Are European heavyweights intimidated by Manchester City's rise?
Background image:edhiggins, CC BY 3.0
It's no longer news that Manchester City made history in the close season by making a clean sweep of all the silverware available in the English top flight. From the Community Shield to the League Cup, the Premier League title to the FA Cup, the Sky Blues won them all. In a single campaign. Needless to say, no team has ever done it in England before. That goes a long way to emphasise how much of an achievement that is. No wonder then that it has dwarfed last season’s double. In fact, that has now become distant memory.
However, what has remained evergreen in the news since the allegations made by German magazine Spiegel, is the fact that the club is under investigation on different fronts. Reports have it that UEFA is investigating the club for a possible violation of Financial Fair Play rules. FIFA, for their recruitment of young overseas players and alleged third-party ownership breaches. The FA is in too for the acquisition of youth players within England, while the Premier League completes a quartet of investigators scrutinising finances, youth recruitment and third-party ownership.
Is it a coincidence that all these investigations are coming at a time the club is witnessing its most successful period on and off the pitch?
Or has these stemmed from the fact that the financial might of the club has become a source of concern to many? From rival club supporters to authority figures, and the media, it has become noticeable that many are deeply worried about the club’s success. An objective look at a majority of the news headlines that relate to the club in recent times reveals as much. They have mainly been negative. Some even accuse the club of using money to buy success.
But that was not the case when several other European giants splashed the cash over the years to assemble expensive squads that went ahead to achieve success. Let’s face it, while Manchester City’s dominance cannot be divorced from the availability of resources, other top clubs have long been in the habit of spending to acquire the best. From Real Madrid to Barcelona, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea. To Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Juventus and even Lazio, it has been the same story. What then makes Manchester City's case any different?
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Long before the Cityzens signed a player for €75million in 2015 (Kevin De Bruyne), clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona have been spending much more money on player transfers. For example, as far back as 2001, Los Blancos paid €77.5million for a certain Zinedine Zidane to sign him from Juventus. Given the state of the market then, that is no different from Paris Saint-Germain signing Neymar.
Barcelona has also been a big player in the transfer market over the years. The club recently splashed €75million for Frenkie de Jong but Marc Overmars blazed the trail for his countrymen. The Blaugrana made him the most expensive player in Dutch football history in 2000 when he was acquired from Arsenal for €40million. Real Madrid bought Luis Figo for €60million in the same year. Curiously, in that season Manchester City's total signings amounted to £9.73 million on five players. A sixth, George Weah joined on a free from AC Milan.
Nobody was complaining about someone distorting the market or destroying European football like Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness and the head of La Liga Javier Tebas have recently accused Man City of doing.
It's common knowledge that Bayern has dominated German football transfers for decades. FC Hollywood sign the best talents in the division, even from direct rivals thereby weakening them. The strategy has translated to dominance on the pitch and filled the club's trophy cabinet. So a Bayern Munich official has no moral ground to accuse another club of spending too much on top players.
In fact, the perennial German champions have spent over €115million already in this transfer window for just two full-backs, Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard. Add centre-backs Mat Hummels, who was acquired for €38 million from direct rivals Borussia Dortmund, and Jerome Boateng who incidentally was bought from Manchester City and the figure for the back line alone will approach €200million. Of course, that has not been scrutinised. Yet, this is the same kind of spending the English side has been roundly criticised for.
As for La Liga president Tebas, it's really amusing to think that the head of a league that has bullied other clubs into submission for decades, with regard to transfers will be the one to cry foul when another club in another league joins the party. La Liga has a long history of signing the best players in the world for insane amounts of money. Paris Saint-Germain shocked the world with the €222million acquisition of Neymar from Barcelona in 2017. But Real Madrid and Barcelona have been in the business of rocking the transfer market for decades.
They've done it with signings like:
Luis Figo(€60m, 2000)
Zinedine Zidane (€77.5m, 2001),
Ronaldo of Brazil (€46m, 2002),
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (€69.5m, 2009),
Cristiano Ronaldo (€94m, 2009).
Others signings include:
Neymar (€86.2m, 2013),
Gareth Bale (€100.8m, 2013),
Luis Suarez (€82.3m, 2014) and
James Rodriguez (€80m, 2014) to mention but a few.
Each of these two clubs has spent over a billion euros on transfers in the last decade to two. But it's Man City's spending that makes the most news despite the fact that City's spending still lags behind theirs in the same period.
Currently, the biggest transfers in world football have not been made by Manchester City, even in the Premier League. The most expensive goalkeeper is at Chelsea. The most expensive defender is in Liverpool. Manchester United have the most expensive midfielder and striker in Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku.
Man City's record signings De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez rank well behind the figures used for those names. The duo played a limited role in the team's success during the close season. What that means is that it's likely Pep Guardiola could have done without them and still accomplished the feat. The Catalan manager met a team in need of reinforcements when he took over in 2016. Several players were already on the wrong side of 30. From Bacary Sagna to Gael Clichy and Alexander Kolarov in defence, to Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure in midfield, the story was the same. He went to the market for replacements.
Professional football has always involved the spending of money (sometimes lots of it). This is what the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and even Juventus have done over the years. Unfortunately, after witnessing the Sky Blues' dominance in England, it appears some members of the old order are scared this could be coming to the continent in the near future. Hence, the efforts to discredit the club.