Football, as we know, is a very simple game but a very complicated business.
Manchester City have earmarked around £140 million to improve their training, youth development and community facilities. Building for the future indeed, one would think. It also helps to comply with the new UEFA financial regulations as the club itself announced in a press statement:
The application of allowable reliefs for certain categories of expenditure and investment, position the club well for compliance with UEFA’s financial fair play rules.
But the problem is that City want jam today, not just jam tomorrow, which explains why they’ve been such busy bees on the transfer market and why the bookies have them as favourites for the Champions League title. What would happen with the youngsters that they have been buying?
The talk is that there are a number of fairly cheesed-off youngsters at the Etihad who feel, with Manuel Pellegrini, Txiki Begiristain and of course the fans all desperate for success, that City is no place to develop as a footballer, no matter how much money is thrown at the academy. Maybe it is too early to judge it, but time is something some players don’t want to spend in the shadow of the first team.
Meanwhile, about 900 miles away as the crow flies in Barcelona, the board are beginning to wrestle with a thorny problem. Where are they going to find replacements for Xavi and Andres Iniesta? And they believe they might have found the answer.
It’s Suarez. No, not that one, but Denis Suarez, the 19-year-old attacking midfielder from Pontevedra, who has been earmarked as one of the great prospects for European football and is currently part of City's academy. Unfortunately, with City so hungry for quick success, the chances of him featuring in the first team are remote.
My sources tell me that negotiations between the two clubs are at a very advanced stage and, although it isn’t quite a done deal, it is not far off. Effectively, Barcelona could find themselves strengthened thanks to the Man City academy.
Then there’s Torres. No, not that one, but Oliver Torres, a precocious 18-year-old midfield talent from near Caceres who has already featured in the first team of Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. Although he has recently dropped out of favour—becoming unsettled as a likely result of having coming too far, too quickly—the talk here is that he too is on Barcelona’s radar, and that the Catalan club has first option on him.
But why, you ask, should Barcelona get first option on this young talent? Two words: David Villa. Following a stellar career for both club and country that saw the Asturian striker win just about everything available to him as well as hit 235 goals in 461 games and 46 goals in 90 internationals, and still with more than enough fuel in the tank, he was sold to Atletico for a bargain £4.4 million (but only around £2 million to be paid this season and nothing more if he leaves next summer). Why? In exchange of that first option for Torres.
In this "you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours," world that is football, not everything is always as it seems.