By George Simms
Manchester City look well on their way to winning their fifth Premier League in the last decade.
The Citizens have won 16 games in a row in English football, breaking the record, 14, in last week’s cup win over Swansea. This is all the more impressive when you consider that Sergio Aguero hasn’t started any of these games and Kevin de Bruyne has been out injured for the last eight.
They’re 10 points clear in the league, have a plum last 16 Champions League fixture against Borussia Mönchengladbach lined up and are both EFL Cup finalists and FA Cup quarter-finalists.
‘But they’ve bought the league, they don’t deserve any of it’ are the cries around the terraces. And there’s definitely some truth in that.
Since they won their first Premier League in 2012, City have spent £1.37 billion on transfers. In that period, that’s £50million more than the second and third most profligate sides in the world, Chelsea and Barcelona, although both of those sides have also recouped more than half their money back in player sales.
In terms of net transfer profit, the only team within £100m of City’s genuinely absurd £918.17m deficit this decade are neighbours Manchester United (£-849.74m).
United last won a Premier League in 2013, the year after the first of their neighbour’s four. They’ve been racked by inconsistency both on the pitch and behind the scenes despite the absolute fortune they’ve spent. Ángel di María, Memphis Depay, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexis Sánchez.
David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho. A list of names that the red half of Manchester would prefer to forget. Since Sir Alex Ferguson left, United have one FA Cup, one EFL Cup and a Europa League.
City have three Premier Leagues, five EFL Cups and an FA Cup. They have also won the league by the most points ever and achieved the highest points total ever, both in 2017/18. They’ve won the most consecutive league games ever and scored the most goals in a PL season. At least, certainly compared to United, the noisy neighbours have got some bang for their buck.
Of course, Liverpool have a Champions League and a Premier League with under a third of City’s transfer deficit (£305.38m). Chelsea have got back nearly £900m in player sales and have two league titles, an FA Cup and a Europa League. Bayern Munich have spent under half as much on transfers as City and currently hold all six trophies available to them.
No-one can doubt that the Citizens are where they are predominantly due to Sheikh Mansour’s seemingly endless pot of oil money. Even with the money, City have continually failed to impress at Europe’s top table.
Just like fellow Arab-backed side Paris Saint-Germain, it’s no secret that they’re chasing a Champions League but are yet to make it past the quarter-finals under Pep Guardiola.
Whilst no discussion about Manchester City is complete without an in-depth financial discussion, it shouldn’t constitute the be-all and end-all. In the world’s richest and most competitive footballing league, what they’ve achieved is genuinely impressive and shouldn’t simply be written off due to the money, especially when United’s books look worryingly similar.
For the most part, they’ve brought in good players and made them great, with Pep Guardiola’s individual influence on world class stars like Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne and Rúben Dias particularly impressive.
As a football fan, being able to watch David Silva, Yaya Touré and Sergio Agüero play together in their primes is something I’ll always be thankful to the blue half of Manchester for.
They now have a squad depth unrivalled by any side in the league, if not the whole of Europe. This has been made possible by their ability to nurture the talents and egos of top players, something definitely easier said than done.
Their scouting team very rarely miss, certainly when it comes to attackers. United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all had memorable transfer busts in their midfield and across the front line, but this is where City have an unbelievable ability to spot and nurture greatness.
Yes, they have to pay for it, but so could – and a lot of the time they do – United and Chelsea. Forget the money, it’s testament to the coaching staff that they now have to go into games with the likes of Bernardo Silva and Riyadh Mahrez on the bench, whilst Chelsea are despairing over marquee signings Kai Havertz and Timo Werner and the name Alexis brings half of the Mancunian population out in a cold sweat.
That’s not to say that City haven’t had transfer busts, because they definitely have, just almost exclusively across the back-line. Eliaquim Mangala stands out as a real waste of £40m, but that seems just a drop in the £570m ocean they’ve spent on defenders in the last decade.
Considering this, it seems no surprise that they’ve conceded just 15 goals in 24 league games this season. But it should be, because stopping the opposition from scoring is hard, even if you spend a lot of money. Just ask Harry Maguire, or Kepa Arrizabalaga.
This gets to the real heart of why City’s achievements shouldn’t be disregarded or disrespected. Money doesn’t simply equal success in football. Sure, it helps, especially when you have as much as City, but it certainly doesn’t win the titles itself.
They’ve scouted well, developed players well and forged brilliant tactics to play some truly wonderful football over the last decade. They are the most formidable side in British football currently and, with the money and talent currently littered throughout every team in the division, that cannot just be chalked down to the cash.
However bitter and jealous one may be about it, you simply have to admire how effectively City have used their money to build a true footballing powerhouse. I’ll end with a note to Manchester United fans across the world – just because you’ve been successful for longer, it doesn’t mean you’re being bankrolled by billionaires any less than the noisy neighbours.
They’re just better at it.
Image: h-m photo via Flickr