Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Long term strategy

One of the big topics in football right now is the impending introduction of UEFA's new 'financial fair play' regulations, compliance with which will be necessary to participating in European competition. In brief, teams can only record losses (defined in a particular way) of €45million in the three years after 2011 if they want to play with the big boys. It's to prevent precisely the sort of exorbitant benefactor-driven spending that we have enjoyed for the last two years.

Now, given our recent strategy, and our £121million losses this year, we are some way off this. It might even seem as if reaching such a point would be insurmountable. But there is a masterful blog post this week on Swiss Ramble (think David Conn but with even more detail) about how City can do it. You really ought to read it now.

It's so good that I'm not even going to quote from it, but will give a brief summary: if we sharply slow down transfer spending, qualify for the Champions League and increase turnover through commercial deals, stadium naming rights and the SportCity development we might just squeeze through. But it really is worth giving up the time to go through it.

Fortunately, Brian Marwood seems to have the same idea. In an interview with David Conn in The Guardian today he confirms that the 2010-11 squad will be the backbone of the club for a while yet, and that the spending of the summers of 2009 and 2010 will not be matched in the future:
"We are comfortable where we are. Now the intensity of signing players is levelling off, allowing this group to build and develop – they haven't gelled yet...

"We have fast-tracked a lot; we need to put the structure in place. We talk about elite development, the academy, because that is the foundation. That is the future for Manchester City."
This, along with the above blogpost, points out our strategic direction with some clarity. It also reinforces the importance of buying players from the 1986-90 generation: James Milner, Adam Johnson, David Silva, Mario Balotelli, Jérôme Boateng all fall into that bracket, Aleksandar Kolarov misses out by six weeks. This provides the basis for an improving squad over the next four seasons, and contrasts with Mark Hughes' targeting of the more experienced 1979-82 generation (Craig Bellamy, Kolo Touré, Gareth Barry, Joleon Lescott and Wayne Bridge.)

In the past I've been sceptical of claims that a particular binge of spending was a one-off, not to be repeated. Delaying the return to sensible spending by one more transfer window feels like delaying a diet by one more weekend. But the onset of the UEFA regulations mean we might have to live up to our words now. With the squad we've got that's not too much of a concern.

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