Roberto Mancini's 8 Most Important Decisions So Far as Man City Manager
When Roberto Mancini took over as manager of Manchester City in December 2009, the fear was that he had inherited a poisoned chalice. Within three years, he was the toast of the club after bringing them their first league title in 44 years.
The Italian boss has had to contend with issues during City's recent meteoric rise that other managers (at clubs where progress has been more measured) have not had to deal with.
Here are eight calls that the former Inter Milan coach has made during his time at City that has led them to the very top of English football. Feel free to add your own comments below.
Signing Patrick Vieira
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For all the hundreds of millions of pounds spent by City since Sheikh Mansour took over at the club in 2008, Mancini's first signing was a free transfer.
In January 2010, just a few weeks after taking over, Mancini brought in veteran Vieira, his former midfield general at Inter Milan.
Vieira, a multiple-title winner at Arsenal, Juventus and Inter, only started 25 games in his 18 months as a City player, but he brought to the locker room a winning mentality and leadership to a hastily assembled group of star players.
Vieira retired after the FA Cup final victory in 2011, and remains a highly influential member of the club as their football development executive.
Not Replacing Joe Hart
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As mentioned already, City have spent an obscene amount of money on some of the best players in the world—Yaya Toure, David Silva, Sergio Aguero—but Mancini's decision to keep one player has been just as crucial.
Along with Micah Richards, Hart is one of only two players who remain members of City's first-team squad from the day of Thaksin Shinawatra's takeover in 2007.
While Richards is constantly battling for a place in the side with the equally impressive Pablo Zabaleta, Hart is the undisputed No. 1 player that fans of both club and country would not swap for anyone.
The temptation must have been there at times to spend big on a big-name replacement from abroad, but the £600,000 signing from Shrewsbury has provided exceptional value.
Hiring David Platt
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Soon after Mancini replaced Mark Hughes at the end of 2009, he brought in former Sampdoria teammate and Inter assistant Fausto Salsano to work as part of his coaching staff, while retaining the services of Brian Kidd.
However, the following summer he made a smart appointment which greatly helped bridge the gap between the Italian and Mancunian contingents of the club.
Platt was another former Sampdoria teammate of Mancini's—in fact, they were roommates—and hails from Oldham, Greater Manchester.
While his own management career was nothing to shout about, Platt brought with him a wealth of experience to the City dressing room and also represents the club in fine fashion when addressing the media in Mancini's absence.
Adjusting to New Targets
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During the 2010-11 season—Mancini's first full season in charge—the manager was criticised heavily for his team's negative approach to big games, which reached its nadir during turgid 0-0 draws at home to Manchester United and away to Arsenal.
However, Mancini was acutely aware that his objective that season was not to win the title, or to entertain, but merely to qualify for the Champions League. His team achieved that aim, and as a bonus won the club's first trophy in 35 years by claiming the FA Cup.
The following season, with the Premier League title the explicit aim, Mancini made his side a far more attacking proposition, and draws suddenly became wins as City went on to be crowned champions in May.
Banning Carlos Tevez
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It is difficult to believe that it is not even 12 months ago that Carlos Tevez refused to warm up as a substitute when Manchester City were playing a Champions League group game at Bayern Munich.
Tevez, who had been stripped of the club captaincy just a few weeks before, stuck resolutely to the bench when Mancini told him to prepare to go on, and the manager was forthright in his condemnation of the Argentinian.
"If I have my way he will be out. He's finished with me," the BBC reported Mancini as saying after the 2-0 defeat. "If we want to improve as a team Carlos can't play with us. With me, he is finished."
Mancini's stance showed the rest of his squad that there was a limit to what he would tolerate from his expensive collection of stars, and that if they ever planned on a similar course of action then they should think twice.
Starting Balotelli on Derby Day
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Saturday October 22, 2011: Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli escapes unhurt after his house is set ablaze following the Italian setting off fireworks out of his bathroom window in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Many predict it is the end of the talented but unpredictable striker's career at City, as it was one crazy antic too much for even Mancini's patience.
Sunday October 23, 2011: Balotelli starts the Manchester derby at Old Trafford the following day, despite Edin Dzeko being another option to partner Sergio Aguero. Balotelli scores the opening goal and celebrates by revealing his now iconic "Why Always Me?" t-shirt, and then goes on to net another as City rout their local rivals 6-1.
Balotelli ends the season with 13 goals in 23 Premier League appearances. City end the season as champions, above United on goal differential.
Bringing Tevez Back
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Five months and 23 days after that infamous night at the Allianz Arena, Tevez was brought back in from City as a substitute in the league clash with Chelsea.
The striker, who had failed to find a new club in the January transfer window and had spent most of his time suspended back in Argentina, was welcomed by a mixed reaction from the home crowd.
City were 1-0 down when Tevez came on with 35 minutes remaining, and he made a telling contribution by setting up Samir Nasri's winner. He would go on to play 10 games of City's run-in, in which they won seven and lost just one match to claim the title.
Far from looking weak by going back on his previous position, Mancini now has one of the world's best strikers grateful to be allowed back after a much-needed break from the game and is now ready to give his all to the club once again.
Pushing to Keep on Improving with New Signings
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Mancini drew a few quizzical looks when he revealed his plans for the summer transfer window (as reported by Eurosport): "We don't need big changes, not 10 players like two or three years ago - but we need three, four, five players."
Many would question the wisdom of flooding a squad which still needs to fully gel despite winning the title with another slew of new faces, but Mancini is wise enough to know the importance of champions not resting on their laurels.
Mancini got his raft of new talent, with Jack Rodwell already featuring in all three games since his arrival before Javi Garcia, Maicon, Scott Sinclair, Matija Nastasic and Richard Wright signed on deadline day (the same day Stefan Savic, Nigel de Jong and Roque Santa Cruz left).