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Manchester City's Mancini: Rich in embarrassment

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When one thinks of Manchester City these days the first thing that comes into mind is the wealth associated with its billionaire owner, Sheikh Mansour, and thus their almost unrivaled spending power.

There’s also the label that is attached to it ‘nouveau riche’ or simply ‘newly rich’. In society it is often used to differentiate between folks who have been rich for generations and those who recently accumulated wealth.

It also implies that the latter lack the sophistication the former (supposedly) have achieved through the years. On a footballing level one could apply the same rationale by substituting ‘sophistication’ with ‘tradition’.

In more recent times Chelsea FC have been football’s most prominent nouveau riche. The London-based club and their billionaire sugar daddy, Roman Abrahmovitch, are probably the blueprint after which the current Manchester City project is modeled. It would be disrespectful to simply dismiss the history of both clubs prior to their newfound wealth.

However, it would be a stretch to suggest that either club, Chelsea FC or Manchester City, were genuinely a top club on its own merits. Neither would’ve reached the pinnacle of the English Premier League were it not for the generous cash infusions of their wealthy benefactors.

Going back a little further in time, AC Milan under Silvio Berlusconi are the first truly successful incarnation of real-life fantasy football. In the years following his takeover of AC Milan he bought any player of stature money could buy (Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit). Sounds familiar, right?

Yes, billionaire-backed fantasy football has been around for decades. But due to their exploits in Europe (read: the UEFA Champions League) the Milanese club has successfully shed the stigmata of the nouveau riche and established themselves as one of the continents truly great clubs.

But unlike their English counterparts, Milan had won the Champions League twice before Silvio Berlusconi came into the picture. While the media tries to suggest otherwise, there aren’t that many genuine great European clubs – if great constitutes a tradition of winning a wide range of titles.

By that definition Chelsea FC are still nouveau rich, even if they have won the Champions League. Bayern Munich, FC Barcelona, Juventus Turin, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Liverpool FC, Manchester United etc. those are the traditional powerhouses of Europe.

Chelsea FC have made the first step in their quest to ascend to the ranks of aforementioned clubs by winning the 2011/2012 Champions League. One is a start, Borussia Dortmund beat them to the punch by over a decade in 1997, against probably the best Juventus side of the 90′s (they played football too as opposed to abusing the pitch as a parking lot).

On the other hand Manchester City run the risk of becoming the laughingstock of Europe. Their slightly unfortunate exit in 2011/2012 can be excused as it was the Citizens maiden campaign in the UEFA Champions League. But a grand total of one (1) point after two matches in the ongoing 2012/2013 season is abysmal, even if the Sky Blues have been drawn in the group of death with Ajax Amsterdam, Real Madrid & Borussia Dortmund.

In this particular Champions’ League group, Roberto Mancini has a squad that is probably only bettered by Real Madrid, with Los Blancos’ advantage being Cristiano Ronaldo. Yet, the Citizens managed to take the lead against Real Madrid twice before an implosion of gargantuan proportions late in the game, eventually losing 3-2.

Inexperience? Nervousness? Naiveté?

Frankly, nobody knows.

If anything scores can be quite misleading. Truth be told, Manchester City didn’t really look like a team that could grind out a victory at the Santiago Bernabeu. But the real reason for concern is City’s awful performance at home against German champions, Borussia Dortmund.

city dortmund cl e1349387865791 Man City’s Roberto Mancini: Rich in embarrassment

Not to take anything away from the Ruhrpott side, but in order to look as spectacular as Dortmund did on match day 2, their opponents had to be dreadful. The final score of 1-1 flattered the hosts and granted Citizens manager Roberto Mancini another lease on life.

In all honesty, if it weren’t for the heroics of Joe Hart, it could’ve buried their hopes of advancing to the knockout stages already. There’s still a slim hope of progressing as Manchester City next opponents are none other than Group D whipping boys, Ajax Amsterdam.

At any rate, Roberto Mancini must assume the most responsibility for his teams’ shortcomings. His record in the Champions League is surprisingly poor for manager that has been entrusted with near unlimited funds and tasked to build a dynasty.

In his managerial career the best he has achieved thus far are the quarterfinals, with Inter Milan. Perhaps one of the reasons why his teams falls short in Europe – he tends to tinker with his favorite (4-2-3-1) formation on Champions League nights. Some of his abbreviations: 4-4-2 (double pivot) in their 2-0 defeat against Bayern Munich, or 4-3-3 in the 2-1 defeat against SSC Neapel, both away ties. Borussia Dortmund were treated to a 3-5-2, at home.

Something has got to give. Manchester City have their fair share of world-beaters (Sergio Agüero, Carlos Tevez, David Silva, Vincent Kompany) who possess experience in abundance, the bench ranks amongst the best in football; it’s not a matter of personnel but the ineptitude of Roberto Mancini.

Ex-Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho, probably had less talent available to him at Inter Milan, yet he delivered the Champions League in the second year (2009/2010) of his tenure with the Italian giants. Then-temporary solution, Roberto Di Matteo, played a weak-footballing Chelsea side to their strengths (how to park an airbus for 180 minutes) against FC Barcelona but apparently Roberto Mancini doesn’t know what his sides’ are.

Manchester City are just one freak loss removed from becoming the joke of European football which would only serve to complicate their ascension to genuine continental heavyweight.

For now Manchester City still remain the loud, noisy and nouveau riche neighbor.


Feel free to disagree and comment or follow me on Twitter @JubeiKibagame or follow @Soccerlens.

Comments (13)

  1. I agree with you man! The problem is! Will the board ever realize this! SACK MANCINI, GET GUARDIOLA!!!

  2. It’s spelt NOUVEAU me old mucker, but don’t be embarrassed, we all make schoolboy mistakes.

    Here’s an interesting fact for you, City won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970, beating Górnik Zabrze 2–1 in Vienna. City also won the League Cup that season, becoming the second English team to win a European trophy and a domestic trophy in the same season.

    Also, City broke the record for the highest home attendance of any club in English football history, as 84,569 fans packed Maine Road for a sixth round FA Cup tie against Stoke City in 1934 – a record which still stands to this day. (thanks Wikipedia for these facts I have copied and pasted unashamedly).

    This shows that City were, at that time, the biggest team in England, and can attract the highest attendances again, due to the fact that the population of Manchester hasn’t changed much since then – just need to win some fans back from them pesky Reds down the road, shouldn’t be too hard.

    City must be the most talked about club in football right now, everyone’s fascinated by what craziness will happen next – this is normal, as Bobby Manc would say, and believe me, City fans are not surprised by anything anymore.

    We love Roberto, we love the madness, it’s what makes us happy, no need to worry about us, it’s a blast being a City fan.

    • Thanks for pointing that out.

      “At that time”….that’s almost 80 years ago. If I apply your logic I must put Uruguay ahead of the English National team due to their two World Cup triumphs in 1930 and 1950.

      But I guess you didn’t understand my point of view in the first place. I consider a team truly great if the success has been achieved without the aid of a wealthy “sugar daddy”.

      1,200,000,000 Euro is a steep price to pay for underwhelming results in Europe. Don’t you think?

      Sergio Agüero has (probably) cost more than the whole Dortmund squad. And that team won the Champions League in 1997 without benefitting from foreign investment. Just food for thought.

      • manchester united and liverpool have been spending millions for decades, they bought success if you want to put it your way, they had the money when no-one else did and for that reason they bought the best players and won many things.
        we aren’t buying history we are making it, whether our team cost £500 million or 5 thousand. CITY IS A MASSIVE CLUB, ALWAYS HAS BEEN.

  3. In this modern era of football, please tell how you propose any club from a more humble background, such as City, could ever wish to compete with the very best without receiving a massive financial injection to kick start proceedings.

    Or are you of the opinion that those select few fortunate to have enjoyed years of success and dominance in Europe, are the only select few that should ever be able to enjoy success and dominance in the future?

    Great at offering pub standard critique fella, but not much in the way of an alternative/ solution to “sugar daddy’s”.

    Answers on a postcard.

  4. ” I consider a team truly great if the success has been achieved without the aid of a wealthy “sugar daddy”.

    Ah, there it is.

    Are Real Madrid one of those truly great teams? I don’t think there’s any football fan on the planet who isn’t aware of the shady investments in their past which funded the Galacticos – all football teams have been funded at least once in their histories by a wealthy backer, or “sugar daddy”, if you will.

    Where do you think football grounds came from? They’re not free, someone has to pay for them.

    Liverpool were funded by the Moores Family, Man United by the Edwards, the list is endless – they were all once Nouveau Riche” – the very term is silly when discussing football clubs who have been around since 1888, like City, founded by a wealthy local entrepreneur and Conservative politician, and Chelsea, founded in 1905. Chelsea had a reputation for signing big name players, in 1920, and big crowds too.

    Nothing is new in football if you know your history.

  5. I can’t believe that I’m actually defending Los Blancos but okay. If that’s where you want to stir our little discussion, be my guest.

    I probably despise that particular institution as much as anyone but while Florentino Perez masterminded one or two shady deals during his two terms as president, Real Madrid won titles by the dozens before the evil overlord was ever appointed the President.

    It’s safe to say that neither Chelsea FC or Manchester City had won even remotely as many titles as Real Madrid prior to becoming the benefactors of wealthy “donors”.

    It’s also a safe assumption that neither club would have ascended as quickly as they did in the last couple of years.

    Even accounting for inflation, at no point in history have any of the clubs you’ve mentioned spent as much money as Chelsea or Manchester City.

    Of course in relation to the respective era – clubs did and still spend “big” amounts. But an overall investment exceeding 1 billion within 4 years is unheard of. That’s not to say Chelsea are less lavish.

    Bottom line: with this level of spending one can expect better than 1 point after two match days and an early exit in 2011/2012.

    Hence, to label Manchester City a genuine European giant is premature. Same goes for Chelsea. One
    Champions League trophy doesn’t stake their claim. Especially in light of the investments.

    Ajax Amsterdam won more CL trophies than Chelsea and City combined.

    My point is – it’s about consistency at the highest level for decades, not a couple of years. And at the very top of European football there aren’t that many clubs. Right now I’d say there’s not more than a handful.

    Winning domestic and continental trophies on a fairly consistent basis – that’s what makes a genuine big club.

    The truth is neither Chelsea or City would’ve won the EPL, let alone the CL if it wasn’t for foreign ownership.

    That’s just the facts.

  6. “Even accounting for inflation, at no point in history have any of the clubs you’ve mentioned spent as much money as Chelsea or Manchester City.”

    So now there’s a cut off point for acceptability of investment?

    As for your “1 point in 2 games” point, if you can call it a ‘point’… Maybe you should wait until the group stages are over and pass judgement then, rather than being so premature. Also, you think success should be instant just because of the size of investment? If that were a City fan saying that you’d be berated.

  7. I can’t quite understand why you would need to define a “genuine big club”?

    Are you trying to annoy fans of certain clubs?

    Are you deliberately exaggerating the amount of money Roberto Mancini has spent on his title winning squad, by failing to take into account the money Sheikh Mansour has spent on buying the club, said to be in the region of £200 million, and other expenses in developing the club infrastructure to make it one of the powerhouses of European football?

    By taking infrastructure spending into definition of success in Europe, surely the £490 million pounds the Arsenal have spent on their new Stadium, and monies spent on players, is even more embarrassing? No European cup ever (the Big One), and no trophies at all in the last seven years. Mind you, I suppose the Arsenal aren’t a big club in Europe, so my point carries less weight?

    History is very important to football supporters, (not just trophies, the memories), but we live in the present, and we look with hope to the future.

    If you take the size, or stature, of a club as a snapshot in time, the picture changes dramatically.

    Right now, Manchester City and Chelsea are right at the top, not The Villa, or Liverpool, or Ajax – they are the teams everyone is talking about, analyzing, criticising, and most of all hold the title of Champions of Europe, and England.

    If you want to continue to try and nail down what makes a Big Club in Europe, what is your cut off point?

    One European Cup? Two? (Notts Forest), three?

    How many domestic titles? Does Scotland count as the league is so rubbish? If so, tough titties Celtic, but I still love you.

    How long ago do you go? When the European Cup was first set up, many English teams were dissuaded from entering the competition by the FA, so do all those early trophy winners count? – I don’t think so, it’s harder to win now, no team will win it five times in a row nowadays.

    In my opinion, it’s a waste of time trying to work out who these historic, big clubs are, all that matters is who is likely to win the European cup or EPL this season, and seasons to come.

    I’m intrigued to know who you support Adi-Oula, and your personal history with your club?

    • Why so defensive? Arsenal spent money on their new infrastructure after Highbury served its purpose. They did it AFTER winning things.

      You always distract from my original point – one point is laughable in light of thses obscene investments. Though crashing out in the previous year is excuseable. But Dortmund did better while having spent less on their squad than Agüero has cost alone.

      You can’t ignore that now can you?

      Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t!

      For all I know City could be a bust this season and I have highlighted that Chlsea are in ascension. I have acknowlegded as much.

      Chelsea, though I genuinely dislike them have won a lot after Roman’s billions afforded them world-class players.

      Arsenal are a mixed bag. Consistently well above average. But they evolved naturally without cash injections. Which brings me to Dortmund – won the Bundesliga despite having to compete with cash rich Bayern. And they do better in the Champions League than Man Ciy.

      That actually supports my arguement – if money is the only way for a club like City to compete, how come they are so pathetic in the Champions League? I mean Dortmund nearly went bankrupt at the beginng of the 2000′s.

      It’s a weak argument to say only through cash is it possible to compete. It’s harder, yes but not impossible. France, they had some unlikely Champions in the past.

      I’m a Barcelona fan and luckily for me one can google how far back that goes. My articles are all over the net. Besides, I never write anything to sing the praise of Barcelona. Neither on SoccerLens, The Sabotage Times nor anywhere else. I suppose you want to label me a fanboy and glory hunter.

  8. I disagree that one point is laughable in two games, especially when the first game was against the Spanish champions, in their own backyard, and taking all 3 points until 5 minutes from the final whistle.

    Dortmund were a class act at the COMS, and of course are German Champions for two years running, good for them, they were unlucky to only draw.

    To use Dortmund as a stick to beat City with is pretty lame, they regularly get crowds of 80,000 and are no newcomers to European football, unlike City in their recent history. Last season’s “group of death” led to City’s exit with 10 points, usually enough to go through, but Bayern did quite well in the end eh? Napoli were no mugs either, no shame or embarrassment deserved or felt, I assure you.

    This season’s group of death is even worse – the Champions of England, Holland, Spain and Germany – there will be no shame not getting through that either, which is what you’re implying before it’s even half way over!

    So, back to my previous post – how do you define a Big European Club then?

    I do think the fact you conveniently support one of the teams hardly anyone would argue fit the bill, must shape your viewpoint. Barca are a fantastic club, and I watch every game they show on Sky, but they’re another example of buying titles and European glory – they owe hundreds of millions of euros too, not exactly a model of prudence, they could learn a lot from Borussia Dortmund.

    I think the Fifa financial Fair Play regulations do not go far enough, clubs with massive debts should be banned from European competition, until they’re cleared, but they can’t be by way of donations or underhand sponsorships – but that would only suit clubs like City, Chelsea, PSG et al, who would become the new powerhouses of Europe, consigning clubs like United, Real and Barca, the Milans, Arsenal, to the dustbin of football. It’s only prudent after all, why should football be run on loans, it’s surely not sustainable?

    I actually don’t subscribe to this crap that football is any different from business in all other realms, and where your club gets it’s money from is it’s own business – it’s been this way in football for over a hundred years.

    Elitism sucks, who cares how many titles you’ve won in the past, how much you’ve spent on loans, or players, or building a new stadium, it’s all about enjoying the game, not this dirty financial anti-competitiveness being advocated by the clubs set most to gain by FFFP regs – and I think we all know who they are.

  9. Why does history matter .For example man u,always splashed the cash to steal the best players from other lesser clubs and broke transfer records regularly and subsequently bought the title many times. But,thanks to the Glasers,now have massive debt and are less able to compete with likes of Chelsea and Man City in the transfer market.
    So what do you suppose will happen if man u, over the next few years, fail to win any trophies.Fans will propably desert them and they will be history.

  10. Ajax Amsterdam 3:1 Manchester City. Case in point.