Manchester City provide a tolerable showcase for world-class talent

Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Manchester City’s chairman, has been in the press over the last twenty-four hours discussing the state of the Summer market and hinting as to how his club might approach it. Without mentioning specifics, he seems fairly adamant that City will successfully capture one or more star names before the new season starts and, given the club’s resources, that’s quite a chilling warning for the rest of the league.

That’s probably the right approach. City have been reliant on the same nucleus of talent for a long time now and their inability to recruit in a way that strengthened the first-team was, along with other factors, behind their inability to properly defend their title last season.

So that’s what to expect over the next eight weeks: big-ticket purchases who, rather than providing squad-depth, actually make the first-eleven immediately stronger.

And, strange as it is to say, that’s welcome.

Manchester City occupy an unusual place in English football. Their rise may have been artificial, but their rise to the top of their food-chain hasn’t made them nearly as unpopular as it might have done - or, at least, it hasn’t bred the sort of animosity that Chelsea’s climb to power ultimately did.

Why that’s the case remains unclear. Perhaps it’s because, for all intents and purposes, the club remains relatively untouched by its wealth. The infrastructure is vastly improved and the talent has gone from Death Valley to Mount Everest within the space of a decade, but - to us outsiders - the perception of what a Manchester City fan is remains pretty much the same.

That may be false in reality, but it’s still the impression. It’s probably an overly-romantic simplification, but those who are enjoying the Sheik Mansour-sponsored success now seem to be the very same who trawled around the old Division Two and who paid their dues at all manner of footballing outposts.  The club has all the trappings of the modern powerhouse, but without the associated vulgarity or obnoxiousness.

So, while the supporters may resent being patted on the head in that ‘poor little City’ way, that fallow past does probably afford them a degree of goodwill now - and, subsequently, makes their club’s success more tolerable. That isn’t to say that, as all that foreign investment rocketed them up the table, they weren’t resented but, because that process was lightning fast, acrimony was never really allowed to seed.

Over the years, City become too big, too powerful and too talented to bother with. Manchester United fans may resent them and newly-arrived Chelsea supporters may feel some artificial rivalry, but to the civilian clubs they’re almost a benevolent predator. They are, ultimately, the club who it’s okay to lose four or five-nil to and whose victories don’t really cause any lasting hurt.

For a variety of reasons, the same just isn’t true of the other top-four sides.

So, naturally, that makes the Etihad the most bearable home for world-class talent. Of course, we’d all prefer it if our own club had the resources to spend £30m, £40m or £50m on individual players, but they don’t - and so we’re left looking for the lesser of other evils. The English game may not need famous players and the Against Modern Football lobby may pretend to covet a return to the days of under-talented cloggers and bad pitches but really, who wouldn’t want to see the world’s elite on our own pitches. Who wouldn’t want to become more familiar with Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Marco Reus and why would you not want the opportunity to watch that calibre of player in the flesh?

During their monied era, City’s holy trinity has been David Silva, Yaya Toure and Sergio Ageuro: three of the best players in their position in the world and, interestingly, three players who have a lot of neutral appeal. Toure’s agent may have done his very best to turn his client into an antagonist but, in the main, he and the other two are admired up and down the country in a way that they probably wouldn’t be if they had worn Chelsea or Manchester United shirts over the same period.

Juan Cuadrado, Cesc Fabregas, Angel Di Maria, Diego Costa; all great players, all infected by the general dislike the community has for the respective clubs they play for. But Silva, Aguero, Toure? Maybe it’s just relative, but they seem far easier to appreciate and their success is certainly more tolerable.

It stands to reason then that, if rare talent is to migrate to this country over the Summer, we should want it to settle at the Etihad.  Let them play here, but let it be in that almost-neutral blue.

Plunder away; raid Turin, Madrid, Munich or wherever else and put these players in front of us on semi-bearable terms.

Follow @SebSB


4 Comments on "Manchester City provide a tolerable showcase for world-class talent"

  1. For what it’s worth, you have established yourself as one of the most successful neutral writers in the field, even if success in quality begets the page counts that clickbait stories yield.

    Regarding the story, from a supporters standpoint I honestly feel like a great deal of the footballing community is stuck outside the country club gates. And if you are watching through the wrought-iron bars, you’d rather see Rodney Dangerfield get waved through, rather than an upstart who immediately dons black tie and pretends they never stood outside.

    The analogy fails completely on an administrative and personnel level — nothing could be run more professionally, and the players are by and large quiet and dutiful. I just feel like there’s something fundamental about the club that is still looking to the street and smiling, taking pictures and waving at friends like “can you believe this shit?!”

    Better that than pretending like this was somehow earned.

  2. Why is it the media treat top managers like Gods. All they do is get their club to buy the best talent available and then pay them obscene wages. Would like to see the likes of LVG, Wenger and Mourinho spend a season at the likes of Leicester, Sunderland or Aston Villa and see where they finish in the league. My guess none of them would be above 12/13.

  3. Your comments are spot on. All of the blues I see on away days have been following the club for donkeys years. All the guys around me at the Etihad at each home game have also had season tickets since way before the turn of the century. Good read :)

  4. HeavyRiffs | Jun 11, 2015 at 3:50 pm |

    Nice piece as always, but I would say that as a blue…

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