Manchester City have lost the FA Cup final and will finish the season trophyless. The fact that it was a reckless challenge from Pablo Zabaleta, the most consistent player of the season, which precipitated the defeat makes it even harder for fans to take.
Even if they had won today, there would still be no question that City have regressed this season. A team with the budget City have will always be judged by how they fare in the league and Europe, and at no point this season have they challenged for either of the two big trophies.
The rebuilding process looks to have already begun with rumours that Manuel Pellegrini, the Malaga manager, has agreed to replace Roberto Mancini at the start of next season.
Whoever is in charge next season, they have a unique opportunity to establish the club as the dominant force in English football following the announcement on Wednesday the Sir Alex Ferguson is retiring.
It had generally been assumed that nobody could challenge Manchester United’s supremacy of domestic football until Sir Alex retired. For the first time in 27 years, United will begin the season without the great man in charge, and teams like City, Chelsea and Arsenal will see it as an opportunity to finally displace them as the biggest club in England.
The manager will also have to learn the lessons from last year and spend wisely in the summer. This is one of the most important transfer windows in the club’s history. Here is a look at three players who are repeatedly linked to City.
For a scouting report of Fernandinho, read Chris Atkins' article here.
Per talkSPORT, Manchester City and Manchester United have interest in Angel di Maria.
Roberto Mancini has been searching for a world-class winger ever since he accepted the job at City.For the last few seasons, he has made the position a priority when planning his summer recruitment but has always missed out on his targets, which include Alexis Sanchez and Eden Hazard.
While Gareth Bale would be his, and everyone else’s, preferred choice, the only realistic destination for the Welsh Wizard is Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Angel di Maria is a more likely target, and the close relations between City's chief executive Ferran Soriano and Madrid president Florentino Perez will put the Sky Blues first in the cue of potential suitors.
His transition to the English league should also be very smooth as a number of his compatriots from Argentina are already at City, including his good friend Sergio Aguero.
He has matured enormously as a player over the past season and has been integral to turning Real Madrid into the greatest counter-attacking team in the world.
Statistics are often deceptive. Di Maria has made a staggering 56 assists in his three seasons at Real Madrid, but when you have a player like Cristiano Ronaldo, who is so deadly that he scores more than a goal a game, it’s not that impressive who plays the final ball to him.
For a left-footed winger who plays on the right, he should be scoring more goals—he has only scored 24 goals in his Real Madrid career.
When he plays on the right, he constantly cuts inside, either to cross on his left foot or to carry the ball to the middle of the pitch. Buying a winger who is always cutting inside defeats the purpose of bringing someone in to provide width, and he might have to play on the left if he joins City.
According to The Daily Mail, Manchester City are the leaders for Isco.
One of the most gifted young players in European football at the moment, Isco has slowly been developing into a world-class talent at Malaga and has flourished under the tutelage of Manuel Pellegrini.
He recently picked up the prestigious ‘Golden Boy’ prize, which is awarded to Europe’s best under-21 player by Tuttosport and has previously been won by Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney and Mario Goetze.
If Pellegrini replaces Mancini, then Isco will almost certainly follow.
His preferred position is behind the striker where he is free to roam around and find the space to work his magic, but City already have plenty of players like that. The likes of Aguero, Tevez and Silva are already capable of fulfilling that role and are much better footballers at present.
Isco struggles when given a different role, and his lack of positional discipline will not go down well with the manager. His form has tailed off in the second half of the season, and he has the inconsistency that comes with young players.
Although Malaga might be forced to sell him to solve their financial problems, he is still a little too young to switch to a major club. Ideally, City should wait another year or two for his game to develop, but their hand might be forced this season if another club makes a move.
According to Express, Manchester City highly covet Edinson Cavani.
This 6'2" powerhouse has the strength of a nightclub bouncer and balance and technique of a ballerina. He is the perfect striker, and City should sign him up immediately.
Cavani began his Serie A career playing out of position as an inside right for Palermo, where his physical qualities were not used to their full effect.
Since moving to Napoli, his career has exploded, and by playing as a traditional No. 9, he has scored 102 times in just three seasons.
He has modeled his style of play, and his haircut, on his idol, Gabriel Batistuta, and he is proving to be just as lethal as the Argentine in front of goal.
His pace and strength makes him impossible to defend against, and he can score from any angle and any distance. It is impossible to say a player will definitely be a success, but Cavani is as close to a sure thing as you’ll get.
He would make a perfect addition to City’s squad but is also just the kind of player Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid need right now. The competition to sign him has driven his price up, and it would take an astronomical fee to secure his signature.
It also must be a concern what a high staff turnover rate City have up front. At the beginning of the season, it seemed that the club had finally settled on their four strikers after a series of expensive mistakes in the transfer market.
After the sale of Mario Balotelli and the transfer rumours surrounding all their other forwards, it looks like the striking department is undergoing another process of renewal.