As Brad Pitt might say, it was “inevitable”.
Manchester City have moved quickly (for once) and tied up the majority of their summer transfer business with six weeks of the window remaining, replacing two departed strikers with 2 new additions, whilst also bolstering the midfield with two other signings, all done in the nick of time as Manchester’s once-in-a-decade hot-spell seems to be coming to an end. And as sure as night follows day, the accusations have begun about City trying to buy success, about them sticking up two fingers to the financial fair play regulations and to them once more killing football, because there seem to be no limits on how many times one football club can commit murderous acts.
And as usual, the accusations come from a position of such utter ignorance it is hard to get wound up. It’s an ignorance that comes from just looking at transfer fees, and basing a club’s expenditure on that alone. Of course there is also the small matter of wages, and it is wages that truly marks out the big teams, as naturally the top players have wages to suit, and over the course of a contract, the cost can be staggering.
City’s new executive team, acutely aware of financial fair play regulations, and intent on meeting them, have been all too aware of City’s wage bill as City offered big money to attract top players to join in their revolution. Thus, with the sort of wheeler-dealing that Derek Trotter would be proud of, City haven’t really spent that much at all, compared to their previous costs.
As it turns out, City’s net expenditure this summer so far has been estimated to have been around £25m. Looking at transfer fees alone, it is approaching £70m, but it is in wages that City are reaping the rewards. Not forgetting (as critics conveniently have) that City sold Mario Balotelli for a fee approaching £20m in the January transfer window, and did not replace him, thus saving millions in wages over the remainder of the season, City have also offloaded many of their biggest earners whilst signing players on much lower wages with incentivised extras. Carlos Tevez was the biggest earner of all, thought to be on a cool £250,000 a week, and thus by replacing him with someone like Negredo, who is reported to be on under a third of that amount, City recoup £35m over a four-year contract. It is thus cheaper in theory to give away the likes of Tevez and Balotelli and buy replacements for £20m+ on lower wages.
When you factor in City getting rid of the likes of other huge earners like Kolo Toure, Wayne Bridge, Maicon and Roque Santa Cruz, then their new recruitment drive is actually costing very little indeed in the long-term, if you compare it to sticking with the squad of old instead. City’s hierarchy do not intend to pay silly wages in future. Incentives will be built into contracts that rewards success. As success brings monetary reward, it will be the case that players will only earn extra when City do likewise. City’s owners are not stupid, and have been fully observant of financial fair play rules, even hosting meetings with UEFA in the past. Those critics thinking City will be punished for ignoring such rules are going to be sorely disappointed.
All the while, large swathes of Manchester United fans are hoping for signs that the rumours of Ronaldo’s return for £80m or the £60m bid for Gareth Bale or the £30m (plus bonuses) swoop for Cesc Fabregas are true, and if in some parallel universe United did sign them all, you can guarantee there wouldn’t be a single comment in the media about the extent of their spending, what with it being part of their organic growth of course. This is not a dig at United per se, more the way City’s spending is still perceived. City or United could sign Ronaldo for £80m and theoretically it wouldn’t cost them a penny as he is a cash-cow for any team he represents – Real Madrid’s Ronaldo shirt sales alone are thought to have paid for his move to Madrid from Manchester United.
Now that City have been consistently linked with Pepe, and also a Benfica winger costing close to £30m, signings that would really get rival fans frothing at the mouth. Never mind that some players may leave at some point (taking their wages with them) for considerable fees, and let’s ignore the money paid for Tevez and Maicon, modest as it may have been.
City haven’t disregarded financial fair play. If they had, they’d have paid for Cavani and Falcao if possible, and the City of 2009 may well have done that. But times have changed, and the criticisms of old were tiresome two years ago, let alone now. One day, everyone will realise that. Don’t hold your breath just yet though.