Manchester City have won the Premier League title for the second time in three seasons, and while it's easy to say that City have bought their success, I'm not sure it's as simple as that.
For me, it's more accurate to say that City and their scouting staff have bought the right players, and that manager Manuel Pellegrini—and Roberto Mancini before him—have developed these players into a title-winning squad.
To some degree, City are victims of their own circumstances. It's true that they have spent lots of money, and because everybody knows that, they are charged a premium for players, whether or not those players are the finished product.
I can't imagine that many English supporters knew much about a player like Pablo Zabaleta when City signed him from Espanyol six years ago—much less thought of him as one of the best in the world at his position.
But he is just that. He's exceptional, just as the Daily Telegraph's Henry Winter noted on Sunday as City sealed the title with a win over West Ham.
Zabaleta’s phenomenal, defending one moment, almost getting on the end of a sweeping move the next. #mcfc— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) May 11, 2014
And then there's Aleksandar Kolarov, a full-back signed from Lazio four years ago. And Vincent Kompany, the captain, the rock of City's defense, signed from Hamburg in 2008. It's easy to see Kompany's class today, but I could go so far as to say that when he signed, few fans thought Kompany was one of the best in the world.
A player like Fernandinho, who signed last summer from Shakhtar Donetsk, was a known quantity, but I still think he came to England with plenty of questions. Yaya Toure, of course, played for Barcelona, but he only became the player he is today at Manchester City.
The same can be said for David Silva, who signed from Valencia in 2010 and today ranks as one of the best creative talents in the world.
And that's an important point because although some of City's players may have been mentioned in rumors about huge, rich clubs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid, at the end of the day they never moved for them.
Or, in Toure's case, Barcelona actually let him go. We'll see what happens, but for now we must credit City for making these players—like Toure and Silva and Sergio Aguero—the big stars they are right now.
The list goes on and on, and this is where Pellegrini deserves praise. There were obviously questions about him adjusting to the Premier League, and also about the lack of silverware from his time in Spain.
But the Chilean found a way to integrate all of his players, unlike his predecessor. While Mancini won the title in 2012, his side was rather defensive and he managed to isolate players like Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko. Pellegrini, in contrast, managed to get the best out of all his stars, including Dzeko.
Speaking about the unsettled dressing room he inherited from Mancini, Pellegrini told the Daily Mail:
Maybe the relations were not the best. It was very important to have calm, to try to convince them how we can play and how important it was to be close, all of us. Maybe they were in a very difficult moment when I arrived here but they always believed what I told them.
Pellegrini should also get credit for his handling of Joe Hart. The English goalkeeper's struggles were well-documented, but Pellegrini didn't give up on him and, in the end, Hart came good.
But what I find most fascinating about Pellegrini is that he didn't fall out with any of his players, and he was very consistent in rewarding the players who were in form. We saw it in the midfield with James Milner and in the forward line with Alvaro Negredo, who was hardly first choice but nonetheless proved valuable when he went through a good patch of form.
Pellegrini didn't just rotate—he rotated well, got the best out of his players and allowed them to flourish. For all purposes he kept the whole squad happy, which is hardly easy, as Mancini found out.
The bottom line is that, although money is obviously part of Manchester City's title-winning formula, it's by no means the only part.
It's easy to say that City have bought success, but it's more accurate to say that City—from the players to the manager to the backroom staff—have developed it. And if this season was any indication, the success is not about to stop any time soon.