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It emerged yesterday that Roman Abramovich has officially lost his place as football’s richest man to the man behind Manchester City, Sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Chelsea’s Russian billionaire has topped FourFourTwo’s annual rich list of football owners since arriving in 2003 and in the five years since the takeover, Abramovich has spent around £600m and has seen Chelsea win five major trophies under his tenure.
In September 2008, the arrival of Sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan onto the world footballing stage saw the transfer of power shift from Russia to the Middle East with the Sheik’s Abu Dhabi United Group’s (ADUG) purchase of Manchester City, in a deal thought to be worth a reported £200m. With a personal fortune of £15bn, Sheik Mansour eclypses Chelsea owner Abramovich’s meagre £7bn.
The Sheik’s early intentions were clear to see with the capture of the mercurial Robinho from Real Madrid for a British transfer fee record of £32m. Since that deadline day wonder signing, the nation has been eagerly anticipating the arrival of some of the best players in the world to Manchester. As the January transfer window arrived, one could only speculate as to which stars would make up the Manchester City ‘Galacticos’.
Seven days into the January window and Manchester City have managed only one signing- the acquisition of Chelsea’s experienced 28 year old left-back Wayne Bridge for an estimated- arguably overpriced- £12m.
Recent media reports have thrown up a list of names expected to join Bridge such as Roque Santa Cruz, Craig Bellamy, Joleon Lescott, Shay Given, Scott Parker and Kevin Nolan. These names fall a long way short of the ones which the ostracised Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim picked in his ‘Dream Team’ for ‘Arabian Business’- Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Kaka, Gigi Buffon and Cristiano Ronaldo, for whom Al-Fahim said he would pay £135m.
It is clear that Mark Hughes does not want to buy ‘Dream Team’ signings, but instead wants a host of experienced Premier League players to build the spine of a relatively young, inexperienced and frail squad.
Players such as Lescott and Nolan may not emanate the ambition of the owners, or the fans, but experience is required if we are to become a stronger, more resilient team.
In relation to Manchester City’s January transfer spending policy, Mark Hughes told the club’s official website, www.mcfc.co.uk: ‘We’re aware of this assumption about the level of finance that we’ll throw at the project in January, but we still have realistic market values…we will not go way above what we think the players are worth.’
Manchester City reportedly had a £15m bid rejected to sign West Ham’s Craig Bellamy and Scott Parker, meanwhile, Harry Redknapp confirmed that the ‘Hammers’ snubbed Tottenham’s £6m Bellamy bid.
Since that failed bid for Scott Parker, Manchester City have since turned their attentions to 25 year old Barcelona midfield ace Yaya Touré with a £24m bid. Spanish football expert Guillem Balague states on his website: ‘There has been contact made with Barcelona regarding a move for Yaya Touré.’ Although this has reportedly been rejected, it underlines the fact that Hughes is turning his attention abroad due to the exorbitant fees being commanded by Premier League clubs.
Further evidence of Manchester City being priced out of the market is the £3.5m to £18m price increase for Roque Santa Cruz after just a single season. Subsequent to this, only yesterday did Blackburn Rovers boss Sam Allardyce state: ‘At the moment, we have had no bid’. Surely if Hughes really wanted Santa Cruz he would have lodged a bid with the Blackburn board by now?
Since the announcement of Bayern Munich’s talented 23-year-old want-a-way striker Lukas Podolski being on the market for around £10m, it puts the ridiculous cost of Parker, Bellamy and Santa Cruz into perspective. If you are looking for experienced Premier League players, pay over-the-odds or don’t bother.
Other prestigious overseas names linked with City in recent days include the likes of Marcos Senna, David Villa, Esteban Cambiasso, Adriano, Daniele De Rossi and Samuel Eto’o. With Premier League players out of Hughes’ price range, perhaps it from this list that Hughes is looking to find value for money.
Should Hughes pay over the odds for Premier League experience or should he gamble on untested, but quality foreign players?