City have undergone a strange transfer window during the summer. In rather out of character fashion the majority of Roberto Mancini’s signings were made on the final day of transfer window, now branded Transfer Deadline Day.
Yesterday, City secured the services of Scott Sinclair from Swansea, Maicon from Inter Milan, Matija Nastasic from Fiorentina and Javier Garcia from Benfica. Earlier in the window Jack Rodwell joined from Everton and Richard Wright joined the club after being a free agent.
It was also busy day for outgoings. City bid farewell to the outstanding Nigel De Jong who joined AC Milan. Stefan Savic also joined Fiorentina as part of the deal that brought Nastasic to City. Loan moves away from the club were also secured for Roque Santa Cruz and Dedryk Boyata who have moved to Malaga and FC Twente respectively.
In recent seasons, City have usually conducted their transfer business early on in the window. Obviously the vast transfer kitty that Mancini has had at his disposal has played a factor in previous windows but why has it been different this time?
In my opinion, there are two main reasons. Firstly, the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations are looming and secondly, Mancini has had to shed expensive fringe players accumulated during the Mark Hughes era.
With the FFP regulations due to come into effect in the 2013/14 season it was obvious that City’s huge outlay on transfers was not sustainable. Prior to this transfer window, City have spent £266million on new players (the cost of player sales offset against this figure) since Sheikh Mansour’s takeover in 2008. With the FFP rules stipulating that clubs can only spend what they earn it appeared that up until yesterday City were really tightening their belts. With one major signing before yesterday’s deadline, Jack Rodwell for £12million, it seemed City’s transfer policy was falling in line with the majority of other clubs across the country.
To me, it seemed acceptable and understandable that there would one day be a time when City could not go out and buy a Sergio Aguero, a Yaya Toure or a David Silva every summer. After all, Khaldoon Al Muburak said the day after City were crowned Premier League Champions “I think it’s important to improve in a tactical way…we have a solid nucleus that has won the FA Cup and the Premier League…you’re not going to see any major changes, there is going to be improvements in a very manageable way.”
The problem, as I see it, was the difficulty that City have had not just this summer but for a number years now: shifting the highly paid fringe players to other clubs that were purchased with inflated prices and huge salaries under Mark Hughes’ stewardship. The likes of Emmanual Adebayor, Wayne Bridge, Craig Bellamy and Roque Santa Cruz have been extremely difficult to sell, so much so, that the latter, Santa Cruz, is still technically a City player after going out on a season long loan to Malaga yesterday. Moreover, when such players have been sold, City have almost always made a huge loss. For example, Adebayor was bought for £25million and sold to Tottenham for roughly £5million whereas Craig Bellamy was bought for £14million and moved to Liverpool for free. Wayne Bridge is currently on loan at Brighton with City still paying the majority of his wage and when Santa Cruz returns from loan at Malaga his contract would have expired and City would have lost £18million on the transfer fee for him as well as salary payments in-between. It is little wonder that City have been, up until yesterday, a lot more conservative in their transfer policy.
That’s not to say further investment in the squad was not needed. The majority of City fans and eventually Mancini himself were crying out for more signings. A left back, a central defender and a winger were on the top of my list so it did become slightly disconcerting that City’s only investment had been in Jack Rodwell, albeit a promising young English midfielder. City’s shaky start to the season only added to the worry.
Throughout the summer, Mancini’s frustration at the lack of activity in the transfer market was aired in public and directed towards Brian Marwood, City’s Head of Football Administration. He said “I’m not happy. I don’t know what to say. Talk with Marwood, please…I don’t know what I can say. After three or four months…nothing.” Marwood has a key role in bringing players to the club in a very similar way to a Director of Football does and Mancini was clearly not getting his wishes granted.
On the penultimate day of the transfer window, City were drawn in the Champions League Group Stage against Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmind. Coined the “group of death” City are set to face the Champions of Spain, the Netherlands and Germany and qualification from the group stage could not be any tougher. Although the fixtures evoke a great deal of excitement and represent a huge footballing challenge the draw could well have worked in Mancini’s favour. It could have given Mancini that little bit of ammunition to go to Marwood and demand some more transfers or face potential early elimination from the Champions League, again. With the club publicly expressing their desire to progress further in the Champions League this season it seemed that it had all fallen into place for Mancini, albeit at the eleventh hour.
In a frenetic Transfer Deadline Day, City spent roughly £40million on Javi Garcia, Scott Sinclair, Maicon and Matija Nastasic. Though the overall spend of roughly £52million, including Jack Rodwell, this transfer window is modest in comparison to previous seasons the sum is still vast. It seems that in contrast to previous seasons, City have finally began to feel the effects of Mark Hughes’ wayward transfer policy and the impending FFP regulations. It seems that Mancini has only really been able to delve into Sheikh Mansour’s big pocket again because of the extremely challenging Champions League draw.
My overriding feeling is that the clubs hesitance or inability to be proactive in the transfer market has cost them. Although they have eventually signed some good players I can’t help but feel they have missed out on some better ones: namely, Robin van Persie and Javi Martinez who moved to Manchester United and Bayern Munich, respectively. Having said that, as Khaldoon Al Muburak said all along “you’re not going to see any major changes, there is going to be improvements in a very manageable way.” I suppose he is right.