This appeared on SB Nation a couple of weeks ago (the tense has been changed).
The Abu Dhabi United Group like statements. Since buying Manchester City in 2008, they have spent an estimated (probably conservatively) £75 Million in transfer fees plus several million more in wages on two of them.
The first of those statements was unashamedly brief. Robinho who joined on deadline day 2008 for a reported £30 Million did so as the transactional equivalent of the pronoun, which according to de Saussure has no meaning except in the moment of its utterance. Valuable at the time, meaningless thereafter, Robinho, perhaps uniquely in the history of football transfers, was signed because he cost a huge amount of money and that, more than a tricksy wideman, was what the City of September 2008 required.
With the exception of a very cute dink over Manuel Almunia in a 3-0 victory over Arsenal towards the end of 2008 and a couple of nice tricks, though, Robinho was a failure in Manchester.
In hindsight, this seems to have been inevitable; he started that game in an attacking trio completed by Darius Vassell and Benjani Mwariwaru. A £35 Million strike-force is unlikely to make a sustained impact on the Premier League in any circumstance, but it is untenable when 85% of the value resides in one third of the talent.
The €18 Million City eventually secured from Milan, then, for Robinho represents a significant return on a player whose lot was always that of damage collateral to City’s aggressive expansionism.
Statement number two, Carlos ‘Welcome to Manchester’ Tevez, has proved/is proving more successful on the pitch, and his contract (which reputedly guarantees his ongoing status as the club’s highest earner) would suggest that the owners are intent on keeping the captain at the club.
Still, 43 goals in 63 games looks, like €18 Million, satisfactory compensation for a player whose primary purpose was to establish his new club as players in Manchester.
Nonetheless, since it turns out that Tevez hates the City for which he was made a rather dubious face in 2009, the Argentinean has not been an unqualified success. His teammates have complained to Mancini consistently about his captaincy and his apparently perpetual complaints about the meteorological and cultural ambience of Manchester still reach the English media only via translation.
Since then, City’s market strategy has become more measured.
The acquisitions of Adam Johnson, David Silva and Edin Dzeko make sense, in part because they represent a viable forward line in themselves, but also because they are young players whose reputations are still to be made – as opposed to the statement signings, who were purchased because of their reputations.
Samir Nasri’s finally realised move to the ‘United’ Stadium, however, represents a return to the old recruitment model.
Nasri is undoubtedly a quality player (although a doubling in his market value seems like a generous review of his three years at Arsenal), but it is hard to see what City, or he, will gain from the move.
In the context of Premier League football, it is hard to think of two attacking players more similar in style than Silva and Nasri. Nasri had a better season last time around, scoring ten league goals to Silva’s four, but the Spaniard will be better acquainted with the English game next time around and will perform better as a result.
Not only will the two playmakers be competing against a version of themselves for the same position, they will be competing for a position that Mancini seems to regard as a luxury (at best, a liability at worst). Nasri, pivotal to Arsenal’s big match plans, is unlikely to be trusted in Ctiy’s big matches; Silva isn’t.
The value in City’s acquiring the Frenchman lies, then, in the statement that acquisition makes. Nasri, unwilling to commit to indispensability at Arsenal, were he to sign up for dispensable status in Manchester, would symbolize his new club’s superiority over his old: exactly the sort of statement City are (still) wont to make.