Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Benji, Sylvinho, Petrov depart

The regeneration of a football club in a summer transfer window has two elements: the introduction of new players and the shedding of old, spent ones. It is almost like a tree shedding its leaves and then, the far side of winter, growing new green ones, except that in football the two processes occur simultaneously.

We've had the creation: Jérôme Boateng is to become a blue on 1 July. Today we had the first news of the other, destructive side, as three spent leaves fell off the Manchester City tree. Benjani, Martin Petrov and Sylvinho are all to leave on free transfers. This is a natural event. All three are 31 or above. The first two were signed by Sven-Göran Eriksson, and Sylvinho by Mark Hughes. None is sufficiently close to the first team even before our summer spending. They will have to look elsewhere to play.

Benjani's departure was inevitable from the moment he was allowed to go on loan to Sunderland in January. I said my good-byes to him then, and rather than find different words for the same thoughts I simply offer that post as my farewell.

Martin Petrov leaving is equally unsurprising, if rather sadder. Once we signed Adam Johnson to replace Robinho it was clear that Petrov would not be playing as much football as someone his age would want. He had a brief spell in the side in Roberto Mancini's early days, but he was never first choice. If we are honest, he never replicated the form he showed in Eriksson's season, when he was just thrilling up and down that left wing. He played with a confidence and selfishness we hadn't seen since Shaun Wright-Phillips went to Chelsea two years before.

He was so good for that season that he managed to barge his way onto the bench of my MCFC Team of the Decade. From then on, under Hughes and Mancini, it was one long knee injury punctuated by occasional spells in the team, when, to his credit, he tore into right-backs with as much ferocity as he did in his prime. He certainly brought us some good moments, and I'll run through a top five later in the week. He is a very plausible target for Premier League clubs, at least on a pay-as-you-play deal, and so I am sure he will not drift off our football horizons.

Perhaps Sylvinho is the most surprising departure. Signed by Mark Hughes on a free last summer, he came in as experienced cover at left back. Chances were limited, and after he was brutalised by Aaron Lennon at White Hart Lane in December it was clear he was never going to be a Premier League left back. But he had a few good games in midfield, where his touch and brain were as sharp as ever, and he scored our goal of the season at Scunthorpe in the FA Cup. I had hoped for his retention as a squad player and coaching hand. But he goes with farewells as warm as anyone else.

Each of this three, in their own way, endeared themselves to me and to the fans. I do not think our squad will be any weaker for their departure, particularly given the spending we are about to do, but yet I will miss them all. Good luck blues.

Benjani MCFC 2008-2010 24 starts, 7 goals
Martin Petrov MCFC 2007-2010 57 starts, 12 goals
Sylvinho MCFC 2009-2010 9 starts, 1 goal

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