Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Lescott, at last

At least it's over. We've spent the last few months waiting for this transfer to go through; it's been dull, drawn out, and damaging to our reputation in the game. But it all finished this evening, and I suppose that we've won.

It's certainly good news for Hughes. To have taken one of the prized assets of another team who finished ahead of us last season is a real achievement. To be a sufficiently attractive prospect that top players of top six clubs are willing to force moves to City is not only good news in the present, but points to a potential future - presuming we continue to progress - when the world's elite players, who have thus far rejected City, may be enticed to come to Eastlands.

And, of course, it's good news for our defence. Lescott may not be John Terry but he's also not Richard Dunne. Hughes has long identified a left-sided centre half as a top priority and, ultimately, we have to defer to him on these issues. Lescott has the top six Premier League experience of which Hughes has made such a fetish this summer. In his three seasons at Goodison Park Everton finished sixth and then fifth and then fifth. He's powerful, quick, good in the air and can play at left back too. I've no doubt that City will be a better team with him in.

But there are other reasons which make me less than enthusiastic about this deal. Apart from anything else, the fee is ridiculous. Of all the purchases we have made this summer, this is the price least proportionate to market value that we have paid. 150% of market value is one thing, but 200% is quite another. I'm not worrying about this particular few million pounds, but it is a simple fact of the marketplace that if we get a reputation for paying 200% of market value then we will get asked to pay as much in future. This is a cycle which can get out of hand if left unchecked. Next time we go for David Villa what is to stop Valencia asking for €100m, given that they almost got €50m from Real and Barcelona this summer? It's not healthy.

And then there's Everton. Let's not forget that they finished thirteen points ahead of us last season. Since then we've certainly improved, and they've lost their second best centre back. But David Moyes now has £24m to invest in the playing squad. This is the man that picked up Mikel Arteta for £2m, Tim Cahill for £1.5m, Phil Jagielka for £4m and Lescott himself for the same fee. He's already spent some of the money on Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, and is set to move for City legend Sylvain Distin to replace Lescott. Should Moyes succeed in bringing in four or five good players who bed into the squad well (as most Moyes signings do), we can have little complaint if they give us a real battle for the Europa League spots.

And what of Nedum Onuoha? One of my main reasons for supporting the purchase of Sylvain Distin rather than Lescott was that a 31 year old would retard the progress of Onuoha less than a 27 year old. As well as Lescott on a five year deal, we have Kolo Touré signed on until 2013. How exactly Nedum Onuha, the great hope of the Academy, fits into our future plans lies unclear. If we make Europe this season then he can perform the third centre-back role Jonny Evans has United - playing fifteen or so games each year depending on injuries and rotation. But it's neither what he needs nor what he deserves.

A key part of being a mature football fan is the acknowledgement of the gulf of knowledge and understanding between the supporters and the management. Hughes and his team know so much more about these issues than I do that my quibbling is essentially irrelevant. If Hughes says that Lescott is a good buy and good business, then he has to be respected. But I can't pretend I'm not rather ambivalent about this one.


Rob said...

Distin was a good player, but hardly a "City legend". And neither was Elano, for that matter.

somervillain said...

Not to quibble, but Moyes actually only has £18.7m to spend. The transfer fee paid to Everton up front was £22m (another £2m could be paid based on conditions), and Wolves are owed a 15 percent sell-on fee.

Hemulen said...

Also, as the Chairman has said, to build a team that will be challenging for a top 6 or even 4 finish is going to initially cost money, and that the value to us is perhaps more than another team would value that player (24m is too much, but compared to the 17m for RSC I think it represents much better value. RSC is in my opinion the most overpriced player we've bought, Barry & Given being the most underpriced too).

If, say we finish top 6 or top 4 at the end of the season, then there would be less pressure to add so many faces to the squad, and I'm sure Hughes would only spend what he thinks is right. This summer is extraordinary really, for many reasons, and I don't think it holds that the next summer transfer window will be similar.

Valencia may well ask for 100m for Villa, but I think they would be swiftly told where they can put that methinks.

The January window, however, if we are challenging, could be very, very interesting indeed...

jackblue said...

It should not be Everton we that we will be looking to compete with. It's the "top 4" we should be gunning for.

Blue Roo said...

Good points well made, especially re: Onuoha. He deserves better.

Simon said...

First of all, as Rob said - Distin a City legend? Hardly. A good player, but not of legendary status.
As for Onuoha, I agree he deserves better but don't forget we'll lost Toure for a month in January for the African Cup, and if current reports are to be believed Dunney is off, so I think he WILL get chances. Onuoha and Lescott sounds just as good a paring as Toure and Lescott in my mind.

Daniel B said...

Do you think he might be joking when he refers to Distin as a City legend maybe? You know, like he also refers to Darius Vassel, Dabo, Bianchi et al?

trinder said...

Hughes used to spend a lot of his time at Blackburn moaning about injuries. Inadequate cover for important players did for Moyes and O'Neill last year. If Dunne goes, which I think he will, we'll still have a full set of players right through the middle of the side.

Central defence:

Central midfield:
De Jong

Santa Cruz

Add to that the cover that Richards, Kompany and Bridge can give at centre-half; Johnson, Wright-Phillips and Zabaleta can give in central midfield; and Robinho and Benjani can give up front and there should, baring a disaster, never be a game when we're asking anyone to play out of position.

We really do have a fine squad. I haven't even mentioned Petrov, Weiss and Sylvinho.

pjdemers said...

While I posted my reservations about the Lescott saga earlier, I couldn't agree with you more about feeling ambivalent on this one. Good signing? Absolutely. Good business? I just don't think so.

My reservations are the same as yours. I just felt we should have stuck to the principle about not being held ransom. Just because we can break the bank doesn't mean we should. In addition we now have the unwanted image as being perceived as bullying Everton by much of the media.

While I applaud Hughes' measured response to the allegations by Moyes (and I do think Moyes is manipulating this one for all its worth), the court of public opinion does count, at least to a degree. Its bad enough that much of the negative press at City is undeserved, we certainly didn't do ourselves any favors on this one did we?

Tommy the Blue correctly pointed out to me that Lescott's ability as a player will prove cost effective especially if we finish higher than 5th or 6th but my other concern is not only where does this leave Onouha, but Richard Dunne.

I realize Richard Dunne's form has been cause for alarm but I just can't write him off so easily. If rumors are true then MON at Villa certainly isn't writing him off either. I'd like to think that it is the foul machine that is Tal Ben Haim who will leave and then Dunne at least remains a squad player, fighting to win back his place and give us proven experience should Toure or Lescott suffer injury.

If there is one player who truly deserves to taste success at City it is Richard Dunne. Maybe that is one more reason why the Lescott signing has me feeling ambivalent.