Think back a couple of summers when City were the new kids on the block and money was burning a hole in Brian Marwood’s pockets. Financially we could compete with the big boys in Madrid, Barcelona, Munich and (I say this begrudgingly) London. As the papers loved reminding everyone, we were newly minted with oil money (and ruining football, etc, etc.).
In 2011 when it became apparent Alexis Sanchez would be leaving Udinese, we went up against Barcelona, fluttering our eyelashes with promises of Manchester’s delights and the future glories we could offer. It wasn’t to be though, and the Chilean headed to Barca to become a squad player under our now manager, Pep Guardiola. That one worked out pretty well for us, mind, as it cleared the way for us to sign a certain Argentine striker, and the rest is history.
A year later and Eden Hazard went for his long running and pretty classless flirtation with all of the Premier League’s leading lights, before choosing Chelsea when he left Lille. In 2013, City chose not to make a bid for Neymar as they realised they couldn’t beat the pull of Barca and Madrid and in that same summer Isco turned down the chance to link up with his mentor, Manuel Pellegrini, in order to go to Real Madrid. I wonder if he’d make the same choice again as he faces another season on the bench at the Bernabéu?
Fast forward to summer 2016 and once again City found themselves in the bizarre nightclub that is the transfer window, making eyes at a pretty young thing across the room, lined up alongside Manchester United, Barcelona, and several others. Except this time a strange thing happened, we actually came away with the signature.
I’ve never seen Gabriel Jesus play. I’ll be honest, I’d only even been aware of him through playing FIFA and when City’s interest was first reported in the press. The kid could be the a future Ballon d’Or winner for all I know, or he could be another Wellington Silva. But it feels like this is a watershed.
Traditionally, a player like Gabriel Jesus would’ve been a shoe in to head to Spain. Barcelona employed Neymar to try and convince the forward he should head to Spain. There were even reports that United were so desperate to land the 19-year-old’s signature, they flashed even more cash than the £27 million City ended up paying. But a phone call from Pep was enough to convince him that his future was with City.
This time we went toe-to-toe with the clubs that are used to getting their own way, started off as frontrunners and stayed in front. Last week I was really critical of Txiki Begiristain, but now I’ll give him credit where it’s due. Getting this deal done without getting gazumped was a real achievement. And now, it sets a marker that City are in a place to compete for ANY player. Future stars will look at our stunning new City Football Academy, a manger who is rightly regarded as one of the best to grace the game and a roster of playing talent to make even Florentino Perez green with envy.
It’s not in our DNA as City fans to be tub-thumping out in the streets – we’re brought up to be cynical. But signing Gabriel Jesus, however his career may pan out with us, feels like a significant milestone. Last year we reached the top table on the pitch by making the semi-finals of the Champions League, now we’ve definitely placed ourselves among the elite off it too. Cheers Txiki!
Written by Josh Stead
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