The Premier League champions look to cast off the deadwood before making acquisitions this summer, while bearing Uefa's Financial Fair Play regulations in mind too
By Jay Jaffa
Over the last four years, at least £13 million had been spent by this stage of the summer, as the likes of Gael Clichy, Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry and Jo moved to Manchester City, but, over a week into the transfer window, there is an air of refined logic surrounding the newly-crowned Premier League champions.
Sergio Aguero's winner in the 95th minute against QPR on the last day of the season has had further reaching effects than just sealing a maiden title. Like the dealer in a game of Texas Hold'em, it has given City the power to watch their rivals act first. As Manchester United play catch-up, moving for Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell, and Arsenal add fire-power in Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, the decision-makers at City are biding their time.
It has been a long time coming for a club that looked to have more money than sense at times. The crazed obsession with overhauling United's dominance of the domestic scene mutated from mere on-pitch duals to billboard jibes led by former Red Devil Carlos Tevez. It has been unrepentant and dogged, but City have reached the goal.
So what now? The old idiom says that if you throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick. And only by looking at Roberto Mancini's transfer market moves can we really assess just how much mud has been thrown at his squad.
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The club have sensibly decided to offload the deadwood in the squad before pressing ahead with reinforcements – surely with an eye on the incoming Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz are expected to be ushered out of the door following Wayne Bridge, Stuart Taylor and Owen Hargreaves to different climes.
The Togolese striker has spent the last two years on loan at Real Madrid and Tottenham, respectively, and as Harry Redknapp said at the end of the season: “They [City] don't want him. They don't want to see him ever again."
The club's relationship with Santa Cruz may not be as hostile but the logic remains: Mancini has the opportunity this summer to fine-tune his squad, to mould it into an efficient, title-winning behemoth.
It doesn't stop with the two strikers (though that is certainly more pressing) as players like Aleksander Kolarov and Stefan Savic will be wondering if their salaries make up for a lack of minutes on the pitch. This is the perennial dilemma squad players at the top clubs are subjected to; those in the bracket below 'world-class' - Nigel de Jong, Adam Johnson and James Milner - are all further examples. These concerns will in all likelihood be postponed for another year or two because, well, who doesn't like being part of a successful organisation and getting paid enormous amounts of cash?
For the time being, it is the excess fat that needs to be trimmed from the squad and that explains City's determination to sell Adebayor and Santa Cruz before moving for an additional goalscorer. Of course, with the news that Robin van Persie will not renew his contract at Arsenal, the inevitable link has been made between the Abu Dhabi group's billions and the Dutchman.
However, City are understood to be looking to stay within their budget and keep any acquisitions inside their £198k-a-week basic wage ceiling, something that will test Van Persie's assertion that he desires a move to win trophies.
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Even the notion of having a wage ceiling seems oddly humorous after the reckless abandon City have shown the transfer market in recent years, but as football enters an era where clubs must show a form of austerity to operate, it makes sense.
There is little chance the club will curb spending as they incessantly press for the game's greatest prizes, but attempts to stay within the confines of FFP should restrict them to some degree. That is, until a decision is made on the £400m sponsorship deal with the Abu Dhabi state airline, Etihad. If the deal is deemed 'fair value' by Uefa (because it is from a 'related party'), City should be able to cover the expenses that seem certain to nudge them past the £36m loss the governing body set as its limit.
If that is the case, the club could sustain its brazen attitude to spending, but for now their market activity demands a slightly more structured approach.
It may take time for City to make a statement this summer, but you can be sure that with their newly acquired status of Premier League champions, every move will carry an assertiveness about it. From here, the mission is to retain their crown and make progress in Europe and if that means waiting for the dispensable squad members to leave before the latest star is unveiled, the club's supporters won't mind.