In our week-long series, Goal looks at how the Premier League champions went about their summer business quickly and quietly, even with FFP sanctions hanging over their head
By Harry Sherlock
Manchester City approached the summer transfer window with a clear plan in place.
Deals to secure the signings of Fernando and Eliaquim Mangala were nearing completion, while they were aware of how much money they would need to spend to acquire the requisite reinforcements whilst complying with Uefa’s Financial Fair Play rules.
City were limited to a net spend of £49 million when Europe’s governing body sanctioned them in May for making significant losses, and were also forced to pay a conditional £49m fine. Reluctantly, City accepted the sanctions and subsequently set about their business, which totals almost exactly £49m now the transfer window has shut.
Fernando and Mangala were effectively signed in January, the club making a move to sign them on deadline day eight months ago. Such was City’s confidence, a private jet was arranged to bring the pair to England for medicals, but the deal did not go through on time due to third-party issues. It mattered little, with director of football Txiki Begiristain working hard during the interim period to ensure the two players would sign during the summer.
Fernando arrived for £12m and City hope that he will play alongside Fernandinho in midfield, thus facilitating a shift further forward for Yaya Toure in what is likely to become a 4-2-3-1 formation this season.
Mangala, the more expensive acquisition, arrived for £31.8m and will provide an elite partner for Vincent Kompany, who was often paired with Martin Demichelis at centre-back last term.
Begiristain was also the driving force behind City’s deal to sign Willy Caballero from Malaga for £6m, the goalkeeper arriving as competition for Joe Hart. Indeed, there is a feeling at City that a ‘European’ goalkeeper is needed, with Hart prone to kicking long should he come under pressure. Caballero offers a sweeper-keeper option – similar to Hugo Lloris' role at Tottenham – and Pellegrini intends to let the two fight it out for the No.1 shirt, rather than committing to naming a first choice.
Hart was dropped in favour of Costel Pantilimon for a time last season, having made a series of high-profile mistakes, and Pellegrini would have few qualms in pulling him out of the starting XI again.
A major factor behind City’s recruitment drive has been to only buy players who the club feel can improve the starting XI - new deals for Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko proof of their first-team status - though Frank Lampard’s arrival is one of convenience rather than necessity. Already well stocked in midfield, the move came as a shock to many but it was at Lampard’s behest that the deal was done. Having agreed to join City’s partner club New York City he appeared set to follow David Villa to Melbourne before linking up with his new MLS employers when their season kicks off, though he asked to remain in England due to Christine Bleakley’s work commitments – the pair are engaged – and fears of uprooting a young family.
He is unlikely to play many games at City, but he offers vital squad depth should an injury crisis engulf the club.
With Pellegrini keen to have two elite players for each position, Bacary Sagna was also recruited, becoming the latest in a long line of players to swap Arsenal for City. With Sagna having rejected a new deal with Arsene Wenger's side, negotiations were swift and the France international was signed in early June.
Of course, great emphasis was placed on Toure’s apparent desire to leave the club and it could be argued that a number of City’s acquisitions subsequently slipped under the radar after Dmitri Selcuk, his agent, claimed that City delivered a personal snub to Toure by failing to wish him a happy birthday, before the player claimed that he was not granted compassionate leave to be with his dying brother before he lost his fight with cancer.
City were disappointed by the whole fiasco but made allowances for the fact that the bulk of the claims did not come directly from Toure, who is one of the highest earners in the Premier League.
The Ivorian eventually stated his desire to remain at the club and there is a hope at City that they will be able to convince Toure to call time on his international career – thus bringing an end to his African Cup of Nations commitments – in order to have him focus solely on City. However, there is a succession plan in place should he eventually leave.
Over the next few years, the club are keen to bring the average age of the squad down and, as such, are pressing ahead with plans to finish the £200m Etihad Campus by November.
Such is the glitz attached to the sprawling, state-of-the art youth complex situated opposite the main stadium, that Stoke fans mistakenly took it for the actual Etihad before their 1-0 win over City at the weekend – even asking home supporters how they could get in.
There is a hope at City that the academy will become a production line, with 16 pitches that can cater for 400 players being built, with the ultimate aim of producing world-class stars who can go into the first team or be sold for a huge profit.
In the intervening period, however, the club are eyeing established young players, with Ross Barkley scouted extensively throughout the latter part of last season. The Everton midfielder impressed many at the Etihad and the club approached the Toffes over a possible deal earlier this summer, only to be told that he would cost £50m. City then looked to bring the price down by offering a deal that would have seen Jack Rodwell – who eventually joined Sunderland – move to Goodison Park, along with £25m, though it was rejected out of hand by the Merseysiders.
Paul Pogba is also held in high regard among the corridors of power at the Etihad, the Juventus midfielder establishing himself as one of the finest players in Serie A since leaving Manchester United, while Schalke’s Julian Draxler has also been watched.
Yet it is Marco Reus who has caught the eye the most. With or without Toure’s departure, City are thought to be willing to bid for the Borussia Dortmund star next summer, when his £28m buyout clause comes into effect. As such, City rejected the chance to sign Angel Di Maria this summer, with the Real Madrid star keen to link up with Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta before eventually joining United.
It is a similar story with Radamel Falcao. The Monaco striker joined United on deadline day on a season-long loan but City were offered the chance to strike a similar deal, only to turn it down, along with Liverpool, Arsenal and Real Madrid, despite pocketing around £30m from sales throughout the summer.
City are also guaranteed to receive £23m from Valencia, who have taken Alvaro Negredo on loan with an obligation to buy at the end of the season.
Negredo's exit surprised many but City were acutely aware of his family’s homesickness and, as such, allowed him to return to Spain.
Micah Richards, Javi Garcia, Rodwell, Gareth Barry, Pantilimon and Joleon Lescott were also shifted from the wage bill, while the club also received a fee for 20-year-old midfielder Emyr Huws, who joined Wigan Athletic.
The outgoings mean City have the money to enter the market in January should they need to do so, while they are confident that they will have their FFP sanctions lifted by next summer, when they intend to pursue a deal for Reus.
For now, City are focusing on competing on four fronts, but the groundwork for a decade of success has surely been laid this summer.