Aug 13, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT
It’s been a busy summer in the transfer market around the top of the Premier League table.
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Liverpool added eight players hoping to replace last year’s Player of the Season Luis Suarez.
Manchester United looks poised for a rebound under new manager Louis van Gaal after snatching up Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera and are still in play for a number of big name players look like good fits for the new boss’s rare formation.
Everton bagged Romelu Lukaku for a club-record fee after years of relative penny-pinching for a top-quarter club.
Even Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger bucked his reputation and splashed cash early in the transfer window by throwing heaps of money at Alexis Sanchez and Callum Chambers along with a few others.
But one team is sorely missing from this list.
The defending champions Manchester City, owned by Shiekh Mansour and all his money and grandeur, had spent a grand total of $33 million on three players until the club snatched 23-year-old central defender Eliaquim Mangala on Monday for an appalling $53 million fee.
Again, we repeat that they are the defending champions, and it’s well known how studded with talent that roster is. However, there’s the common phrase that resonates around every professional sport’s offseason:
“If you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse.”
With the purchase of Mangala, City finally spent some money, that much can’t be denied. The club, remember, is shackled
(not really) by Financial Fair Play rules indicating they can not spend more than $80 million net loss in the transfer market.
However, with the surprise improvement of Martin Demichelis and the prior existence of one of the Premier League’s best defenders in Vincent Kompany, where will Mangala fit? The club is already looking to sell promising young central defender Matija Nastasic, who was a key component of their 2nd-place season two years ago and is still just 21 years old, because he’s not finding time. Why not just keep him instead?
So despite the club’s unquestionable ability to open the books, fans are undeniably pondering still: will Manchester City’s inability to purchase key players this season suddenly make them underdogs?
A wider lens must be used to capture the answer to that question. Despite City’s success the past three seasons in the domestic competition, they’ve struggled mightily abroad. The club has never fallen to lesser competition in the Champions League over the last few years, but they’ve never been able to make the leap to elite status, finding themselves eliminated far too early by clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and Sporting CP.
If the Citizens wish to get over the European hump, they haven’t shown it this offseason, sitting around watching clubs scoop up top talents before making an inflated purchase for a player the club doesn’t really need. In fact, more players are still rumored to be on their way out (Javi Garcia, Nastasic) than on their way in (???).
It must be said that their business to capture Bacary Sagna and Frank Lampard for little to no money is good business, but how much can they truly bring? Lampard is quality in a midfield that needs cover badly, but he’s 35 now and will struggle for a full season.
It goes without saying that Manchester City is loaded with talent, and they could still easily win the Premier League with this team.
However, their relative failures in the transfer market this summer will no doubt leave them scratching and clawing for even a modest Champions League finish, and could also doom them domestically should the clubs around them hit with all their big-money gambles. In fact, the most exciting news to come from the Etihad this summer is the signing of David Silva and Vincent Kompany to long-term contracts.
Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri, David Silva, Yaya Toure, and the rest of the star-studded cast will still likely lead a Premier League campaign worthy of a title challenge. But this club has aspirations bigger than that, and without smart buys in the transfer market, those lofty goals will continue fall on deaf ears.
Remember, this is the club that fired Roberto Mancini the year after winning the Premier League title for finishing second. Good luck, Manuel Pellegrini.
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