As City continue to spin the transfer wheel further and further, it is inevitable that some will be left behind. And so it is with Valeri Bozhinov, one of the dwindling number of remaining Eriksson purchases, who has signed a permanent deal at Parma.
Perhaps it is better this way. Bozhinov was a unique prospect, a £5.5million striker loved and rated by all City fans - despite scoring just one goal in three seasons at the club. This was a relationship dependant on promise, not product. Having spent so much time on the sidelines, his reputation grew, unchallenged by any exposure to experience. Like an anticipated messiah, or a government in exile, Bozhinov's absence grew his profile, people believed him capable of feats that would never be tested in reality.
He came from Fiorentina in August 2007. Sven was doing what his protégé Roberto Mancini did three years on: bringing exotic, promising players from across Europe to City, with no concern for the 'Premier League experience' Mark Hughes came to fetishise. His MCFC career began, like everyone else's, at the Boleyn Ground. He came on for Rolando Bianchi after 61 minutes, and impressed: pushy, fiesty and pigeon-chested, he swaggered about like someone playing in their schoolyard. Another substitute appearance followed before he was asked to start the Manchester derby. Just four minutes in, though, an awkward fall tore his knee ligaments and ended his season.
This led a pattern that would become repeat itself: the constant attention to updates from the club, the enthusiastic excitement for his return, the belief that he was a panacea, that everything would be fixed when he was back. But he didn't make it back that season. It was no surprise that Eriksson's successor, Mark Hughes, was a fan: Boji was a cocky, stocky striker with a short temper and an eye for the audacious - just as Sparky had been. A fit-again Bozhinov came on for Hughes' first competitive game at Eastlands, as City were beaten 1-0 by an excellent FC Midtjylland side. But he did enough to earn a start for the opening day of the 2008/09 Premier League campaign. It was Villa Park, 2.50pm, and the players were finishing their warm up in front of us. But Boji collapsed, screamed, and was carried off by a distraught Micah Richards. We lost the game 4-2 but the news that Boji had ruptured his achilles - an injury at least as bad as his ligament snap - was much more upsetting.
So the 2008/09 season resembled the one before. Waiting, hoping, and putting unrealistic expectations upon his return. This time he did manage to come back before the end of the season, on familiar territory in March 2009. He came on at the Boleyn Ground: the third launch of his MCFC career coming on the site of his first. We roared him on, even louder than we did two years before. Once fit, he managed a run in the side of sorts. He was nnot quite the player we hoped for, but he was never going to be. But when he volleyed home Benjani's flick-on at White Hart Lane, in our biannual frustrating loss to Spurs, it felt like the fulfilment of at least two years of hope and expectation.
It felt important that he score then, because the summer 2009 spending was inevitably profligate. The arrivals of Carlos Tévez, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz meant that his chances were limited. His loan move to Parma that summer was predictable, as I suppose is its being made permanent. Whether he could have become a first-teamer without the ADUG money is unknowable but improbable. As much as we might want to mourn him as a victim of Sheikh Mansour that pity is better saved for others. What we can describe him as is a victim of misfortune, a talented player that we took to heart and for whom things might have turned out differently. Just 24, he still has years of football ahead of him.
We loved him and he never let us down.
Valeri Bozhinov MCFC 2007-09 3 starts, 1 goal.