You are now leaving Manchester

So he’s off is he? Manchester City are going to have to find a new captain. With $500 Billion, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Except they need to find a new face too, and with that a new identity. It’s all very well paying a huge amount of money for a very good player that your biggest rivals couldn’t afford and then splashing his face all over the city, making it your face. But it does make you look pretty stupid if 18 months (a long time in football, of course) later, that great player and expensive face decides it wants to bugger off back to South America, or Spain.

‘The Wayne Rooney Saga’ remains recent enough to act as a warning against drawing too many conclusions too early, but Tevez’s abdication would be evidence of a worrying trend in Manchester.

The Abu Dhabi United Group’s ‘signal of intent’, Robinho, has already hoofed it out of the club, twice. If his replacement, the Golden Goose pinched from across the city, does the same, well, it begins to look like carelessness.

Gary Cook is certainly no Confucius, but City’s management could learn from the Chinese: ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.’

The problem is not so much with the players, but with the model. When Cook came in he mouthed off about making City bigger than Utd. and marketing the club across the world. (I seem to recall something about Man City scooters in Asia?). Those noises have stopped now, but the desire for the radical and immediate growth that they suggested remains.

Cook, a former director of Nike, knows that faces sell merchandise. He knows that clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Barcelona are popular in Africa and Asia not so much for their great histories (look at Chelsea), but for the reputations of the individuals who represent them: Rooney, Gerrard, Messi.

City have tried to do the same. First with Robinho, then with Tevez. But it hasn’t worked. At the truly global clubs, the international superstars started off as one among many. When Leo Messi broke into the Barcelona team he played alongside Ronaldinho. Gerrard played behind Michael Owen and Rooney with Ronaldo. They became the brightest stars in their little solar systems through natural processes of evolution they shared with their clubs.

The face that sold a million bottle-openers.

On the blue side of Manchester, that hasn’t been allowed to happen. There, players are brought in to fill marketing as well as footballing positions and (so far) that hasn’t worked.

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