Thank a non-existent deity for that – the transfer window is shut, and Jim White can go back into his cocoon for four months, his tonsils begging for mercy.
It’s strange how one day can change so many fans’ perception of a whole summer. The general consensus as we headed into the weekend was that Manchester City had had a successful summer in the transfer market. We had done our business quietly and efficiently, filling gaps and strengthening the squad. A home defeat to Stoke sent me into the usual spiral of doubt, but the odd bad day at the office shouldn’t alter the general view.
And yet now there is an air of despondency amongst Manchester City fans, if social media timelines are anything to go by. City are light up front, have sold off their best youth prospect and our competitors have stolen a march on us. As have United.
Firstly, off went Alvaro Negredo to Valencia, initially on loan with an obligation to buy next summer for around £24m. This was thought to be to pave the way for the signing of Radamel Falcao, but as story after story emerged about City’s interest in the player, many of which contradicted each other, it seemed City pulled out of that deal yet still sold Negredo anyway. Firstly, I admit it is a great shame to see him go. Above all, he seemed like a bloody nice bloke, he was a true professional who never moaned, didn’t appear on the front pages, tried his hardest and was the bustling, physical type of forward player that all fans like. It’s a shame also that we will never see if Aguero and Negredo could have rekindled that electric partnership. As you know, his season was a season of extremes, of two halves. As 2013 drew to a close, it would have been inconceivable that Negredo would be loaned out the following summer. He was on fire, his partnership with Aguero was electric, every bit as prolific as the one getting the headlines down the East Lancs. We’ll never know what player we would have got back after his foot injury, but for four months he was a revelation.
The fact is, in 2014 he was plain rubbish. His confidence was shot, he couldn’t buy a goal, he was a shadow of his former self. To make a profit on him must be seen as good business, as he is another player approaching his 30’s and he hadn’t scored in his previous 16 games. If it is true that he and/or his wife were not settled in Manchester, then he simply had to go – there’s no point keeping an unhappy player, no point at all. You can’t pin his fall from grace solely on a previous shoulder injury. Amazingly, if the fee is correct, it is the greatest transfer fee City will have ever received. Our executives are not mugs.
And then of course there is Micah. Lovely Micah. On loan to Fiorentina, he will not return, that much is clear as his contract will run out before that could plausibly happen. The last of the old guard, it is a sad day in many respects, but not a surprise and not a mistake. Richards needs to be playing football, and I am glad he has broadened his horizons in a truly beautiful setting as it makes it easier for me to wish him every success. His career at Manchester City has been up and down, but it was clear some time ago his future lay elsewhere.
But what a shame that it didn’t work out. Let’s not forget he was a crucial part of the title-winning team of two years ago. He was a player linked with a £25m move to Manchester United, much to my horror. He was for a period criminally overlooked for the England right-back position. But he couldn’t sustain his peaks. Firstly, he is made of glass. His ability to pick up injuries has certainly stalled his progress. His natural physique doesn’t seem to help him. The rise of Pablo Zabaleta, the man we all aspire to be, has blocked further progress and his performances have been on the wane to be honest, though without regular football it is hard to sustain excellence at the highest level. There were issues over his positional sense sometimes and Manuel Pellegrini didn’t seem to trust in him – as soon as Bacary Sagna was signed, his number was up.
Above all, he loved the club, we loved him, he was a lovely guy with such a positive outlook who will be missed by his colleagues. I won’t forget his storming runs down the right flank. I won’t forget the pride at seeing him in an England shirt. I won’t forget that last-gasp equalizer at Aston Villa in the FA Cup, one of my favourite moments from the time before we started winning stuff. I certainly won’t forget his post-match interview. A sad day indeed, but all the best Micah, you won’t be forgotten. He has to go as he needs to be playing and we can’t keep a player for sentimental reasons or for Inside City videos. I hope you are a roaring success, and I would be so happy if one day you pull on that England shirt again – you deserve that.
Elsewhere, it seems a loan deal for John Guidetti to Celtic has fallen through. There has been more angst though from City fans at the sale of Emrys Huws to Wigan Athletic. Most of us won’t have seen much of him in the flesh, so I’m not sure how we are so sure the club have made a huge mistake, but I would have preferred to have given him a bit longer to try and break through. I guess we must trust once more in our coaching staff, in Patrick Vieira and Manuel Pellegrini who see more of him than we ever will and know a fair bit about football. I hope we have protected ourselves with a sell-on clause should he progress further. Again, all the best.
The general sense of despondency seems to be over ending the transfer window with only three strikers (if you can call Jovetic that). I’m not sure we should be THAT worried. Negredo is injured anyway and wouldn’t have featured for a couple of months and due to FFP restrictions we’d struggle to find a place for at least one of our big name players in the Champions League squad. It’s four months until the window re-opens. We don’t have a game for the next two weeks. If we need to, we can buy a striker in January. Good deals exist at that time, contrary to reports. We won two trophies last season with Jovetic largely injured/not used, with Aguero injured for much of the season and Negredo of little use to anyone after January. Aguero has been putting in an extra hour of physio every day to build up muscles, Jovetic is (so far) over his injury worries and we of course can play one up front which I hope we do more often anyway as it excites me to see a 4-4-1-1 type formation and it allows Yaya further forward and Silva to get in between the lines of the opposition’s defence and midfield. We have plenty of midfielders who can chip in with goals. It is certainly a better option against the likes of Chelsea or Bayern Munich. The other possibility is that we have high hopes for Kelechi Iheanacho, presuming his work permit comes through. He looked very promising in pre-season. It would also be nice if a minority of our fans stopped constantly slating Dzeko (and I have done plenty of that in the past, shame on me) and support him for now – he is no longer the moody waste of space portrayed in the past.
The best business though has been largely overlooked – the players we got on new, incentivised long-term deals. I always thought the likes of Sergio Aguero and David Silva would only spend a few years here before returning to Spain, and who could blame them? To have them commit is better than any new signing. And for those that have left – I think some sadness is not just because of where it leaves the team, but because they were nice people who it was a pleasure to have at the club. Some lament the loss of Mario Balotelli, as is their right. I lament more the loss of someone like Alvaro Negredo, the sort of man I want to wear the shirt.
I don’t need to go over old ground with United. We all know now that the principles they trumpeted for so many years, that was part of their soul and in their DNA, was a load of baloney. They have spent huge sums at the first sign of trouble (they earned it!! They have more sponsorship deals than everyone else!!), have invested in players 28 or over, despite always claiming they didn’t do this, who will have little re-sale value by the end of their contracts, and bought players because they were available rather than because of how they fitted into the team. You’ll have seen Alex Ferguson’s quotes. You’ll have seen the banners. They truly believed they did things better than anyone else.
Sadly though, Radamel Falcao is a really good player. Really, really good. Or he was. Only time will tell how much a devastating injury has taken out of him. Some are never the same again, some recover fully, like Alan Shearer did. I didn’t want Negredo to leave but if the deal was to get Falcao in return, I’d have been very happy indeed. City are just too sensible nowadays though, and the figures bandied about for a man who hits 30 next year are ridiculous, whatever his talent. We were right to walk away, however frustrating that may be. And for United, there is the fear that Robin Van Persie’s body is wilting and surgery is needed so they have spent big money on merely replacing an existing top-level striker, with another player with similar knee problems. If he stays fit he’ll be worth it though – or worth the loan at least. They can afford it, I hear they’ve got a new official pretzel partner in Borneo.
Falcao wanted to sign for Real Madrid, that much is clear, but no doubt has now realised his life-long dream. With United already fighting an uphill battle to compete for the title (they won’t overtake Chelsea, even leaving us out of the equation), and are not in Europe or the Capital One Cup so only realistically have the FA Cup to fight for this season. This is a big outlay for the true Holy Grail – finishing in the Top Four. They simply HAVE to this season. £150m says they probably will. But he’s good, and sometimes if an opportunity comes along to sign a top player, you take it. Most fans aren’t interested in balance sheets and net spends after all. What’s more, a loan deal for United takes away the risk of purchasing a player for a huge amount off the back of a serious injury. Those wages though…wow, there goes your high moral ground forever…
Finally, a small point about figures and statistics. Sky Sports News love to go on about how much money is being spent in a transfer window, and this summer gave them the perfect excuse to go weak at the knees and orgasm themselves into a frenzy at the amounts being splashed out by clubs, as a total of around £840m was spent by Premier League clubs during the transfer window (or as one Sky Sports presenter ACTUALLY phrased it, “the figure is saying talk to the hand, cos this totaliser AIN’T LISTENING!”). This figure was predictably used to illustrate the excesses of the game, to demonstrate the ridiculous amounts of money that rule the sport. One person on Twitter even pointed out the dichotomy of it all as two non-league clubs faced extinction, and thus got many a retweet. The problem is, the figure is useless, it tells us nothing. It is possible (however implausible) that £840m can be traded simply by the same £1m being moved around between clubs. A club spends some money. Another club spends the money they received. And so on – the cycle continues. The figure might tell us that a lot of players have been on the move, but it does not tell us on its own about excesses in the game. Sure, some clubs may have spent huge amounts (if only I could think of a club that spent wildly this summer, pushing up fees and distorting the transfer market. If only..), but one figure alone does not point to this. After all, on the presumption that Valencia take up their obligation to buy Negredo next summer, City will have (roughly) traded about £100m this summer, a big amount. However, their net spend is pretty much back at zero, having recouped what they spent. Quite a few players have moved about, that’s all. Rant over.
So whatever your views on the transfer window, remember this. City have the fifth highest revenue of any club in world football. We are now self-sufficient. We are running at a profit, with no losses, no debt, as Champions, with a £200m campus about to be unveiled to the world and with our best players still at the club. We’ve taken a pinch due to ridiculous rules set up by a status quo out to protect their own interests but soon it won’t matter. We’ve come a long way, baby.