Monday, October 18, 2021

Manchester City 10 years on: Bravo, Bony and the worst buys of the Sheikh Mansour era

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 1 Sep 2018


A decade on from Robinho’s British-record arrival at Manchester City, the Premier League club have regularly made waves in the transfer market.

The Brazil forward signed on the day the Abu Dhabi United group altered City’s reality beyond all recognition. A 35-year trophy drought ended in 2011 and fans have revelled in three Premier League titles and four domestic cup triumphs.

However, it has not been all milk and honey, trophies and medals, Agueros and Silvas.

Trading with the backing of Sheikh Mansour’s billions has not always prevented England’s reigning champions from spectacularly missing the mark.


After Robinho was frantically bundled through the door the previous deadline day, January 2009 represented then-manager Mark Hughes’ first chance to make an impression with the Abu Dhabi bounty, with recruits such as Nigel de Jong and Craig Bellamy important in City’s transition from also-rans to contenders. The same could not be said for £12million left-back Bridge, who rarely threatened to touch the form that made him an England regular at Chelsea. Loan stints with West Ham, Sunderland and Brighton and Hove Albion only made shifting him off the wage bill an increasingly troublesome task.


Mario Balotelli had already infamously thrown darts at City youth team players by the time they were crowned Premier League champions in 2011-12. Their transfer business in the aftermath was conducted in the manner of person launching ‘arras at a wall while blindfolded. Roberto Mancini got in a funk with director of football Brian Marwood after Robin van Persie slipped through City’s grasp to Manchester United – a spat that would ultimately cost both men their roles. Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair, Javi Garcia, Matija Nastasic, Maicon and Richard Wright represented quantity over quality recruitment and it was £8m Swansea City winger Sinclair who fared worst. His only two Premier Leagues starts came inside his first month as a City player and, having appeared woefully out of his depth, joined the loan carousel.


Manuel Pellegrini’s complaints over City being hamstrung by a Financial Fair Play punishment during their 2014-15 title defence might have carried more weight had he not splurged £42m of his UEFA-restricted budget on the accident-prone Mangala. An assured debut against Chelsea was followed by an own-goal against Hull City next time out. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, who did return to the fray to provide centre-back cover for Pep Guardiola last season, the latter howler has been recalled far more often in sky blue than his fleeting initial poise.


City’s best football under Pellegrini came midway through their triumphant 2013-14 season, as Alvaro Negredo proved a muscularly effective partner to Sergio Aguero in attack. But the Spain international failed to recover peak form after a shoulder injury and was back in his homeland with Valencia the following season. Bony, who outscored Aguero in the Premier League in 2014 for Swansea, looked the ideal replacement but events quickly conspired against the £25m Ivory Coast striker. A delayed debut due to Africa Cup of Nations duty was compounded by illness and injury, along with Pellegrini’s increasing preference for 4-2-3-1. Every appearance came to feel like an audition for Bony. Six goals in 36 Premier League games shows he rarely passed.


Ederson’s mastery of Guardiola’s “sweeper keeper” requirements at City shows the decision to jettison popular England international Joe Hart was the correct one. But Bravo’s struggles from, more or less, the moment he replaced a dependable fans’ favourite was hard were hard to watch for all concerned. An accomplished performer for Chile and Barcelona, who pocketed £13.75m for his services, Bravo was at fault for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal on his Manchester derby debut and never recovered. He was dropped for the unheralded Willy Caballero after becoming a bystander to most events around his goal and, although he helped City to the EFL Cup last season, a ruptured Achilles tendon means Bravo might have played his final game for the club.


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