Thursday, 30 July 2009


If there's one thing we should be truly grateful to Elano for, it's for sucking the fear out of penalties. He was the best penalty taker I have ever seen in blue, and the ten out of ten record he left with is something of real note.

Those ten, from the start: Bolton, Birmingham, Sunderland, Villa, Brighton, Villa, Aalborg, Hamburg, West Brom, Blackburn.

Even if Gareth Barry takes over next year (rather him than Robinho), I won't be as confident.

A feeling

I've got no evidence for this, but I've just got a feeling that we won't go any higher than the £19m bid for Joleon Lescott.

It's in our interests not to meet every asking price, and to show that we won't be messed around. And it seems like we'd have to go to £23m+ to land Lescott. Which may be proportionally the most exaggerated fee yet.

It's just a hunch.

Touré targets success

More assertive and confident than other City players have been in discussion of reasonable expectations this season.

This is the winning mentality Hughes has sought to introduce.

Kolo unveiled in away shirt

I've seen a few pictures of the away shirt online and I'm pretty sure Kolo Touré is currently wearing it in his unveiling press conference.

Can anyone who's seen it confirm this?

UPDATE: The official site makes clear that it is the new away kit, which is available for pre-order tomorrow and will be launched on 15 August - when we will presumably wear it at Ewood Park.

Elano leaves

Big, sudden news this morning: Elano has left City, and joined Galatasaray on a permanent deal.

I said that there would be tougher goodbyes than Valeri Bozhinov and this is one of them. While his departure this summer was almost inevitable after he demanded a new contract and Hughes demurred, it's still a surprise to see it happen so quickly.

Unlike many City fans, though, I cannot honestly say that I am disappointed to see Elano leave. He was unquestionably a great talent, and had it within him to be a Kinkladze or Benarbia of our times. After his magical first few months, it appeared as if he might: his vision, his passes, his set-pieces were of the highest quality. It must also be remembered how much of a relief it was, after the dire and depressing Stuart Pearce era, to see some genuine quality in a City player.

We thought Elano would herald a new era of football at City, and, while the season as a whole was no failure, Elano dramatically tailed off after November and he took the rest of the team with him. He started 2008/09 well with a few early goals but the arrival of Robinho and emergence of Stephen Ireland limited his first team opportunities. Out of the side he failed to impress with his attitude and was dropped from the match day squad for the trip to West Brom in December.

An injury to Shaun Wright-Phillips did see him make a return to the side in the spring, where he replicated his form of autumn 2007. Two freekicks were inches away from putting us into the UEFA Cup semi-final, a miraculous pass set up Robinho at Goodison Park, and he continued his immaculate record from the spot: ten out of ten in two years.

There can be no avoiding the fact that he had more bad games for us than good ones. His was a talent that revealed himself not even in spells but in sparks. Certainly a talent unfulfilled at City, but one that we were privileged to enjoy nonetheless. And he now joins a side managed by Frank Rijkaard, a man who has achieved great things with lazy Brazilians. We may meet them next season.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Sky Sports: New £19m Lescott bid

Inevitable, really.

I imagine that Everton will hold out for more. At what point do we look ridiculous? £23m?

Boji in Parma loan talks

Confirmed by the club today.

Like most City fans, I've been long hoping that Bozhinov will grow into a real star for us. But with three big money strikers coming in this summer, there was only ever going to be one outcome.

It's sad to see him go, but there will be tougher goodbyes ahead.

Nedum stays, signs

I've spent a lot of the summer going on about how I hope we only sign one centre back, because then we can partner John Terry/Joleon Lescott/whoever with Nedum Onuoha and thus maintain the Academy element within the team. I worried that the arrival of two centre backs would limit Onuoha's chances so far that he would be forced out.

I am delighted to have been proven wrong today: rather than agitate for a transfer, to keep his World Cup dream alive, Nedum Onuoha has signed a new five year deal. This says an awful lot for the Onuoha's patience and commitment to the club. Both Joe Hart and Daniel Sturridge have left the club in pursuit of first team football this summer (it is increasingly apparent that Sturridge will start more games this season for Chelsea than he would have done had he stayed at City), and while Onuoha would have been justified in doing so, he has committed his future to MCFC.

It is also a clear statement from Hughes, Bowen et al that they see Onuoha as a key part in our long term plans. As Hughes said today:

“Nedum is a very important part of my future plans for the team, and I am very pleased he has decided to extend his contract with us. Despite his tender years he has already matured into a very good defender who has made a significant impact on the first team,” he stressed.

“Nedum has huge potential for the future and is another shining example of the kind of quality our academy can produce for Manchester City football club.”

This firmly suggests that Onuoha will have a real part to play this season. But, presuming we sign Lescott (or Upson), he will be at best third choice. Yes, Kolo will have African Cup of Nations duty which will give Onuoha a few games. But probably not as many as he played in 2008/09 - 27 starts in all competitions. Where, though, does all this leave Richard Dunne?

Touré signs

The news that we all expected today: Kolo Touré has signed for City, on a four year deal. He is our sixth signing of the summer, our fifth for over £10m, but our first defender.

Mark Hughes was delighted on the deal's completion:

"I am delighted to welcome Kolo to Manchester City. It is no secret that we have been looking to strengthen our defence, and in Kolo I feel we have recruited a world class player. He brings a wealth of Premier League experience from his seven seasons with Arsenal,” he declared.

“Kolo has been a central figure in a very strong Arsenal team for many years, and I have been an admirer of him for a long time. He is strong, quick, reads the game well and will be an influential figure in the dressing room.”

Kolo Touré fits perfectly into the mold of our summer signings, in that he has the one attribute Hughes values above all others: top six Premier Leauge experience. Given Sheikh Mansour's demand that City finish sixth or higher in 2009/10, Hughes' response has been perfectly logical - to fill the team with players who have already achieved finishes of sixth or higher at their current clubs. Santa Cruz was a slight anomaly, having finished seventh in his one full season in the EPL. But then there was Gareth Barry, who achieved sixth placed finishes with Villa in 2008/09 and 2007/08. And Carlos Tévez who picked up two Premier League winners' medals in his two years at Manchester United. Then Emmanuel Adebayor, who came fourth then fourth then third then fourth in his four years at Arsenal. We failed in our pursuit of John Terry - two winners' medals and three second placed finishes in the last six years, but remain keen on Joleon Lescott: sixth then fifth then fifth in his three years at Everton. Touré fits this perfectly: in seven years at Arsenal they finished fourth three times, third once, second twice and won it once. So there's certainly a very clear pattern in our pursuit of targets this year.

A further point can be made about age. The short term nature of Sheikh Mansour's demands means that this is no time for playing the Wenger game - we need players at their peak. So it's 28 year old Touré to go with 28 year old Barry, 27 year old Santa Cruz, 25 year old Tévez and 25 year old Adebayor. Lescott is 26 (not 24 -thanks why3435).

So the pattern is clear. As, increasingly, is the jigsaw. Touré will start at centre half alongside whichever other defender we sign: presumably Joleon Lescott but possibly Matthew Upson or even someone else altogether. I did initially have my concerns that the signing of two new defenders would force out Nedum Onuoha, although other news today has refuted that claim.

City stars in new South American squads

Elano and Robinho are both in Dunga's Brazil squad for their friendly against Estonia in Tallinn on August 12.

There is only one City player in Diego Maradona's Argentina squad, when, of course, there should be two.

Sky Sports: New Lescott bid

As the Kolo Touré deal drifts closer and closer to completion there is news of progress on the second front tonight; Sky Sports are claiming that a new bid for Joleon Lescott is immanent - an increase on the £15m rejected last week.

I'd be surprised if we got Lescott for less than £20m, unless we're going to throw in Nedum Onuoha too. I'd rather we just paid the cash.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

BBC, SSN: Touré talks

From BBC Sport:
Manchester City are close to signing Arsenal defender Kolo Toure for about £15m, BBC Sport understands...

Newspaper reports that Toure has agreed personal terms with City are premature but the deal is expected to be completed by the end of this week.

Sky Sports are also reporting that we are close to agreeing a £16m fee, and that Touré will fly back from Austria for a medical soon.

Shirt fitting video

Nice video of the lovely new home shirt being fitted, put on YouTube by Umbro. (Via MCFC Twitter)

Votes flooding in

Well they were yesterday. Slowed to a trickle now, but the percentages are pretty fixed. The clear winner, and with a very narrow majority of votes, is the proposition that we ought to buy both Joleon Lescott and Kolo Touré. In a strong second place with 37% is the buying of only Joleon Lescott. Then there's only Kolo Touré with 8% and sticking with Dunne and Onuoha at 2%.

So my defence of buying only one defender convinced only 47% of you. One thing worth bearing in mind in all this is that the African Cup of Nations in January and February 2010 means that Nedum Onuoha would get a few games even if we bought Lescott and Touré, but, unless either of them got injured, not as many as he needs or deserves.

And don't forget that Vincent Kompany isn't exactly going to get a lot of chances in defensive midfield this season.

More progress on Touré, less on Lescott

Another update from Daniel Taylor in Tuesday's Guardian. The deal for Kolo Touré seems very likely, but Everton are less willing to sell Joleon Lescott to us. And so we're having to rely on his kicking up a fuss if we want to snatch him from Goodison Park:
Manchester City are in advanced talks with Arsenal over signing Kolo Touré, although their pursuit of Joleon Lescott remains at an impasse, with Everton determined to hold on to the England international and intent on driving their valuation of the player towards the £30m mark. City, who had a £15m bid for Lescott rejected last week, have yet to return with a further offer and would prefer not to do so until the 26-year-old agitates for a move.

Whether Lescott is prepared to do that remains to be seen, with the former Wolverhampton Wanderers defender running the risk of leaving Goodison Park under a cloud if he seeks to force the issue. Everton, however, have shown no willingness to negotiate hitherto, prompting City to believe that the only way Lescott can be prised from Merseyside without paying way over the odds is through the player making it known he wishes to move on.

Read it all HERE.

It seems like Hughes is set on two - in accordance with over 50% of those who voted in my poll. So it will either be Touré and Lescott next season, or, should Joleon follow Kaká, Eto'o and Terry in rejecting us, Touré and Upson. But if I had to make a prediction, I would imagine that they will both be with us by the end of August.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Micah looks forward

Confident sounding interview on the official site:

“We have made some unbelievably good signings and I am sure expectation levels will be higher but I am looking forward to it, feeling good and raring to go. The first challenge is getting into the side,” beamed the fully recovered defender. “No one is sure of a place if they are not playing well.

“There are a lot of household names here now but the youngsters like me, Nedum, Stephen Ireland – who was brilliant last season – and Michael Johnson are determined to push them hard.

“These are exciting times and the young lads who have come through the system will not let it faze them. Expectations will be raised in the dressing room as well as outside it.”

One of the many big unknowns of the summer is whether Micah Richards or Pablo Zabaleta will be first choice right-back this season. I honestly don't know - Richards' illness has obviously made him unavailable for selection so far in the pre-season.

I'm a quite immoderate Zabaleta fan. He's a much better defender than Richards, and is actually better going forward too. Yes, Richards' galloping runs are great but when in attacking positions his delivery is nowhere near Zabaleta's, and unlike Pablo he can barely use his left foot.

Of course, there's always the possibility that Zabaleta is used as a utility man - he can fill in not only in holding midfield but left back too - while Richards is first choice right back. We'll just have to wait and see.

Defenders poll

I've decided to introduce occasional polls to TLDORC because, you know, polls are fun.

The first one is pretty self-explanatory. If it's successful (I don't exactly what that means at this point - I guess if I get enough votes to give a representative result) I'll start doing more.

I've voted for Lescott.

MH positive after tour

From the official site:

"We would have liked to have won the game, but the important thing was making sure our fitness levels have improved, and they will have done.

"It was difficult for the lads at times, the pitch was not great and the air is a bit thin. We had a lot of possession but did not create a great deal, they got a few behind the ball and our tempo needed to be higher.

"But we have really enjoyed our time in South Africa. They were three good games, it has been a real experience for everybody but we're looking forward to getting back home, getting back on the training ground and get some quality work in."

Next target: Kolo Touré

With the news that John Terry will not be joining, attention now shifts to Hughes' next defensive targets - Joleon Lescott and Kolo Touré. And Monday's papers are full of reports that a move for the Arsenal man is close. Ian Herbert, who had been with City in South Africa, wrote this:

The decision [of John Terry to stay at Chelsea] still leaves City pursuing two new central defenders. Cook was in three hours of talks with Arsenal which led to the purchase of Emmanuel Adebayor and the Gunners' manager, Arsène Wenger, is well aware of City's interests and has not disabused them of the idea that they might be in business. Touré indicated some interest in joining City in January but cooled on the idea after reflection. The presence at Eastlands of his friend and former team-mate Adebayor might help. A City bid is likely to be in the region of £12m.

There are still serious hopes at City that Joleon Lescott will also push Everton for permission to seek discussions with the club, who would be prepared to up their initial £15m bid to nearer £20m. It was always their aim to sign two out of the triumvirate of Terry, Lescott and Touré, with West Ham's Matthew Upson lower down their priority list.

And Chris Wheeler, also in South Africa, wrote that City were 'in talks with Arsenal' over a £15m deal for Touré. Matt Hughes writes (from Dallas) that we will offer £14m for Kolo. But it does seem like we have a final answer to the 'one or two centre halves' question that we have thought about all summer. Which is bad news for all you Nedum Onuoha fans out there.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

JT says no

Big news coming out of Stamford Bridge this afternoon, as John Terry commits his future to Chelsea:

'There has been a lot of speculation recently about my future and I want to clear this up once and for all. I am totally committed to Chelsea and always have been. Chelsea have also made it clear to me consistently that there was never any intention to accept any kind of offer.

'When you are linked with any club, or with a manager who I have huge respect for, it will always make headlines but me leaving Chelsea was never a possibility.'

For Mark Hughes and Garry Cook, who staked so much on an increasingly public pursuit of the Chelsea captain, this must be a real blow. Terry was to be not just the keystone of our back four, but our leader, talisman, and a symbol of our financial dominance. If we could buy the captain of of the second most successful team of the last few years, then no-one was beyond our grasp.

But, like Kaká and Samuel Eto'o before him, John Terry has shown that the world's very best players are not yet sold to the Manchester City project. As with those two, weeks of agonizing could not quite convince him to join us. This shouldn't really be seen as a surprise - we did finish tenth last season, ninth the season before, and so on. But it is increasingly clear that there exists a real barrier - a glass ceiling - between the world class footballers who will not join us (Terry, Eto'o, Kaká), and the merely exceptional ones (Adebayor, Tévez, Barry, Given, Robinho) who will.

I can't quite convince myself, though, that this barrier is a bad thing. As much as I want City to have the best players, I also want us to have players who are proud to play for us, and were drawn towards City by forces other than their own cashlust. Once Kaká, Eto'o and Terry had started their periods of publicly agonizing over whether or not to join City I swiftly lost all enthusiasm for their purchase. If joining City requires such soul-searching, I'd rather they didn't come. Adebayor is the one player who underwent that agonizing period and then chose to come to City, which is why I was as enthusiastic about his signing as I was.

Anyway, the fact remains that centre half remains a weakness and we've missed our top target. Attention now shifts to Joleon Lescott, Kolo Touré and maybe Matthew Upson. The question, though, is one or two.

Hughes talks defensive options

Here he is saying that if we can't get our targets we won't buy for the sake of buying at centre half. Which is fair enough.

Given how clear and consistent Hughes has been in identifying the necessary attribute of any transfer target this summer - top six Premier League experience - we are necessarily drawing from a limited pool. If we don't get John Terry, Joleon Lescott or Kolo Touré (Matthew Upson is the fourth and probably final choice) there aren't many other top six experienced centre halves that we could realistically go for. Ricardo Carvalho, maybe. Daniel Agger had he not signed his new contract. I'd take William Gallas (ahead of Touré actually) but I'm not sure that Hughes would agree.

The point is, though, that given Hughes' insistence on Premier League experience at the top level, it doesn't take too many moves to fall through until we wouldn't really be improving on Richard Dunne and Nedum Onuoha. Or at least, not improving enough to justify paying out £10m+ in fees and £100k+/week in wages. So if we don't land Terry, Lescott, Touré or Upson, I'm not sure there's a 'B List'. Fortunately, though, for Hughes at least, Duncan Castles claims in The Sunday Times today that we should sign Terry, Lescott and Touré during August, and that we have already agreed personal terms with Kolo.

I can say quite firmly that I hope that this is not true. One of the great unknowns this summer has been whether Hughes would pursue one or two centre halves. I'd always preferred one - because I think that Onuoha's performances since Christmas justified his maintaining his position, even it may cost us a few points over the course of the season. I don't mind us selling Ched Evans, but I don't want us to abandon all the Academy players. So if we bought not two but three new centre halves, Onuoha might as well get on the phone to David Moyes or Martin O'Neill now.

Mourinho backs City for title

The first serious person to do so, I think:
"Adebayor up front with Carlos Tevez - unbelievable! And they have Roque Santa Cruz and Robinho too. What a strike force! That's it, City are champions for sure...

He added: "It's not buying the title. You buy the players you think can do the job but you still need to prove you are the best - the best coach, the best team and that's tough and no amount of money can buy that."
Interesting enough, but it is worth bearing in mind that with Mourinho it's all mind games, all artifice. Whether he's trying to get at Ferguson, or (more likely) Benítez or even Wenger we don't really know. But it's not like he's a disinterested observer or anything.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Cook interview

Ian Herbert's reporting from South Africa has been excellent, and today is no exception. He has yet another interesting interview - this time with Garry Cook.

The most interesting aspect, for me, is his discussion of the investment the club's owners have ploughed into areas aside from simple player recruitment: the offices, the training and medical centres, the website and so forth:

These questions and others have been answered this summer in an overhaul of Manchester City – a new ticket office with a roof to queue under, a £4m office block delivering City staff from below ground into daylight, a superior press room – which takes the Abu Dhabi United Group's spending on the infrastructure of the club to nearly £20m. The Premier League's most advanced website – City has employed experienced journalists on content, and attracted 20,000 fans to a free live feed of the fixture against Kaizer Chiefs on Tuesday evening – is the most ambitious new way of connecting. "Football has an anomaly to it where you kind of lay down all of the common sense values that you apply and it's pride and passion that leads you to your destiny," Cook says. "We want to improve the product and to connect with our customers." He has sold 50 per cent of season tickets online this summer, against a previous best of 12 per cent.

I must say that I have been very impressed by the new website. It's attractive, easy to use and has all the free multimedia content you could wish for. And streaming the Vodacom Challenge games was a great move.

Two out

Two more Academy graduates left the club yesterday. Shaleum Logan went on a season's loan to John Barnes' Tranmere, while Ched Evans was sold to Sheffield United for up to £3million.

The more players we buy, the more we will be accused of sidelining our Academy graduates. This is fair criticism, and something that we need to be watchful of. But not in these cases. And let's not forget that Logan has had his contract extended - maybe we'll see him in 2010/11.

City lose Vodacom final

A slight disappointment - City lost the final of the Vodacom Challenge this afternoon, 1-0 to Kaizer Chiefs. The players did not look fully fit, and were well contained by the physical and competitive South Africans.

Emmanuel Adebayor started up front with Craig Bellamy, with Martin Petrov and Shaun Wright-Phillips out wide, and Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry in central midfield. Unfortunately, neither of our wingers threatened as much as they might have liked: SWP was particularly quiet. Up front, Adebayor impressed with his hold up play if not with his finishing, but Craig Bellamy was uncharacteristically muted along side him - failing to make a compelling case that he, rather than Carlos Tévez, ought to be Adebayor's first choice strike partner.

We created a few chances - and wasted many good positions - but can have no real complaints with the scoreline. It was particularly dispiriting to concede yet another goal from failing to mark at a set-piece.

If there was one positive to take away, it was Gareth Barry: he controlled central midfield with an ease and authority that we have not seen in too many City midfielders recently. His tackling was crucial, and his passing was excellent. Once him and Stephen Ireland (sorely missed today) start performing well together not many midfields will be able to touch ours.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Caicedo move confirmed

On the official site.

It's testament to the relentless pace of our progress this summer that a player for whom we paid £5.3m last January, and who hit an impressive seven goals (plus the backheel at the Hawthornes) in the 'back nine' of last season can be so far from the reckoning this year.

Of course, it's possible that Caicedo will have a good season in Portugal and come back to City for 2010/11. But I'd bet strongly against it. The fact is that player recruitment has moved quicker than anyone would have expected this summer, and no-one's place is safe. Vassell's gone to Turkey, Jô's already returend to Everton, and now Evans is set to go to Sheffield United.

Popular as he is, I'd be surprised if Bozhinov survives the summer. And if Benjani's still here come September 1, something's gone quite wrong. Our stable of strikers for the 2010/11 season will almost certainly be: Carlos Tévez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz and Craig Bellamy - none of whom were here even in 2008. Such is the pace of change.

Caicedo to Sporting are reporting this:

12.03 Striker Felipe Caicedo has told he is ready to prove himself on the European stage after agreeing a move to Sporting Lisbon.

But there's no more to it yet. I'm sure we'll see more later today.


Big Phil is quoted as saying this:

"My objective is to play and to demonstrate that I can triumph in Europe," Caicedo told

"City have many forwards who have arrived this summer and they have complicated my presence.

"But to be with a club like Sporting Lisbon is a personal challenge to me.

"I am very happy to be able to play in the Champions League. Portugal is a good championship and I do not believe there will be any problems for me adapting my style."

The deal should be done tomorrow.

Barca friendly confirmed

I found this story in Sport a few days ago. There was nothing official from the club then, but now there is: City will contest the Joan Gamper Trophy with FC Barcelona on August 19:

We are delighted to announce a mouth-watering friendly against European Champions Barcelona in the Camp Nou on August 19.

The two sides will face on another in the 44th renewal of the prestigious Joan Gamper Trophy.

Though they didn’t face Barca in their previous outing, it will be the second time the Blues have competed for this particular trophy which honours a man who was a member, player and later president of the great Catalan club.

All I need to do is find a few hundred pounds lying around somewhere.

Seriously though, it does show the importance of global brand promotion to Garry Cook that we're willing to go and play a friendly after our first Premier League game. I know we would have had a game anyway were it not for Everton's Europa League commitments, but I'm not sure how many other EPL sides would have taken up this opportunity.

Tévez injured?

More news from the prolific Ian Herbert: Carlos Tévez has picked up an ankle knock and may be out of the Vodacom Challenge final. We may have to wait until the Barnsley game to see him play in the shirt.

Carlos Tevez may return from Manchester City’s pre-season tour of South Africa without any competitive football, with his bruised heel threatening to rule him out of the final match in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Tevez aggravated the bruising when he undertook his first training session in the Kings Park stadium on Monday evening and though it is not a serious problem - City’s medical staff would have patched him up with a pain killing injection for a competitive match - Mark Hughes is weighing up whether he wants to take any risk. The squad were in transit from Durban to Johannesburg yesterday and did not train but Hughes will have a better idea today of the player’s readiness.

NdJ speaks up again

Something that Nigel de Jong is really very good at - along with his bulldozer tackles and sideways passes (not a criticism, by the way) - is saying stuff the fans like to hear. And we get another big dollop of this in Thursday's papers:

In the Independent:

"The city is blue already. I was amazed by that," De Jong said. "But now also on the expectation side and performance side, it can be blue, too. Manchester City are making a point that nothing is impossible. We can buy whoever we want and just go for the best players in the league and compete. I hope we can be the dominant team."

And in The Sun:

"Carlos is one of those people who is fighting for every inch on the pitch. He did it for United and I'm happy he's with us now.

"He can help us as a 12th man. There are not many strikers who do that, but he is one.

"It's important to have that steel, that fighting mentality. It's what Manchester City stands for, that fighting spirit."

We heard a lot of this before the derby, before seeing a very limp performance. Let's hope actions follow words for this Saturday's Vodacom Challenge final.

Papers: JT to stay

Bad news for those City fans who want us to sign John Terry tonight. Thursday's newspapers seem united in their reporting that 'Mr Chelsea' is set to stay at Stamford Bridge, and will negotiate a new contract. Particular notice ought to be taken of the reports of Matt Hughes and Ian McGarry, probably the best two newspaper journalists for Chelsea stories.

Matt Hughes writes:

John Terry has reached an agreement in principle to stay at Chelsea. The club will make an announcement in the next few days trumpeting the England captain’s decision to snub repeated advances from Manchester City before opening detailed talks on an improved contract when they return to London next week.

Terry has discussed his position with Chelsea executives on several occasions over the past few days, including a meeting with Roman Abramovich and Peter Kenyon, the owner and chief executive respectively, in Pasadena, California, on Tuesday, and been convinced that the club still share his ambition to compete for honours on all fronts.

And Ian McGarry:

John Terry will be staying at Chelsea.

SunSport can reveal negotiations on a new contract are at an advanced stage.

The Blues skipper, a target for Manchester City, will now see his weekly wage soar from £130,000 to £150,000.

An announcement is expected within 48 hours with Terry ready to break his silence over his future.

If those two aren't enough you can read it from respected London based reporters Jason Burt and Dominic Fifield. But this is very much a change of tack from recent reports, which all suggested that Terry was increasingly open to the idea of moving to City. Of course, none of this is official yet - so we shouldn't draw too many conclusions just yet. But, taking these reports at their word, it's another failed attempt to land a true superstar: after Kaká and Samuel Eto'o. Hughes has a long list of targets though - we'll just have to move on to the next ones.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Barry settles in

From the official site:

“Every game is going to help, I'm getting used to the other players and they are getting used to me. Tuesday was the first step towards that, the more I play alongside them and them with me, then we'll all get better together,” he asserted.

"I was delighted to get my first run-out, fitness is still the key thing at this early stage but I felt good wearing Manchester City colours!

"It was good that we came away with a win, the lads worked extremely hard and we deserved it.

"Coming abroad to different atmospheres and weather conditions makes it tougher, but that can only be a good thing. It's harder work on the fitness side of things but we all put in a good shift and we will feel the benefits when we go back to England."

Kaizer Chiefs reax

Mark Hughes:
"It was a pleasing result, it's always nice to win and I thought it was a good test because the Chiefs were a month into their preparations for their new season. Some of our guys have only had four days rather than four weeks, and that was a concern before the game.

"I thought we acquitted ourselves very well, there were a lot of plusses. Gareth Barry looked really assured, as I expected him to be. He recognised danger and nipped things in the bud quickly, and we had two young guys at the back that enjoyed the experience and looked very accomplished."

Ian Herbert, The Independent

'Barry provided as much industry on his debut in a City shirt as any of his team-mates, with a booking to go with several runs into the Kaizer Chiefs penalty area before making way for another debutant, Javan Vidal, City's England Under-20 international. The local fans provided considerably more colour than City – their gestures to their own bench that the chairman's son Kaizer Motaung Jnr be substituted were resisted by the Chiefs' Serbian coach Vladimir Vermezovic, despite the player side-footing a gilt-edged chance wide nine minutes from time.'

Chris Wheeler, The Daily Mail

But it was the appearance of Felipe Caicedo and Kelvin Etuhu in place of any of the strikers Hughes has paid more than £110million to sign over the last 12 months that will have left fans most disappointed.

It was a bit like a tourist who heads for South Africa's game parks in search of lions, elephants, leopards, buffalos and rhinos but instead has to make do with a deer.

That will be of little concern to Hughes, who maintains that his job is to get the team ready for August 15, when City go to Blackburn on the opening day of the season. He could also point out that United had more than a few fringe players on show when they won this tournament last summer.

Victory can be a powerful argument, and a 1-0 win over the Chiefs at least fended off stronger criticism of the City manager's team selection following Saturday's defeat by Orlando Pirates in Polokwane.

CB39: 'This is the best thing that's happened to football'

Ian Herbert has a fascinating interview with Craig Bellamy in the Indy today. And despite the introduction of three forwards presumably ahead of him in the pecking order, he's still enthusiastic about his career at MCFC:
"I want to make sure that I am always ready; that if I step off the bench I will make a contribution then be given my chance," he says. "If I do make my mark I expect to be given a chance....

"I am 30 and this is my last opportunity to be part of a special club," Bellamy says. "First and foremost, I am concentrating on staying fit. If I'm fit I can challenge. If I ain't fit, I can't challenge. What you live for is to wake up in the morning looking forward to training. If any players are having a bad time, I want to be knocking on the door."

And he is surprisingly forthright in his support for our big spending:

"People are grumbling about City spending all this money. But that's what the top four have been doing for years – paying big fees and the highest wages," he says.

"This is the best thing that's happened to football, a chance for another club to break into that elite. It's going to take a while, because the major clubs have been in that position for a long time. I suppose that's why we are spending a lot of money quickly, to try to close that gap as quickly as possible."

There's also interesting stuff about Bellamy's long standing interest in Carlos Tévez and his charity work in Africa. But the fact that Bellamy is so enthusiastic about our summer spending tells us something that Mark Hughes has long known: that despite his repuation, Craig Bellamy is a genuine team player and a total professional. And that is why, unlike other players who are now on the fringes, I am convinced that he will stay.

When we signed Bellamy Mark Hughes mentioned that as good a striker as he was, he was also being signed for his commitment on the training ground and around the football club. His attitude since the introduction of Santa Cruz, Tévez and Adebayor is a vindication of that judgement.

Hughes and Barry talk expectations

Both talk up our chances for this season. Hughes disagrees with Ferguson's putting us down, Barry agrees with his new partner in midfield de Jong that while the title may be beyond us this year, the European positions are within our reach.

More departures?

Two more of the remaining Eriksson signings are set to leave City, according to Ian Herbert in The Independent. Felipe Caicedo is linked with a loan move to Sporting Lisbon, and Javi Garrido with a transfer to Racing Santander.

Both of these sound very plausible.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

City 1 - 0 Kaiser Chiefs

City's first win of the 2009/10 season tonight; a good run-out against a strong Kaiser Chiefs side. The starting line up was a mixture of first teamers - Wayne Bridge, Pablo Zabaleta, Nigel de Jong, and youngsters - Ben Mee, Ryan McGivern played at centre back. Stephen Ireland was captain, and of the new signings only Stuart Taylor and Gareth Barry played.

We played ok: you can't really expect too much in this sort of game. The only goal came in the last minute of the first half. Kelvin Etuhu broke down the right and put in an uncharacteristically good cross which Ireland slid in. Ireland, inspired by the armband, was everywhere, and Gareth Barry, just behind Ireland, really showed his class with some exceptional passing from midfield.

There's not much else to say: Kaiser Chiefs created a lot of chances and should have scored, but then we could have done a bit better up front. But Caicedo then Benjani up front isn't really an accurate guage of how we'll do in front of goal this season.

Pablo Zabaleta won the Man of the Match and gave a post match interview in English where he talked up our hard work and said that he was impressed with South Africa and would like to return for the World Cup.

de Jong targets top five

Nigel de Jong, as regular readers will know, is one of my favourite City players. And here he is talking about how the players want to 'fight for the prizes' next year, but that 'top five' is a more realistic target.

Kaizer Chiefs tonight

The second match of our pre-season is this evening, as City take on the Kaizer Chiefs. And we can all stream it via the official site, from 7pm BST.

We should win - as far as I can remember there's only five of them.

City to play Barca friendly

I hadn't seen this anywhere from our end, but I was just looking at this morning and there was a story which said that City have been invited to contest Barcelona's glamour pre-season friendly - the Trofeu Joan Gamper.

The clubs initially asked - Inter, Milan, Porto, Juventus - couldn't make it and so we've been asked instead. Looking at the two clubs' schedules, I can only see it being around Wednesday 12 August, just before our opening day trip to Ewood Park.

But what a sign of our new-found notoriety!

Elano on his way out

Ian Herbert has an interesting story in today's Independent - that Elano has been left out of our Vodacom Challenge squad and could be set for a loan move to FC Köln.

There has also been interest from La Liga, with Real Zaragoza among the clubs linked with him. Elano thrilled Eastlands with his early displays under Sven-Goran Eriksson in the 2007-08 season but has lacked the work ethic to impress his succcessor, Mark Hughes. His public insistence that he warrants an extension to his current contract, which expires in 2011, has not helped either.

After a January in which there were suspicions the player's representatives were agitating for a move – Hughes was made aware of alleged interest from Lazio and Milan – Elano worked his way back into the side but competition at City is formidable.

Elano's departure had been long coming, ever since his strangely public contract spat. Elano demanded a new contract if he was to stay, Hughes said that he didn't need one. Once this had passed, it was clear that Elano would go.

I'm sure Hughes would like this tied up asap - as well as other departures - Evans, Ben Haim and Benjani are the obvious ones but I'd watch out for Etuhu, Logan, Caicedo and the Bulgarians too.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Return of MJ

Perhaps the only good news from Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Orlando Pirates -(NOT Kaizer Chiefs) was that Michael Johnson - who hasn't played first team for ten months - got forty-five minutes of football. His rise was one of the big stories around MCFC in 2007 but we've seen very little from him for some time. As the club moved forward, Johnson moved backwards and he risks being left behind.

So it's good to hear that he's playing again. Mark Hughes said of his return:

"I thought it was a good exercise for us, a lot of players had good periods, but a big positive was Michael Johnson getting through 45 minutes. We are absolutely delighted with that. I was really pleased with what he was able to produce in that time. If we can get him back at anywhere near the level that we know he is capable of then it's like an extra player for us this year.”

And Michael Johnson himself said:

"I feel pretty well, and I'm glad to get it under my belt," he declared. "It’s more fitness work which I needed, but I felt good afterwards and I'm just looking to get stronger now.

"I would have liked a bit longer in my heart of hearts, but 45 minutes was fine and playing was all I wanted to do. I just wanted to play myself into the game, I started slowly but I gradually got into it a lot more.

"I keep getting stronger every time I train and play and I just want to keep working at it. For the rest of the tour I just want to keep playing as much as I can, keep training and get fitter, that's what it's all about at this time of the year."


I wrote in the spring about Sparkyisation: Mark Hughes and Mark Bowen's plans to transform the MCFC squad from the mess they inherited into one defined by the work ethic, winning mentality and athleticism that defined thier Blackburn Rovers side. This was implemented through two tracks: the introduction of newly intense fitness training programmes, in stark contrast to Eriksson's more relaxed methods; and the purchasing of more battle-ready troops: Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Craig Bellamy, Nigel de Jong - than the rather lightweight technicians and plodding old pros that Hughes had inherited.

These points are made in an article by Jonathan Northcroft in yesterday's Sunday Times which is certainly worth your attention if you haven't already read it:

Hughes needed fighters. The personalities of the players he has recruited, as much as their (undoubted) abilities and (exorbitant) costs, mean City should now be taken seriously as a football force. Initially, after Mansour’s buyout, they were like a trifle, rich but wobbly. Hughes has set about changing that, buying types who will give his team a proper foundation. He said upon signing Gareth Barry, to kick off his summer transfer business, that City had made “too many mistakes” down the years in signing the wrong characters and from now on “due diligence” would be done. Shaun Wright-Phillips brought up the issue last season when trying to explain how City were winners of the second-highest number of home games in the Premier League and yet possessors of the worst away record of all the non-relegated sides. “The basis of everything is hard work. That’s the side of things we’re trying to get right,” he said.

This summer has seen not just a continuation of Sparkyisation but also an upgrade. In January we looked simply for Premier League experience. When they arrived, Shay Given, Wayne Bridge and Craig Bellamy had played 762 Premier League games between the three of them over the course of the last ten years or so. The other signing, Nigel de Jong, was an import - but he was only bought after we tried and failed to buy Scott Parker. But in the summer window we haven't just looked for Premier League experience, but specifically top six Premier League experience. First Gareth Barry, who captained Aston Villa to consecutive sixth placed finishes the last two years. Then Roque Santa Cruz, who, in his one full season in the Premier League fired Blackburn Rovers up to seventh place. Next was Carlos Tévez - who won two Premier Leagues in two years at Manchester United, the first EPL winner to join us since Kevin Keegan signed Nicolas Anelka and David Seaman. Emmanuel Adebayor finished fourth, fourth, third and fourth in his four years at Arsenal - disappointing relative to the expectations of Arsenal fans but certainly an impressive record to bring to City.

Our next targets are John Terry and Joleon Lescott. Terry captained Chelsea to two Premier League trophies in 2004/05 and 2005/06, and has since led them to finishes of second, second and third. Joleon Lescott has never won the League, but in his three years at Everton they have finished sixth, fifth and fifth. So Hughes is certainly being consistent. Not just Premier League experience, but elite Premier League experience is the first requirement of our current trainsfer targets. Call it SparkyisationPlus. And these players, fully aware of what is required to finish in the upper reaches of the League, form a squad with more nous and experience than we have seen for years at City. Back to Jonathan Northcroft:

A squad is taking shape based not around trophy acquisitions but solid talents with solid personalities, which is not what we expected when their spree began with the arrival of Robinho during Mansour’s first few hours as owner and then continued with the quixotic pursuit of Kaka. Brilliant as the Brazilian midfielder is, City were proposing to spend £240m in fees and wages to get him and Hughes’s subsequent use of that money seems much more suitable for a club in the building process: Tevez, Barry and Santa Cruz cost £140m in fees and wages; Bridge, De Jong and Given £100m the window before. Tevez, Barry, De Jong, Given, Wright-Phillips, Bridge, Kompany, Zabaleta — and, when fit, Santa Cruz and Bellamy — these are players guaranteed to stand toe-to-toe against United and to stride out at Anfield, Stamford Bridge and the Emirates stadium without fear. They will also sweat for the jersey on tough away days at Portsmouth and Stoke.

We'll have to wait and see on this, but I've got a growing sense that he might be right.

Saturday, 18 July 2009


Adebayor doesn't agree with my assessment of his reasons for joining MCFC:

“People who think that I have joined City for the money are wrong,” he asserted. “If I had made a move for that reason then I would have been playing for Barcelona or Milan last season. They gave me bigger offers than Arsenal did for me to stay.

“I am here because I was impressed by the way the chairman at City spoke to me about the ambition of this club. I want to be part of a club that is aiming to be one of the biggest in the world.”

Hughes on Adebayor

Surprisingly enough he's more enthusiastic than me.

Adebayor signs

The fifth signing of the summer, the second £25m striker this week.

But I just can't get excited about this one.

Part of this is because, unlike anyone we've bought for some time, his purchase addresses no real felt need within the squad. Since the signing of Carlos Tévez we have had the strongest stable of strikers in my lifetime: Tévez and Roque Santa Cruz as the first choice pairing, with able support from Craig Bellamy and Valeri Bozhinov. Maybe if we'd bought Adebayor one week or one month ago - before the signings of the two South Americans - I'd be more enthusiastic.

But to buy him now? It feels like hoarding, like grasping, as if the policy has shifted from one of cautious recruitment and gradual development into exactly the sort of Florentino Pérez impression we were meant to be avoiding.

And Adebayor's signing feels different in another unappealing way too. Unlike anyone else we've bought since the takeover, I just can't get over the sense that he, more than any of our other recruits, is just here for the money. Of course, money is a factor in all of our signings - only the most myopic blue would deny this. But it remains true that money is more influential in some signings than others: and this move has none of the mitigating factors to be found elsewhere. Carlos Tévez wanted first-team football and to feel loved, RSC wanted to be re-united with Mark Hughes and to escape Allardyce's anti-football, Gareth Barry had wanted out for a year, and had watched Villa stagnate since Christmas, with little prospect of radical improvement this summer. But Adebayor? He was first choice at a club who, with the signing of Arshavin and the re-signing of van Persie, were on the up. And now he's left for his £170,000 per week. (This, regular readers will know, is why I didn't want Samuel Eto'o and don't want John Terry.)

It's that combination: a player we don't need, coming to City for questionable motives, that makes me a bit uneasy about it. Of course I recognise that Adebayor's a very talented striker - 46 in 105 in the Premier League is exceptional for a forward who arrived from Monaco as a raw twenty-one year old. And I recognise that the way we're going to get to where we want to go is through spending big money on better players. But it's simplistic to say that that should be the only aspiration. There are other things fans want too: a sense of stability, a loyal and well-motivated playing squad who show a decent work ethic, and the chance to build relationships with players rather than being presented with a whole new set of players every year. Yes, this is irrational. But we are football fans.

And so that is why, and I recognise the mixed metaphor here, this unnecessary acceleration along the agreed upon path in fact represents a step in the wrong direction.

I'll still cheer him though.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Adebayor delay

Daniel Taylor writes in Thursday's Guardian that Emmanuel Adebayor has asked for some time to think before he completes his move to City:

Arsenal have accepted City's £25m bid and Adebayor has given his prospective new employers sufficient encouragement to organise a work-permit hearing at which the striker received permission to change employers. Adebayor, however, has concerns about being perceived as money-driven if he should leave a club that is hugely popular in Africa and go to one that has a much lower standing.

Although the opportunity to double his salary has an obvious appeal, Adebayor's preference was a move to Italy and he has asked City if they will allow him a few days to talk to his family and representatives before going through with a move that he believes could open him to criticism. The last year or so has been a difficult period for the 25-year-old, and he is acutely aware of how the public perception of him has changed for the worse.

Given that Adebayor - unlike Tévez at United - is first choice at Arsenal, the accusation of cash-chasing is fairer thrown at him than at our most recent signing. For this reason, the potential Adebayor move has a less exciting, slightly more vulgar feel to it than that of Tévez. It's why I'm not particularly enthusiastic about our signing him - nor am I about Terry, not was I about Eto'o.

I don't know whether I'd go as far as to say that I hope he pulls out - ultimately we must defer to Mark Hughes on these issues, and his assessments of the club's interests - but I can't say I'd be distraught if this doesn't go through. Tévez and Santa Cruz is a more than capable partnership for attaining our target of sixth, and Bellamy and Bozhinov more than adequate backup. Sometimes I think that Hughes is eager to accelerate our progress beyond just making improvements consistent with finishing sixth, but rather seems set on playing Champions League football in 2010/11. Fair enough, I suppose, but a bit of a change in emphasis from all the initial focus on stability, steady progress and evolution etc.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Hughes' JT plea

Big news emerging on Tuesday evening: a new stage in our move to sign John Terry. A very public plea made by Mark Hughes on Tuesday, discussing the potential motivations for Terry to come to City. How much of this was an attempt to persuade Terry, and how much to defend and explain MCFC in public I'm not sure. But it's certainly something that Hughes does not tend to do during transfer negotiations (via Ian Herbert in the Independent):
"From my own experience, when you have been with a club a long time, you maybe get to a point when you need a new challenge, when you think a change of scenery would just reignite certain things within you," Hughes said.

"It is not a question of money it is about a different challenge, a different stage in his life and career, and maybe that is why there hasn't been a response because John is seriously thinking in those terms. I went through that process myself and I can understand if that is the way he is thinking. We would like to think we could offer John Terry a different challenge."
I don't know whether this means that we're more or less likely to sign Terry, or whether it will help push the deal's likelihood in either direction. But it's fascinating to hear Hughes confident enough to speak in these terms publicly.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Shifting balance

Today's arrival means that we now have two Argentine internationals in the first team squad. The departures of Glauber and Jô bring the number of Brazilian internationals down to two. And with rumours of Elano's departure to the continent continuing, the Argentines are soon to be the dominant bloc in City's South American contingent.

Like many City fans, I've spent the last year watching the Seleção as they moved towards World Cup qualification and won the Confederations Cup. But, presuming Elano's going to leave, by the end of the summer City will have twice as many Argentines as Brazilians. And so my allegiance will have to change accordingly. As will the flags and replica shirts at CoMS. It could be fun actually - Diego Maradona's making a terrible mess of qualification, and they have massive games against Brazil (h) and Paraguay (a) in early September.

UPDATE: Carlos mentions his friendship with Pablo Zabaleta on the official website:

"It was important to speak to Pablo, and he talked in a wonderful way about City - it was good to be able to get his input. And Diego is very happy and very supportive of my move. He wants his players to be happy at their club."

SSN: Adebayor work permit hearing Wednesday

Sky Sports News have just claimed that Emmanuel Adebayor is scheduled to have a work permit hearing in Manchester tomorrow.

Guardian: Adebayor in Manchester

This could easily slip under the radar with all the Tévez stuff but according to we are very close to signing our third forward of the summer: Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor:

Manchester City are on the verge of completing a deal to sign Emmanuel Adebayor from Arsenal, the Guardian understands. The two clubs have agreed a fee, believed to be closer to Arsenal's asking price of £25m than City's original offer of £20m, and the striker is in Manchester discussing terms on a five-year contract worth between £150,000-170,000 a week.

This could well be done in the very near future, even in time for the Vodacom Challenge.

Tévez a blue

Official confirmation from the club.

Press conference soon.

Tévez: 'I hope to win many more trophies with City'

Carlos Tévez's first interview as a City player is in today's Daily Mail:

'The manager and the owners are very ambitious and that became clear to me the first time we spoke,' he said.

'This is the chance to be involved from the start, an opportunity to help build a special experience...

'There is a great feeling of excitement around the club. Look at the quality of the players who have been signed and the prospect of other top-quality players coming, too. Things are happening at this club.

'The owners made it clear to me that they will be doing everything in their power to make this an extraordinary club to play for. I look forward to being part of that experience'

£20m bid for Adebayor

Tuesday's papers are unanimous in claiming that we have firmly set our sights on Emmanuel Adebayor as our next transfer target - and have made a £20m bid.

Ian Herbert writes in The Independent:

They [MCFC] offered a five-year deal worth £130,000 a week to Adebayor, a player effectively put up for sale by Arsène Wenger, for whom his career prevarications have proved too much.

City were surprised by how receptive Arsenal were when they made their approach at the weekend, within 24 hours of failing in their attempt to sign Eto'o. Arsenal are believed to want £25m for the Togo international, a fee comfortably within City's range.
Very similar claims are made by Mark Ogden in the Telegraph and Ian Ladyman in the Daily Mail. From nowhere, this now seems like the most probable next purchase for City.

My main concern is this: where would he play? I can only see him lining up alongside Tévez in a front three that also included Robinho. But where would that leave Roque Santa Cruz? It would be terribly wasteful to spend £18m on a centre forward and then not even to play him. And quite unfair on Roque himself, who has spent a year hoping for this reunification with Mark Hughes. Until I am convinced that Adebayor is much better than Santa Cruz, I don't see much point in signing him.

But that's not to say I don't think he's a good player. And ultimately we should defer to Hughes on these issues.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Tévez deal agreed

Not precisely the news we've all been waiting for, but more than near enough.

Carlos Tévez - formerly of Manchester United, West Ham United, Corinthians and Boca Juniors - has agreed a five year contract with Manchester City. He is not yet a City player, but he will become so after passing a medical tomorrow. There is a press conference scheduled for 14:00 tomorrow where we will see him, revealed as one.

Mark Hughes is as happy as any of us are over this:

"It is terrific news," a delighted Mark Hughes told "Carlos is an international player of the highest class who possesses all the attributes that will help drive this club forward.

"He is not only outstanding technically but he is a reliable goal scorer and someone who will contribute fully to the team ethic. He gives us another exciting, attacking dimension.

"I cannot wait to welcome him to City. This is yet another deal that shows the commitment of the owner Sheikh Mansour to make this club the very best it can possibly be. I am sure our fans will give Carlos an exceptionally warm welcome."

This is huge; the signing we have been waiting for ever since the Abu Dhabi takeover first imaged the glorious future possibilities at City. Yes, Robinho had a bit more glamour, and certainly a lot more novelty, but for those very reasons he had the feeling of the trophy signing, a bit of statement made but not necessarily the right player at the right time. Tévez, though, is exactly that: a forward almost of the highest class (only Torres, Rooney and Drogba belong to that in the Premier League), but one who has proved himself in England, whose abilities are all well-known to all, who is able to add the bite and class to a front line whih lacked both last season.

And the Manchester rivalry aspect of the story is inescapable. It would be easy to overstate this: Carlos Tévez was not first choice last season - had he been, he would not now be a City player. He had been first choice in 2006/07, but with the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov he was relegated to being a beneficiary of Alex Ferguson's very generous rotation policy. So let's not pretend that we've taken one of their best players. We're not there yet. But nevertheless the fact that we have signed someone so popular with the United supporters, whom Sir Alex interrupted his holiday to try to retain, certainly carries meaning.

As ever, the most important element is the attraction that City now represent for players. To take someone who has won two Premier League medals, a Champions League, a Club World Cup and a League Cup in the last two years is a genuine triumph for City. The fact that he won those trophies at Old Trafford makes it even sweeter.

VK injured

Our first bad injury news of the 2009/10 season: that Vincent Kompany's long-standing toe problem has not healed over the summer, and that he is to have an operation to solve it:

The City boss, who puts a high value on his versatile capture from Hamburg, admitted: "The likelihood is that he will need a procedure. If he has to have an operation Vincent will miss the start of the season.

"We sent him to a consultant surgeon at the end of last season and he recommended injecting the toe and giving him six weeks' complete rest, but he was suffering the same amount of pain again in training in Germany.

"He's been back to see the surgeon now. We hoped the rest would cure it but it's a bit more complex than that. It's important that we address it now and make sure Vince is fit for the rest of the season."

This is bad news for Kompany, particularly given that he was due to struggle to get into the team this season anyway. Hughes' insistence on taking a more radical approach to transfers this summer than many expected has really limited Kompany's opportunities. Introducing Barry in midfield means that Kompany is probably competing with Nigel de Jong and Pablo Zabaleta for the holding role, while news that Hughes wants to bring in two centre-halves means that Kompany will be competing with Nedum Onuoha for the role of back up centre back. Even with a painless toe, things aren't looking great for Vinnie at the moment.


It says alot about our proposed move for Adebayor that I have received gloating text messages from Arsenal fans since Sky Sports News broke the story earlier.

Sky: Talks over Adebayor

Surprising news from Sky Sports: that we're in talks with Arsenal over the transfer of Emmanuel Adebayor.

I'm very unenthusiastic about this. Adebayor has serious attitude problems and doesn't sound like the sort of player who would come to City for the reasons that we would want. Moreover, I'm so excited about the Tévez-Santa Cruz partnership I don't really want anyone, short of Fernando Torres, to disrupt it.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Ladyman: Tévez medical Monday

Very good news from Monday's Mail: an Ian Ladyman article reporting that Carlos Tévez is due to have a medical at City, and should be our player in time for the South Africa tour this week:

Carlos Tevez will fly back from holiday today to complete a £25million move to Manchester City and disappoint Chelsea.

The striker was being pursued by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's club but is heading for City after being persuaded to join the ambitious project manager Mark Hughes is masterminding.

Tevez will undergo a medical today and is hoping to join City's tour of South Africa, which departs on Wednesday, with a five-year contract worth £150,000 a week agreed.

This is what we've been waiting for for weeks. Of course, no transfer saga is over until it's annouced on but this is the final step in that direction that's been so long in coming. We can now look forward, with a bit more confidence, to our all-South American front line next season, and may even see them fire us to Vodacom Challenge glory.

More on JT

The Sundays suggest that John Terry's talks with Roman Abramovich have resulted in his asking, not necessarily for a transfer, but for the right to speak to City, as Neil Ashton writes in The News of the World.

JOHN TERRY demanded the chance to speak to Manchester City during two hours of crisis talks with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich yesterday.

Terry stopped short of handing in an official transfer request but the central defender is determined to speak with City officials over the proposed move.

And Duncan Castles claims in The Sunday Times that Terry has already been in touch:

While Abramovich is ready to make Terry the best-paid player at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s owner will not go significantly beyond the £150,000-a-week salary granted to Frank Lampard last summer. For his part, Terry is understood to have requested permission to speak openly with City about their plans. Chelsea denied that was the case last night. There have already been significant under-the-table discussions and the England international has asked football dealmaker Chris Nathaniel to help negotiate with City.

As exciting as this is, it is not a final answer to the unknown which lies at the centre of this: whether John Terry is sufficiently dissatisfied at Chelsea, and sufficiently attracted by our offer, to force a move away from Stamford Bridge. Nothing he has done thus far has dispelled that notion, but nor has it been inconsistent with a player seeking to squeeze more money from his current club.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Bianchi loyal to Torino

I can't believe I missed this one.

City legend Rolando Bianchi, relegated with Torino, has pledged his future to the relegated Granata:

“I am really committed to putting Torino back where I found them – in Serie A," stated Bianchi.

"The recent relegation really hurts and even I am accountable for the shortcomings of last season. I have no intention of running and I am looking forward to a new challenge, namely to win the Serie B title.”
This really limits his chances of making the Azzurri squad for the 2010 World Cup.

Gelson unveiled

For those of you interested in these things, Gelson Fernandes will be wearing 'Gelson' rather than 'Fernandes' on his back next year. For a picture of his unveiling, alongside Premier League failures Alain Perrin and Damien Comolli, click here.

I know who I'm supporting in Ligue 1 this season.

Another Johnson recovery claim

Mark Hughes has told the official website that things are looking up for Michael Johnson:

“It has been a real frustration for Michael and for us but he has worked hard through the summer and is in much better shape,” revealed the manager.

“The main thing is hopefully keeping him pain free which was the concern last year when he was always getting niggles that held him back. He is very positive at the moment and hopefully he can have a good pre-season, clear of injury and he will be an option for us...

“Hopefully we have now got to the bottom of the problem and he is more confident that his body will stand up to the rigours of Premier League football. Hopefully he is clear in his own mind that he is over the injuries.”

I'd love Michael Johnson to be fully fit. I'm convinced that of his generation of Academy players (those born between 1986 and 1989, let's say), Johnson is the most naturally gifted. Even ahead of Sturridge and Ireland. Back in 2007 he showed flashes of real class - but has barely played since.

Hearing that he's on the way back is obviously good, but like both of the Bozhinov comebacks, positive statements from the club often seem to be a means of re-assuring the fans than a genuine sign of recovery. We've heard this sort of thing so many times in the last year or so - with only an hour or so of reserve football in the spring to show for it. Until we see him on the pitch, a bit of scepticism is in order.

JT demands Chelsea talks

News which can only increase the gossip that he is interested in a move to City: John Terry is to seek talks with Roman Abramovich himself concerning his future at the club. And it is become increasingly apparent that Terry's dissatisfaction at Chelsea, and attraction to City, is not purely financial. It's certainly important, but Chelsea's failure to buy big for the third consecutive summer has also frustrated him, as Jason Burt writes in The Telegraph:

Terry's disenchantment is, therefore, twofold: he feels he deserves more money and also, importantly, that Chelsea have to spend big. He was unhappy in January to see his team-mate, and friend, Wayne Bridge sold to City, especially after Terry had urged Scolari to play the full-back in the problematic left midfield position. And although Terry maintains he did not undermine Scolari he made clear to the hierarchy that the coach's training methods and tactics were not good enough.

Terry needs convincing to stay at Chelsea. He met Ancelotti and then Eugene Tenenbaum – a director and Abramovich's right-hand man – on Thursday and requested further, more formal meetings, just in case anyone doubted his seriousness. Chelsea do not, even if they still firmly believe he will stay.

It's worth reading both Jason Burt articles in Saturday's Telegraph. But the fascinating thing from a City perspective is not only that John Terry is seriously considering us from a financial perspective, but also from a non-financial perspective as well.

It was always going to be the case after the takeover that our newfound wealth would allow us to attract new players, and, in time, our ambition and spending would bring even better players too. But I never would have expected that within only eleven months we would already be at the point where the captain of Chelsea and England would be thinking through a move to City, of course because of our £300k/week offer, but also because of our potential and our new players. As I've previously written, a transfer coup this bold has never happened before.

Nevertheless, I've written today how unenthusiastic I am about these megadeals. Even if Terry's desire to play for City isn't purely financial, I'd still rather we sign a defender whom we don't need to offer £300,000 weekly to bring to Eastlands. And I realise that this position would cost us points next season too. But I'd be perfectly happy with Joleon Lescott.

Tévez deal moves closer

The news from Saturday's papers suggests that Carlos Tévez's arrival at City is only a matter of time.

Simon Cass in the Daily Mail writes this:

The news surrounding Tevez is far more positive for City fans [than that surrounding Eto'o], however. Sources at Eastlands are convinced they have beaten off interest for Tevez from Chelsea to
land the former West Ham and Manchester United striker for £25.5million.

And City are also quietly confident they can tie up a deal for Chelsea and England captain Terry before they fly to South Africa on a pre-season tour on Wednesday.

Chief executive Cook flies back to Manchester this weekend after attending Robinho’s wedding in Brazil and will spend Monday putting the finishing touches to the Tevez deal before turning his attention to Terry.

Or look at Gary Jacob in The Times:

Manchester City expect to confirm the signing of Carlos Tévez on Tuesday to end their pursuit of the Argentina forward who has played for Manchester United for two seasons.

City want Tévez, who will cost £25.5 million, to join their squad for their pre-season tour to South Africa, which leaves on Wednesday, but they appear to be ready to end a proposed move for Samuel Eto’o.

Or even Jason Burt in the Telegraph:

City will step up their transfer activity next week before they head off on their pre-season tour to South Africa. They will announce the signing of Carlos Tevez and are playing a waiting game over Samuel Eto'o after having a bid of £25 million accepted by Barcelona.

According to sources, Tevez has chosen to join City ahead of Chelsea even though they also met the £25 million-plus asking price for the Argentine striker. It is understood that Tevez believes there is a greater chance of success at Eastlands though Chelsea insist they have balked at the demands over the deal and did not meet City's offer.

It is now a matter of real consensus that Carlos Tévez will become a Manchester City player, and will do so within the next few days. Which is good news for all of us who have waited like spoilt children for our next signing since Stuart Taylor eighteen days ago. And I'm much more excited about this deal than I ever was about Eto'o.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Eto'o deal off

Big news from MCFC this evening: the pursuit of Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o has been called off. In a statement on the website Garry Cook has said:
“Samuel Eto'o is undoubtedly a fine footballer but the circumstances surrounding him were such that the deal could not be completed.

“We now feel the time is right to pursue other avenues and we have a clear and strategic transfer plan, which we continue to follow.”

Daniel Taylor claims in Saturday's Guardian that Eto'o failed to accept within a timeframe imposed by the club, which sounds very likely. The more Eto'o prevaricated, the more clear it became that his heart was never really in it - and why, if we're honest, would it be? - and so it makes sense for the club to cut the cord rather than to take on what would be a wholly mercenary player:

Mark Hughes, City's manager, had spoken of the need for "patience" over Eto'o but the player's prevarication – he led City to believe he was keen before appearing to change his mind and then declining to give a clear answer – was beginning to affect City's rebuilding plans. Eto'o wanted perhaps as much as 50% of the transfer fee as a signing-on fee, on the basis that he could leave Barcelona on a free next year.

It's for that reason that I am intensely relaxed about this. Yes, Eto'o is a centre forward of truly world class, the sort that we have never seen at City before. (Was Francis Lee, at his peak, nearly as good as Eusebio or Pelé?) But the sort of big money deal required to see him in blue - with up to £200,000 per week and that absurd signing-on fee - has always left me a bit cold. I was not distraught when we failed to sign Kaká, and I am not desperately enthused with the prospect of our signing John Terry.

I know that players like Eto'o, Kaká and Terry are steps beyond what we now have, and I know that we can't get to where we really want to be without them. But there's something about a mid-table club (tenth last year, with fifty points, let's not forget) signing the world's very best (a bracket into which Robinho does not fit) which does not sit that well with me. I don't want to see us assemble a team based solely on cash-lust (of course it plays a role in all of our signings to an extent, but in some more than others), and, in a quite genuine sense, I don't want to be seen to be taking the piss.

I am very excited about a potential Carlos Tévez - Roque Santa Cruz pairing next season. And the arrival of a centre forward better than either of them, but at the club for different reasons, is not something I could wholly and honestly celebrate. So the fact that we'll line up with that all South American pairing next year, with Bellamy and Bozhinov in reserve, is for me more than satisfactory. I know that we are now, in American, 0 for 2 in our attempts to attract a true galactico to Eastlands. But I don't mind. Tévez and RSC should give us a decent shot at sixth, and neither of them will ever be embarrassed to pull on the shirt.

Jô back to Everton

Confirmation today of the news that Jô is to spend the whole 2009/10 season on loan at Goodison Park. For him to go back without even a second look close up from Mark Hughes shows how far he is from our long term plans. It would now be quite a surprise ever to see him again at City: he's contracted until 2012 but I can't forsee Hughes taking him back in summer 2010.

I know it pays to dampen expectations on big money buys but did anyone imagine that our then record £19m signing would only score one Premier League goal for us? Me neither.

Gelson gone

The official site brings us long expected news this morning - that Gelson Fernandes has left City to join AS Saint-Étienne for an undisclosed fee.

The more Fernandes was marginalised last season, the more likely it was that he would leave this summer. And he has joined ASSE - whose General Manager Damien Comolli was Director of Football at Spurs until last October.

Comolli may well have left England with a good impression of Fernandes. For the second half of the 2007/08 season, he looked like quite a find: energetic, hard-working and if not yet in full command of the subtleties of the game then at least on his way to mastering them. But like many of the Eriksson buys he struggled under Hughes and found his chances limited. When he did play - Aston Villa away, Spurs at home, Racing away - he was poor. By the end of the season he was our game-saver - to be brought on with a few minutes left just to sit in front of the back four and slow things down. That he was booed on to the pitch when performing such a role against HSV and WBA is a disgrace to City fans; even worse than the shameful booing of Sylvain Distin in recent matches against Portsmouth.

But his departure is a necessary part of our forward movement. Having cut loose the final remaining Stuart Pearce buys last week, Hughes now has to find buyers for the failed Eriksson buys: Garrido and Benjani, and those whose futures may not be at Mark Hughes' MCFC: Caicedo, Elano, Bozhinov and Petrov. There need to be more departures and more arrivals before this will be unequivocally Mark Hughes' Manchester City, more before we can seriously challenge.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Still waiting on Tévez

I'm just starting to get a bit anxious about this.

It's been nine days since his contract at United expired. and while he did discuss potentially moving to City, there has still been no official confirmation.

Last night I literally dreamt about this - that I went on and read that City had called off negotiations with Tévez and Joorabchian.

If we don't tie it up over the weekend he won't be able to spearhead our push for the Vodacom Challenge.

Mpenza moves abroad

City legend Emile Mpenza has left Plymouth Argyle to join Swiss side FC Sion (the club from whom we bought Gelson Fernandes two summers ago) on a two year deal.

For why Emile Mpenza is such a City legend, read this.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Onus on JT

Thursday's papers are clear on the fundamental point about John Terry's proposed move on City: that if it is to happen, it can only be with Terry's direct and public consent. As Jason Burt puts it in The Telegraph:

In essence, Chelsea have put Terry in the position that if he is to be sold he will have to state that he wants to go – and force his way out of the club – which could require a written transfer request. Terry is understood to be interested, to some extent, in City's offer but is also torn because of his loyalty to Chelsea.

The outcome is unclear for exactly that reason; Terry hasn't made his mind up, and until he does there will be no public statement. So it's simply a case of sitting tight until we hear from JT himself. I'd still be surprised if this ended with a transfer to City though.

Personally, I imagine the most likely outcome is an equivocal public statement followed by a big new contract from Chelsea. Flirting with a new club is quite a common ploy to win better terms - think Frank Lampard with Inter and Chelsea in 2008, or Steven Gerrard with Chelsea and Liverpool in 2005 and 2004.

But this is only one of a number of possible outcomes, and as Terry's silence continues we can't just deny the chances of his coming to City out of hand.