The Price of Competition?

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Everyone who follows football knows that transfer fees are getting out of hand – and transfer caps or salary restrictions would be detrimental to the game unless imposed globally. As one league implements caps, another league benefits. The best players will inevitably follow the cash, glamour and sponsorship deals. Veron was £28m in 2001, when he joined Man U. Rio Ferdinand cost £30m in 2002…. that was around the price of striker Robinho in 2008 (£32m). Judging by some paper talk. Anyone would think paying over the odds is new? Was De Bruyne worth £55m in 2015? Ex-City midfielder and Liverpool legend Steve McManaman put his writing seems as bad as Paul Merson’s comments now. Merson wrote “Manchester City paying so much money for Kevin De Bruyne is an absolute joke.” After all, De Bruyne was, “out of his depth at Chelsea”. City had bid for Eden Hazard in 2015 and refused to pay £32 million. What is that player’s valuation today?

West Brom’s owner has an 87%+ share and is estimated to have US$6.2bn. Arsenal’s majority owners are valued at US$22bn. The Glazers have a value of US$4bn. Everton’s Farhad has a wealth of US$2.3bn. Money is everywhere in a league that has TV rights/sponsorship deals in the billions. Barnsley, Aston Villa, Bristol City, Fulham, Derby County, WPR, Sunderland and Wolves all have billionnaire backers (in fact, Wolves have a richer backing than Manchester City!). Even Portsmouth have billionaire owners.

92 million Euros Cristiano Ronaldo was reportedly upset that Gareth Bale cost 6 million Euros more than him. Zinedine Zidane’s 75-million Euro transfer and Luis Figo’s transfer at 62-million Euros back in 2001 and 2000 respectedly aren’t small numbers. Many label players as world-class or not good enough. Surely, the result of their contracted time, is the time to judge if a transfer is good value. Joe Hart cost Manchester City £100,000 and a Gregg’s sausage roll. 266 appearances with 97 plus appearances out on loan and appearances for the national side have followed. Having battled for the number one jersey against Andreas Isaksson, Nicky Weaver, Shay Given, and Kasper Schmeichal he battled back, holding 29 clean sheets in 2011/12. He managed four Golden Glove awards in 5 seasons. Two league titles, the FA Cup and two Football League Cups added potency to his name. He was great value for a transfer fee. Vincent Kompany cost £6 million. Only 7 of City’s 24-man squad are valued below £20 million. Clubs have long been paying money for youth players, young players and future stars. It is nothing new.

In 1999, Thierry Henry cost Arsenal £11 million. Niclas Anelka joined Arsenal for £500,000 two years previous. Anelka would go on to be subject to transfer in the regions of £22 million (twice), £15 million, £13 million, £8 million, and €12 million. Since his youth days at Paris Saint-Germain, Anelka has amassed transfers in excess of £85 million. His total salary on top probably equated to that of a small nation. Nowadays some players transfer fees have exceded these collective figures. With shirt sales and commercial deals at an all time high, these disgusting figures are quite small when compared to revenue and income received as a result of that particular player coming in. Also, clubs and players are starting to form their own conscience and donate money to charity or foundations. Most banks and private companies do this to offset tax or develop their public image. Movie stars, another form of entertainment, do the same. Is football any different?

Does a successful team create an inferiority complex for some opposition teams? Possibly, yes. For years, Man U dominated the league and domestic front, whilst strengthening their name globally, sacrificing appearances in the prestigious FA Cup one season. They chased cups and money, and sometimes clubs didn’t believe they could beat the juggernaut of a club. Right now, Jose Mourinho, the most whimpering, whining, nit-picking, moaning, grousing, griping, groaning, fault-finding, complaining, carping, bemoaning, of managers is using every lamentable accusation and dissatisfaction possible aimed at City and Pep Guardiola is responding like it is water off a duck’s back. Some clubs spend almost £300 million on players, and complain it is not enough.

In Summer 2017, City invested heavily in fullbacks. Fullbacks Zabaleta, Kolorov, Clichy, and Sagna formed the 11-man exit of City’s senior squad last season. Around £57 million was raised from those players’ sales. 5 went for free. City paid out over £198.7 million on just 5 players. In the previous season City paid out £167.2 million on 8 players. Man U paid £160.7 million for 3 new players; up from £145.3 million the previous season, again for 3 players. There isn’t much in it, in terms of outlay. Arguably City’s 13 players [an average purchase of £28 million] to Utd’s captured £51 million per player. With little digging, almost every excuse falls apart.

It is really pleasing to see City investing deeply in community, global communities and charities and the future of Manchester. We are very propitious fans to see so much building for a long-term future. To be partnered with Girona FC, Melbourne City FC, New York City FC, Club Atlético Torque, and Yokohama F. Marinos – alongside a plethora of academies is a dream. Overseas, like so many clubs, hearty supporters’ clubs, and even teams like Manchester City F.C. (Sierra Leone) carry the flag of Manchester City. Maine Road F.C., long stood as a supporters’ team since 1955 have hugged City’s history. City, so often flogged as a club with no history, have a deep binding with English football history. The Revie Plan was a tactical system used in the 1950’s. It was used by Hungary to beat England at Wembley in 1953. We’re Not Really Here, is one of a handful of cult songs, even the catchy Yaya/Kolo version of 2Unlimited’s No Limit has been sung by rival fans – and isn’t unsual at darts tournaments. City have shot a long way since their inception by Rev. Arthur Connell and William Beastow as St. Mark’s (West Gorton). Not that the international scene is the only focus.

City as a club has maintained roots. The Connell Sixth Form College, fanzines such as King of the Kippax. There is a historical movie called Trautmann, and then there is the movie, There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble, which showcases how dire City were at one stage, yet the spirit shines on. Each football kit under Umbro had a piece of Manchester and a feel close to the heart of the City. The Academy Stadium is a short step from the Etihad Campus to the Etihad Stadium via footbridge. All are commercial, yet a clear vision from childhood football to juniors to that of a senior level is in place. The Manchester skyline is setback and every now and then a Lancaster bomber flies over the visable Pennines to the east. The successful Women’s team also have platforms to progress and a sizeable crowd is following them. The sites of the old Hyde Road and Maine Road grounds are a stone’s throw away.

Artist L.S. Lowry painted a piece called Going to the match, and was a keen City fan. Yes, we’ve had Curly Watts and other celebrity fans like Ricky Hatton and the Gallagher brothers. Real fans have become feature stars in Blue Moon Rising. This movie was updated the following season to show City’s first major trophy in a gap of 34 years. The sky-blue colour, mostly with white, sometimes with a dash of maroon or dark blue has been synonymous with Manchester City incessantly. Fans with yellow bananas, singing renditions of Blue Moon (after years of singing You’ll Never Walk Alone) have followed City home and away, loyally. For long periods City were known as everyone’s second favourite club. Typical City and doing things the hard way had made City loveable over the years. The club’s ability to be a soap opera and our fans’ die-hard approach, following in lower leagues and glory days makes up our DNA. Yes, there are new fans, but that is the wider world and how the internet and TV have changed things. Historically, City have yet to beat Wycombe Wanderers and Bristol Rovers, in over 4500 league games against many opponents. We know where we were, know where we are and are excited by the endless possibilities ahead.

Journalist Eric Todd, said of City fans in 1968, “like patience on a monument smiling at grief”; Joe Mercer was quoted as saying, “Like the players they deserve to have their perseverance rewarded”; BBC’s Mark Radcliffe in 2001, “when we are bad we’re just as bad as we always used to be, so that’s got to be good hasn’t it?”; journalist Paul Morley in 1998, “To support United is too easy. It’s convenience supporting.” Bands such as Doves, 10CC, Badly Drawn Boy, and photographers such as Kevin Cummins have used their materials to lighten up Manchester City. Comedians have shown along the way like Jason Manford, Chris “Frank Sidebottom” Sievey and Eddie Large. James Bond’s Timothy Dalton, John Henshaw, Alan Rickman, David Threlfall, Ian Cheeseman, Andrew Flintoff, Mary Anne-Hibbs, Natalie Pike, David Green, Marco Pierre White, Sir Howard Bernstein, Sir Richard Leese, money saving expert Martin Lewis and Princess Beatrice of York join fans that range as far as Arsenal F.C.’s CEO Ivan Gazidis (a former Mancunian school student). Beyond fame, a working class fanbase and supporters loyal for twenty five or more years remain. City have, in recent years, capped seasoncard sales at 36,000 seats and have sold-out. There is a waiting list. Even in the late 90s (City spent one season in the third tier of football), City gates averaged gates of 30,000. Gallows humour has always been present. Cult status has been awarded from benchwarmers Gláuber Berti to ever-presents Pablo Zabaleta and even visiting players like now Guangzhou Evergrande forward Alan. Being a City fan means you can have a laugh. Some comments may be tongue in cheek, or off the cuff – after all, winding up opposition fans is part of the parcel of being a City fan. Talking and drinking with them before or after a game, is also essential.

In 1881, St. Mark’s (West Gorton) lost 3-0 to Newtown Heath LYR. The Ashton Reporter noted it to be “a pleasant game”. The first recognised derby in Manchester. Derby games became central to Mancunian spirits, and in 1889, the first floodlit derby (at Belle Vue Athletic Ground) was held to support the Hyde Coal Mine disaster fund. In 2017, City and United sported the Manchester bee following a terrorist attack in the city that year. Each club came together, and it filled many with pride. After that, normal rivalry resumed, and why not? After all, attacks shouldn’t change out way of life. In the 1970s derby games added bite and controversy, legs were broken and cards dished out. United were reportedly relegated by Law’s backheel. Perhaps, when their fans invaded the field and caused the game to be called off, it was a factor? Who knows. It wasn’t as simple as Law’s backheel. It added, but it wasn’t the cause. City were underdogs for decades following this. From 1989’s 5-1 win over Ferguson’s side until 2002’s win at the last Maine Road derby, City hadn’t won a game against Utd. This is the period of time I grew up in. Every Red Arrogant Git made themselves known. Welcome to Manchester?

I worry that City are upsetting too many football fans. It is a shame really. There are 6 billion people on Earth and a reported 12 billion United fans. Maybe like other club supporters they feel threatened. Man U have more than double the value on Forbes, as City. More than 160 million Euros difference on Deloitte. They have board members on the Premier League and UEFA. If power is a worry for The World’s Greatest Football Team™ – then you have to worry. If you christen your ground, The Theatre of Dreams, you must live up to that, surely?

For the first time since April 1974, City enjoyed a monumental win at Old Trafford in February 2008. Since 2008, the derby games have been more level with Sir Alex Ferguson proclaiming the 09/10 derby at Old Trafford as “probably, the best derby of all time” but I would argue the 6-1 away win in 2011 or the two dominant wins under Guardiola as far better games. The blue line of City, since World War 2 has sat below Manchester Utd’s red line for far too long. Oddly City have scored far more goals than United, but lost a staggering 72 games to 51. Roll on derby day 176. History and the derby go hand in hand.

On October the 21st 2010, City allowed Lech Poznań a larger than usual away support. Their Grecque bounce soon became known as doing the Poznań. Just like that movement and style had been seen time and time before, and after, fads like transfers fees come and go, and shape the game. They keep the debate and pub arguments alive and kicking. I’ll never support Man Utd and I’d never expect their fans to back us, but this is the beautiful game, put aside your differences and agree to disagree, or agree that football and money are out of control – and it is not a new phase to the game! You’ve gotta roll with it…

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s