By Aidan Elder | Chief sports writer
Manchester City travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday for the Nouveau Riche Derby. The vast reserves of cash may get envious glances from the rest of the league, but it brings its own troubles.
They’ve got more in common than merely generous bank balances. The Paddy Power Blog presents three key ‘must-dos’ to becoming a Moneybags club.
Claudio Ranieri was a victim of this under Roman Abramovich. In the season following the Russian’s takeover of the club, the Tinkerman guided Chelsea to second place in the league behind Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ and came within a couple of ill-advised substitutions of a Champions League final. He also used the money reasonably well, bringing in Petr ‘pre-scrum cap’ Cech, Claude ‘Makelele role’ Makelele and Damien ‘No comedy middle name’ Duff.
Then again, he also bought Juan Sebastian Veron, which mainly benefitted Veron’s agent and Adrian Mutu, which mainly benefitted the coke dealers of Kensington. Let’s call it ‘honours even’ on the transfer success front. When the Special One swooped in guided Chelsea to their first league title in 50 years, there weren’t too many people worried about Ranieri’s job search.
For City, it was Mark Hughes who lacked the requisite sparkle. There was a view that memories of the Welshman’s former glories and stunning perm weren’t enough to attract the biggest names in football to the blue side of Manchester. This view seems predicated on the assumption most footballers are too lazy and stupid to bother checking out a YouTube highlights reel or a Wikipedia biography. Both of which aren’t the most unfair of assumptions. The gradual progress Hughes was making with the club was deemed a little too gradual and Roberto Mancini arrived in town with his swagger and fine collection of scarves.
As most of the UK’s Eurovision entrants this side of Katrina and the Waves have found out, there’s a big difference between winning at home and doing it on the continent. After conquering the domestic front, it’s presumed that European success isn’t far away, but making that assumption is more dangerous than leaving your husband alone with Javine, if you remember your Eurovision-related tittle-tattle.
Jose Mourinho Special One-d his way to the Premier League at the first time of asking, but like a sense of humility, the Champions League evaded him while at Chelsea. Phantom goals and penalties were his downfall and the sobbing into the souvenir scarves continued after he moved on. The agonising defeat to Manchester United in Moscow at the end of the 2007/08 season just added to the feeling Old Big Ears didn’t fancy making the trip to London. Finally the wait ended last May when John TerryRoberto di Matteo masterminded an unlikely victory. It clearly wasn’t what he intended, but at the time it seemed Roman Abramovich had unwittingly stumbled upon the man to lead them into a long and glorious future. Until about November.
City haven’t had as many bites at the cherry, but already tasted their fair share of frustration. Two tries and two group stage exits has highlighted the difficulty of making the step up to the world’s premier ‘milking a cash cow’ competition. The European Cup doesn’t seem to be an obsession for Sheikh Mansour in the same way it was for Abramovich, but Roberto Mancini won’t get away with another failure. The Italian wasn’t able to transfer domestic success to the continental stage with Inter and if that continues next season, the City owner will be making his mind up about a new manager.
‘If you’ve got it, spunk it.’ That’s not a maxim too many financial advisers use – not the successful ones at least – but in the life cycle of a club with new-found wealth, there always seem to be when strengthening the squad goes a bit mental. After a period of adding a reasonable amount of depth to the squad, things go slightly wrong and throwing more money at the problem is considered the only solution.
There’s no doubting that Chelsea needed to splash the cash to improve the squad to the level where they could compete for league titles. No offence, Mario Melchiot. The reinforcements arrived and they didn’t have to wait too long before they were grinning awkwardly from the top of a slow-moving open top bus. But at times, the spending comes across as completely unnecessary and ever so slightly gratuitous. Andrei Shevchenko arrived after a season when Chelsea were the champions and the joint top scorers in the division.
With big squads come big egos and the harmonious atmosphere in a dressing can drop faster than Fernando Torres’s resale value if you overdo it. Roberto Mancini knew he needed to increase City’s squad size and if you’ve got the cash, why not go for it. But it comes at the risk of provoking a major hissy-fit from one of his players. Not a day seems to go by without a made-up transfer rumour suggesting a player on the verge of storming out of City because he’s not getting enough camera time. On top of that is the wages. Not only are you forking out millions for the player and most likely inflating his already inflated wages, but then comes the ‘I deserve as much as he’s getting’ brigade. It’s a minefield of talent and tantrums.