David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Manchester City's 20 Greatest Foreign Imports

Rob PollardFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2014

David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Manchester City's 20 Greatest Foreign Imports

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    Since its inception in 1992, the Premier League has benefited hugely from the influx of foreign imports. The FA, of course, would dispute that, given the reduction in the number of English players that many cite as the reason for the national team's failures.

    For those more concerned with club matters, they have revolutionised the game with their often technical superiority over their British counterparts.

    Manchester City have had their fair share. Some have been unsuccessful, but many have enriched their side and the league as a whole. Here, we take a look at the club's 20 best in recent times.

    The criteria for inclusion is straightforward. Any player signed from a club outside the Premier League since 1992 was eligible, and then players were ranked on the basis of their value for money, their reputation with the City fans and the success they enjoyed during their time at the club.

     

Alvaro Negredo

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    He may have only arrived at City this summer, but Alvaro Negredo has made a big impact already. For an initial payment of £16.4 million, it seems the club have bagged themselves a steal.

    Negredo is big and powerful, with a deft touch and superb vision. His partnership with Sergio Aguero flourished almost immediately, and some of the goals he's scored will be remembered in the blue half of Manchester for years to come.

    He's scored 23 goals in just 33 games in all competitions, providing City with a much-needed physical presence up front. He's a true No. 9 and he looks set to have a great career in the Premier League.

Gerard Wiekens

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    Signed in 1997 from Dutch side Veednam, Gerard Wiekens was a mainstay in the City side during a turbulent period, with his first five seasons at the club all ending in either a promotion or relegation. He spent a total of seven years at City before returning to Veednam to see out the remainder of his career.

    Wiekens wasn't blessed with pace, but he made up that with his intelligent reading of the game. He was also very comfortable on the ball who was known as a classy defender on the terraces at Maine Road.

    At £500,000, he represented exceptional value, and his relationship with the City fans was strong right up until his departure.

Fernandinho

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    Another who only joined recently is Fernandinho, but the quality of his performances means he has to be included in this list. City have got themselves one of the best box-to-box midfielders in world football.

    His energy leaves many onlookers astounded. It seems he could run all day, with his pressing of the opposition one of the most important parts of City's game this season. His recent absence through injury highlighted his ability, with City looking very short in midfield in the defeat to Chelsea and the draw with Norwich.

    He has a superb range of passing and can start attacks in an instant. Very few players have come in and made such an immediate impact at City in the Premier League era.

Patrick Vieira

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    Although Patrick Vieira joined in the twilight of his career on a free transfer, he played a valuable role on the field during his 18 months as a player. He now occupies the role of football development executive, overseeing youth football at the club, managing the Elite Development Squad.

    It's a coup for City to have Vieira involved. He is one of the most respected players to play in England since the Premier League was formed, and his experience and reputation are an asset.

    Don't be surprised if he manages City one day in the future. He's very highly thought of by those inside the club.

Matija Nastasic

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    Roberto Mancini's last great signing before he left the club was that of Matija Nastasic, who joined from Fiorentina for £12 million, a deal that also saw Stefan Savic leave the club after a troubled spell.

    His first season saw a string of imperious displays, characterised by an unruffled style. He breezed through matches despite his tender age of 20, starting with a wonderful performance on his debut in the Bernabeu.

    This season has seen a regression, which was to be expected given his relative inexperience, but it's clear he is an extremely talented player who can play at the very top of the game for many years to come.

Danny Tiatto

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    There are some players who more than make up for a lack of technical proficiency by being totally committed to the cause, and Australian Danny Tiatto certainly falls into that bracket.

    Tiatto would play anywhere—full-back, wing-back, winger, midfield—and seemed just as capable in each. He was tenacious and loved by the fans, scooping the Player of the Year award in City's Premier League campaign of 2001/02, the club's first in the top flight for four years. He cost the club just £300,000.

    He left for Leicester in 2004 but is still remembered fondly in Manchester.

Eyal Berkovic

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    Eyal Berkovic was a beautiful player to watch and became an instant hit at City after starring in Kevin Keegan's 2001/02 team, a side that played all-out attacking football and swept effortlessly to promotion back to the Premier League.

    He was a playmaker with a wonderful appreciation of the game. He always seemed to know where others were on the pitch, particularly Ali Bernabia, a player he struck up an excellent understanding with.

    He joined from Celtic and cost just £1.5 million—a bargain for a player with as much quality as he possessed.

Sylvain Distin

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    Sylvain Distin left the club under a cloud, meaning his reputation with the fans was somewhat tarnished, but there's no doubting his quality.

    Many believe that Distin would have kept his place in the first XI even after the investment that followed Sheikh Mansour's takeover in 2008, and he continues to put in excellent performances for Everton, despite his advancing years.

    He signed from Paris Saint-Germain after a successful loan spell with Newcastle, with City pulling off what was seen as a coup at the time.

    He was quick, strong and read the game brilliantly. Alongside Richard Dunne, Distin formed the best centre-back partnership outside the established "top four." His £4 million fee turned out to be an absolute snip.

Elano

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    The 2007/08 season was of the most exciting for City fans in recent memory. After the tragic football being played under Stuart Pearce, City were taken over by Thaksin Shinawatra, who installed former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson as manager and went on a mysterious spending spree.

    Eriksson quickly set about altering City's style, bringing in a raft of players comfortable in possession and capable of playing a more attractive passing game than during Pearce's tenure. Chief amongst his recruits, many of whom were relatively unknown, was Brazilian midfielder Elano, whose ability on the ball and from set pieces immediately endeared him to the City faithful.

    He scored a series of wonderful goals after his £8 million move, but left after just two seasons. He, more than anybody, was responsible for lifting the gloom that had descended on the Etihad under Pearce, and he will always be highly thought of at City.

Nigel De Jong

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    Nigel de Jong was pricey at £18 million, particularly given he had just six months remaining on his Hamburg contract when City bought him, but his impact was excellent and he very quickly became a firm favourite with the fans.

    His remit was narrow—an out-and-out defensive midfielder whose job was to screen the back four—but he did it with such efficiency he became an invaluable member of the side soon after his move.

    Eventually, as Roberto Mancini looked to expand City’s style, he was no longer a first-team regular and was allowed to leave for AC Milan in 2012. The club’s preference would have been to keep him, but with his contract dwindling (he had just 12 months left) and with his wage demands high, he was allowed to move on. 

    He played a key role in City’s title-winning season despite his reduced role, often coming off the bench to free Yaya Toure and allow the Ivorian to move further up field and influence attacks. It was a simple trick but one that paid dividends on numerous occasions.

Edin Dzeko

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    Edin Dzeko has failed to nail down a permanent place in the City side since his big-money move from Wolfsburg in 2011, but his contribution during his time at the club cannot be underestimated.

    He’ll struggle to score a more important goal than the equaliser against QPR in the match that saw City clinch the 2011-12 league title, but Dzeko has scored a number of vital winners for the club.

    He's scored 57 goals in all competitions and continues to add to his tally when called upon.

Mario Balotelli

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    Mario Balotelli may have flattered to deceive and caused disruption during his time at City, but it's doubtful there's been a more ludicrously talented player to play for the club in recent years. If he can ever knuckle down and concentrate fully on his football, he could be one of the best strikers in the world.

    He has that very rare mix of talent, flair, power and pace. He's potentially as unpredictable and brilliant as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but, unfortunately for City, he didn't display his qualities often enough.

    Still, he was part of City's FA Cup triumph, their first piece of major silverware in 35 years, and was named Man of the Match in the final before helping City to the title the following season.

    He scored 30 goals in his two-and-a-half years at the club and divided opinion amongst the fans. There were those who loved him for his character and unbelievable skill level—and there are those who just didn't get him.

     

Ali Bernabia

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    Ali Benarbia was signed on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain in 2001.

    Benarbia was an unequivocal success, guiding City to promotion to the Premier League in his first season as City posted 99 points and scored 108 goals. The Algerian was key to that swashbuckling City side that entertained so thoroughly.

    He was named City's Player of the Year in his first season and then led them back into the top flight.

Uwe Rosler

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    In terms of cult status with the City fans, Uwe Rosler is right up there with the best. His name is still sung from the terraces today, and he's set to return to City later this season when he brings his Wigan side to the Etihad for an FA Cup quarter-final match. His reception is likely to be special.

    He signed in 1994 for £400,000 and scored five goals in City's last 12 games, effectively saving them from relegation.

    The following season in an attractive, expansive side led managed by Brian Horton, he scored 22 in all competitions.

    He left after City's relegation to Division 2 in 1998, having scored 64 in 176 appearances.

Pablo Zabaleta

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    Like Rosler before him, Pablo Zabaleta falls very much into the bracket of cult figure. The fans love his all-action, committed style of play, and he's developed into one of Europe's finest right-backs in recent years.

    Signed by Mark Hughes from Espanyol in 2008 for just £6 million, he was initially a rough diamond, a player with bags of quality but who suffered from poor positional sense and a tendency to commit rash challenges.

    However, he has matured and is now an exceptional right-back, solid defensively and brilliant going forward. An absolute bargain and a player already placed in the "legend" category.

Yaya Toure

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    Yaya Toure was signed for £24 million from Barcelona, but his quality means the fee is largely irrelevant. He is a marauding midfielder capable of controlling a game and dictating whether or not City are victorious.

    A defensive midfielder during his time in Spain, his remit has grown dramatically since his move to City. He is now expected to play high up the pitch and influence play in an attacking sense, and 15 goals already this season suggests it suits him.

    He scored vital goals against Manchester United and Stoke City en route to FA Cup success in 2011, as well as two goals in the penultimate match of the 2012 season that put City on the brink of the title. He's a hugely important player who is unlike any other player in the world.

4. Georgi Kinkladze

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    In terms of value for money, quality and reputation with the fans, the signing of Georgi Kinkladze is right up there with City’s best foreign imports. He was largely unknown in the pre-YouTube days of 1995 but soon established himself as one of the stars of the Premier League.

    He was signed by former chairman Francis Lee after he’d seen him playing for Georgia. Lee was suitably impressed, made his interest known immediately and was able to tie a deal up a few months later for just £2 million.

    Kinkladze had wonderful balance and skill, capable of taking players on at pace with breathtaking ease. He was City’s best creative force by some considerable distance during his three seasons at Maine Road.

    Unfortunately, his time at the club will always be associated with decline. He was part of two relegations: one from the Premier League, and then again two years later as City slipped into the third tier of English football.

    He has cult status amongst City fans after almost single-handedly providing some glamour in a distinctly unglamorous period for the club, with his wonderful solo goal against Southampton one of the highlights of any game played at Maine Road.

3. Vincent Kompany

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    Vincent Kompany has, in the space of five years, become known as one of City’s best ever defenders and a truly great captain. Signed for £6 million by Mark Hughes, he is one of the best pound-for-pound signings in the club’s history.

    He leads by example—both on and off the pitch—and is undoubtedly one of the finest centre-backs playing in Europe. He has everything a top defender could wish for: pace, awareness, strength and reading of the game. He’s a dominant, proactive defender, and he, more than any other player in the current squad, is vital to City's chances of success in the future.

    He was a huge part of the FA Cup win of 2011 and captained the club to the the Premier League title in 2012, and for that alone he will be remembered as a catalyst for the club’s change in fortunes.

2. Sergio Aguero

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    One recent foreign import at City who has already done more than enough to be remembered long after he leaves the club is Sergio Aguero.

    It was he, of course, who bagged 30 goals in his debut season, the last of which was pretty important—a last-second strike against QPR that secured the club’s first league title in 44 years.

    And he continues to improve. This season, despite a couple of injuries that have halted his progress, he’s scored 26 goals, a remarkable achievement that has seen him listed as one of the finest players in Europe by most observers of the game.

    He has pace, power and unbelievable composure in front of goal. Holding on to him may prove difficult if City don’t push on and become dominant domestically and start going further in Europe, but for now they have in their ranks a top-quality striker.

1. David Silva

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    David Silva is the most talented attacking player to play for City in the last 20 years and is surely the club's finest foreign import in the Premier League era.

    There are very few players who play the game so effortlessly, floating around the pitch doing damage with his wonderful passing and intelligence. Give the ball to Silva in a tight space and the chances are he'll emerge with the ball, find a teammate and then look to get it back in a more menacing position. It's beautiful to watch.

    Fittingly, he's been successful, too, central to City's FA Cup and Premier League wins. This season, he's looked better than ever before, as his understanding of the English continues to grow.

    City are very fortunate to have such a truly wonderful player in their squad.