club does not fall down the Financial Fair Play Abyss.
Written by Anhad Gill