With the richest having become the best, the strategic addition of a prolific
goalscorer here and a world-renowned midfielder there would surely have put
Yet with just six days remaining before the transfer window closes at midnight on Aug 31, City have spent a mere £15 million on one signing – Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell – and have seen Roberto Mancini’s prime targets move elsewhere or remain with their current employers.
At one stage, as the tremors of Sergio Agüero’s injury-time title winner last May continued to be felt in Manchester, there was a genuine sense that Eden Hazard, Robin van Persie, Daniele de Rossi and Javi Martínez would start this season as City players, but it has not happened.
“The transfer market has been very difficult and, for us, it is even more difficult,” Mancini said. “Every club we talk to about a player starts talking at £30-40 million. This is not correct. We can pay maybe a bit more, but not that much more.”
As a club who gatecrashed their arrival into the platinum lounge of football’s elite by sneaking the £32.5 million signing of Robinho into Eastlands from Real Madrid in the final hour of the summer 2008 transfer window, there remains the possibility of another dramatic day of business at City over the coming week.
But the landscape has changed at the Etihad. The ‘accelerated acquisition strategy’ which followed Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan’s takeover in September 2008 has been replaced by a determination to add the right player, but only at the right price.
Last summer and this, that new reality has sparked friction between Mancini and football administrator Brian Marwood, the man charged with implementing Abu Dhabi’s sustainable approach to the transfer market.
Those tensions have cooled in recent weeks, following the intervention of chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak, whose insistence on the club eschewing the annual big-spending policy is based on a desire for City to sustain itself through smart dealings, both in the transfer market and commercially.
Uefa’s Financial Fair Play regulations are not the driving force behind Abu Dhabi’s strategy. Sustainability comes before compliance.
Two years ago, City would likely have gone the extra mile and added the extra nought to recruit the likes of Hazard, Van Persie, Martínez and De Rossi, but this summer, each deal has failed to tick the required boxes.
Hazard, outstanding for Lille last season, rejected City and
Similarly, City made the early running for Van Persie, lodging a £15 million bid for the Arsenal captain, but with the Dutch forward now 29, matching the fee and wages being offered by United, understood to be in the region of £250,000 a week, was viewed as poor business by the City hierarchy.
Athletic Bilbao’s £40 million asking price for Martínez, combined with the complexities of the Spanish tax system and the necessity to pay the player to buy himself out of his contract – an issue now proving hugely problematic for Bayern Munich in their attempts to sign the Spain midfielder – drove City away from that deal. “His cost is too big,” Mancini said. “It is too high for me.”
Mancini remains determined to test Roma’s nerve in their attempts to retain De Rossi, however, despite the Italian midfielder’s public insistence this week that he would remain in Rome.
Unless De Rossi proves bold enough to trigger the proposed £28 million transfer, City face an uphill battle, but Mancini has not given up hope.
“It is difficult, I don’t know what can happen.” Mancini said when asked about De Rossi yesterday. “But from my experience, while the window is still open, anything can happen for every player.”
City will add to their squad this week, with
But having offloaded Emmanuel Adebayor’s £165,000-a-week wages with his £4
million sale to
“We will do something in this week,” Mancini said. “I think we need to improve for the Champions League. The reason I want to improve the squad now is because I want to improve for the Champions League.
“How many more? The same number of players we asked for when we won the championship in May. Maybe two or three more.”