Manchester City's 20 Best Transfer Signings of the Premier League Era
Since the Premier League began in 1992, Manchester City have spent over £806 million on transfers at an average of over £25 million per season (via Transfer League). It's an eye-watering figure that makes them the second-highest spenders during that period, behind Chelsea.
I've compiled a list of the 20 best signings City have made since '92. The criteria for inclusion was value for money, the impact they had and the level of success the club achieved during their time as a Blue.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.
20: Peter Beagrie
A brilliant left-winger and one of three late-season signings by manager Brian Horton in 1994 who ensured City's survival in the Premier League, Peter Beagrie had an incredible ability to beat the opposition full-back and deliver telling crosses. Along with Paul Walsh and Uwe Rosler, Horton's three musketeers changed City's fortunes and were the catalyst for a much-improved style of play.
He cost £1.1 million from Everton, helped keep City up in 1993/94 and then played superbly the following season as City began playing some brilliant attacking football. He was a key figure in a memorable side.
19: Matija Nastasic
A contentious inclusion given his short time at the club so far, but Serbian defender Matija Nastasic has shown already he has the tools to be an excellent defender for years to come.
He's just 20 and is yet to reach 100 games at club level, but all the signs are that this was £12 million well spent. The fact that the calamitous Stefan Savic also left as part of the deal makes this move even sweeter.
His progress so far has been remarkable, and despite a slight dip in form this season, Nastasic seems to have everything in his locker to be a top class defender.
18: Paul Walsh
Paul Walsh was a diminutive forward who scored 16 goals in 53 games for the club. Signed by Horton in '94, he was a brilliant player to watch and helped City stay up when it looked likely they could be relegated.
He was adored by the fans for his tireless running and his wonderful ability. He partnered both Uwe Rosler and Niall Quinn with equal potency, and was a major part of Horton's great entertainers.
He was sold to Portsmouth by Alan Ball in 1995 in a deal which saw Gerry Creaney arrive at Maine Road. Heads are still being scratched in Manchester over that one.
17: Nicky Weaver
City fans got a little overexcited by Nicky Weaver. Hindsight suggests he was most certainly not worthy of the “England’s No. 1” chant, but back in the late '90s his impact was huge and the club's fans were rightly enamoured with him. Signed for £210,000 from Mansfield Town, Weaver had a long run of incredible form that provided the platform for City’s rise through the divisions.
His first full campaign was the 1998/99 season which City spent in the third tier of English football. Weaver kept a then club record 26 clean sheets as City were promoted via the playoffs. His two penalty saves and subsequent celebration at Wembley during the playoff final against Gillingham is an image burnt into the retinas of all City fans who witnessed it.
None of what the club has achieved in recent seasons would ever have been possible without that win at Wembley, and trying to state its importance without sounding hyperbolic is a difficult task.
The following season, Weaver was again outstanding as City won promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. He remained City's No. 1 until an injury in the 2001/02 season saw him lose his place. He struggled to ever return to full fitness and he eventually left in 2007 having made 172 appearances.
16: Sylvain Distin
His exit may have been a bitter one, but very few could describe Sylvain Distin's time at City as anything other than a success. He was extremely quick and powerful, and at £4 million proved somewhat of a bargain.
Many feel Distin was one of the few pre-Mansour era players who could have survived post-investment. He was a brilliant reader of the game who together with Richard Dunne provided City with the best centre-back pairing outside the "Top Four."
He left to join Portsmouth in 2007 before later moving to Everton, and is still an excellent Premier League player.
15: Ali Benarbia
Ask City fans which season was the most exciting in recent memory, and I'll bet a fair number say the 2001/02 Division One campaign under Kevin Keegan. City scored 108 goals and posted 99 points as they won the division and returned triumphantly to the Premier League.
Central to that was Ali Bernabia, an Algerian playmaker signed on a free transfer from Paris St-Germain. He and Eyal Berkovic formed an unbelievable partnership in midfield as City swept all before them. Why have one playmaker when you can have two?
He won the Player of the Year award and then captained City on their return to the top flight.
14: Yaya Toure
When I compiled my list of City’s 20 Greatest Players of the Premier League Era, I missed Yaya Toure off, much to the consternation of many Bleacher Report readers. With hindsight, I admit it was a mistake, although at the time it was because I felt there was so much more to come from City’s Ivorian.
However, when one considers his importance to City’s success over recent seasons—his FA Cup semi-final and final winners in 2011, and his two goals at Newcastle that pretty much secured the title in 2012—he has to be considered an incredibly important signing for the club.
At £24 million, Toure has proved well worth the money, and has continued to prove his class this season with a series of fine performances. He’s the envy of many rival supporters who would love to have him in their side.
13: Carlo Tevez
In terms of the message it sent to the football world, very few signings compare to that of Carlos Tevez. Whereas a deal for Robinho in 2008 failed to deliver the impact it had intended, the signing of Tevez most certainly did.
He arrived from Manchester United and signed a five-year deal, prompting the "Welcome to Manchester" banners that sparked controversy across the city. At £25.5 million, Tevez certainly wasn't cheap, but he dragged City to the FA Cup in 2011 and was outstanding for much of his time at the club, which also included a Premier League title.
His self-imposed exile soiled his legacy but his impact on City is undeniable. He paved the way for other world-class players arrive.
12: Joe Hart
Many will see this as a controversial inclusion given his recent woes, but at £100,000 Joe Hart was undoubtedly an exceptional piece of business.
His form of the last 18 months has been poor, but he was outstanding for two seasons after returning from his loan spell at Birmingham City in 2010. He was a vital part of City's FA Cup and Premier League successes.
11: Gareth Barry
Many like to poke fun at Gareth Barry. They say he's slow and useless. They say they don't really know what value he brings to a side. They say it's a mystery he's played for England.
Those people can't have seen him play very often.
Barry was an integral part of the first-team between his arrival in 2009 and his departure on loan to Everton in the summer. A steady passer who was like a metronome in the heart of midfield, he also had an unerring knack of being in the right place at the right time thanks to his ability to read the game. He did the work the flair players didn't want to do.
At £12 million, he proved an absolute bargain.
10: Eyal Berkovic
Eyal Berkovic joined City from Celtic in 2001 for £1.5 million. He was the best player in the side throughout his time at the club before he left for Portsmouth. A major part of the 2001/02 promotion season, he then excelled in the Premier League.
He left in 2003 after a fall out with Keegan, saying:
I don't see any reason why Kevin didn't play me because I was the best player in training for six months and everyone knew that. Man City's 45,000 supporters knew I had to play but Kevin was behaving like a big baby. I told him that and I think he deserves the sack.
It was difficult to disagree with him. He really was a wonderful player.
9: Uwe Rosler
Signed from Brentford for a fee in the region of £400,000, Uwe Rosler is a bona fide City legend.
He joined in 1994 along with Beagrie and Walsh and scored five goals in 12 games to keep City up. The following season he scored 22 in partnership with Walsh as City played expansive, easy-on-the-eye football. It was a truly memorable period.
In total, he scored 64 goals in 176 games, and his name is still sung regularly on the terraces today.
8: Richard Dunne
Richard Dunne won the Manchester City Player of the Year award four times—an unprecedented achievement that marks him out as one of their great players of recent years.
He joined the club from Everton in a deal worth £3 million, arriving with a reputation as a somewhat troublesome character. The Merseyside club had decided he and teammate Michael Ball (who would later join City) needed separating, and it was Dunne they felt should make way.
Their loss was most certainly City’s gain. After a troubled few years, which culminated in Dunne being suspended by the club in the Kevin Keegan days, he went on to captain the side with distinction.
Dunne survived from Joe Royle to Mark Hughes and has made more Premier League appearances for City than any other player, with 253.
7: Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero will forever be remembered as the man who scored the goal that sealed City's first league title in 44 years in the most dramatic of circumstances.
He arrived from Atletico Madrid for £38 million in 2011 and has been superb since his debut against Swansea in August of that year, scoring two and assisting another after coming on for the last half an hour. He scored 30 goals in his debut season, managed 17 in an injury riddled second season, and already has 13 goals in 14 games this season.
If he stays at City for the foreseeable there's nothing stopping him becoming the club's all time leading goalscorer. He looks set to become one of the best strikers in world football and he's only 25.
6: Pablo Zabaleta
Pablo Zabaleta was signed for £6.5 million from Espanyol in 2008 and represents one of the best pound-for-pound deals in the post-Sheikh Mansour era.
No player in the current City squad enjoys the close relationship with the fans that Zabaleta does. His unbelievable commitment has seen him take on cult status already.
He signed a new deal in the summer that will keep him at the club until he's 32, he is the current Player of the Year and he often captains the side in the absence of Vincent Kompany.
5: Andy Morrison
In terms of value for money, it’s difficult to think of anyone better than Andy Morrison. Signed for just £80,000 from Huddersfield Town, his impact at City will never be forgotten.
He rescued an ailing side bereft of a leader, directionless and lost, and set them on their way to the Premier League. As Joe Royle would later say, Morrison “dragged City kicking and screaming into Division One.”
When Morrison was signed, City were struggling massively. Having been relegated to the third tier of English football, they started the 1998/99 season as huge favourites for promotion, but things weren’t going to plan. Royle’s side were being turned over by the likes of Lincoln City and found themselves midtable. A club that had been on the slide for a few years were showing no signing of halting their demise.
Suddenly City had a defender who headed every ball, and a player who would seemingly fight to the death in search of three points. He raised the game of everyone around him, demanding more from each and every one of his teammates.
City won promotion that season after his arrival saw them hit form, and he started the following season in a similar vein as City suddenly looked capable of an unexpected return to the Premier League. Injury saw his season finish early, but he had already helped consolidate a great start.
From struggling in Division Two to on their way to the top-flight once again, City owe Morrison so much. He may have only played 48 games for the club, but the impact he had in that time was phenomenal. He's now the club's official Fan Ambassador such is the esteem he is still held in by all connected to the club.
It isn't far fetched to say that without Andy Morrison, City may not exist today.
4: Shaun Goater
“Feed the Goat and he will score.”
A lot of football chants are nonsense; songs designed to create an atmosphere rather than convey fact. However, in the case of Shaun Goater’s ode, it was incredibly factual as well as brilliantly rabble-rousing.
Scoring goals was The Goat’s forte. In his time at City he bagged 103 in 212 games—an incredible return on the £400,000 investment the club made to secure his signature.
He’s a City hero of unrivalled proportions.
That’s not to say his career as a Blue was plain sailing. Quite the opposite. When he first arrived he was seen as indicative of everything wrong with City at the time: low on quality and a step down on what they were used to.
He joined with seven games of the 1997/98 season left but he couldn't stop them being relegated to Division Two. The following season, though, his cult status began to develop as he scored 21 goals on the way to promotion via the playoffs.
He then bagged 29 goals as they returned to the Premier League and he was named as the club's Player of the Season. However, City were relegated again as Goater scored just 11 goals in an injury-hit campaign in the top flight.
But this time their Premier League exodus wouldn't last long, as Kevin Keegan's side ran rampant in Division One. Goater scored an incredible 32 goals as City finished first, playing some superb football along the way.
He eventually left the club in 2003 after captaining the side in their final match at Maine Road.
Quite whether anyone else will ever achieve cult status quite like Goater has at City is highly doubtful. £400,000 very well spent.
3: Georgi Kinkladze
The scorer of the greatest Manchester City goal of the last 20 years and the man who entertained the club's fans during an extremely dark period, City got themselves a bargain when they signed Georgi Kinkladze for £2 million.
Francis Lee, City's chairman at the time, had seen Georgi Kinkladze play for Georgia against Wales and Moldova and was suitably impressed. He made his interest known to Kinkladze's club, Dinamo Tbilisi, and six months later Lee got his man.
His first season was 1995/96, the year City were relegated from the Premier League for the first time. Kinkladze was excellent, though, and won the club's Player of the Year award.
The next season descended into absolute chaos as City went through five different managers and finished well outside the playoffs. Kinkladze was again the club's shining light, with his breathtaking skill and ability to beat players City's best attacking threat by some distance.
With the club now embarking on a second successive season outside the top-flight, speculation of a move away was rife, but against all the odds Kinkladze stayed. A fierce supporter campaign saw him sign a new deal, but everyone knew City had to win promotion if he was to stay on for a fourth year.
City were, in fact, relegated, and Kinkladze left for Ajax in a £5 million deal.
His goal against Southampton—which saw him beat five players before chipping the goalkeeper—was one of the finest goals you ever likely to see. Despite him being there during a turbulent period, Georgi Kinkladze was a beautiful player to watch and will forever be remembered by the City fans.
2: David Silva
At £24 million, David Silva is one of the more expensive signings on the list, but he still represents great business.
He's the finest player to play for the club since the Premier League began and if he was sold to Barcelona or Real Madrid tomorrow he would fetch in the region of £40 million. He's a beautiful player who is central to everything City do going forward.
He was a vital member of the 2011/12 title-winning season, with his performances, particularly in the first half of the campaign, some of the best ever seen at City. His ability to maintain possession, dictate play and find killer passes makes him a player of the highest calibre.
City have a great tradition for embracing playmakers, with Kinkladze, Berkovic and Bernabia all important players in recent times, but none can match the skill and vision of Silva.
1: Vincent Kompany
There could only really be one winner. Vincent Kompany, a mere £6 million signing from Hamburg, captained City to their first league title in 44 years, and is possibly the best defender the club has ever had.
There can be very few deals in recent seasons anywhere in world football that match the value for money City got when they signed the Kompany. He's one of the best defenders in Europe, leads by example on and off the pitch and is vitally important to the side.
An articulate and intelligent man, he's become a fine media operator as well as a great captain, and is undoubtedly City's best signing of the Premier League era.