In this new Manchester City era that many would never have thought possible, the notion of the club stalwart and cult hero has changed.
Whereas once City fans had the likes of Andy Morrison and Shaun Goater to laud as the players who—while perhaps not wholly appreciated elsewhere—were acknowledged as men who would constantly give their all, now City’s money and the success that has come with it has made those players somewhat harder to identify.
There’s James Milner, although Ian Herbert of The Independent reports that he’s had enough of being on the fringes of things and is targeting a move away in order to play more matches. Another such player is Martin Demichelis, who found favour with fans for his displays at the tail end of the season after a shaky beginning.
Perhaps the best example of a cult hero currently at City can be found in Aleksandar Kolarov, though, with the Serbian confirmed as having signed a three-year extension to his contract by the club in a statement on their website on Thursday.
Kolarov is committed, possesses a rocket of a left-footed shot and is a more than useful attacking weapon from left-back. He’s scored 15 goals for the club in his four seasons since joining from Lazio in 2010, including strikes at both the Bernabeu and the Allianz Arena in the Champions League.
That would suggest that he is a man for the big occasion, then, but Manuel Pellegrini frequently turned to him for the smaller matches in the last campaign.
As the Chilean’s team chased the title, home matches in which City were expected to get on the front foot and dominate possession almost always featured Kolarov being preferred to Gael Clichy at left-back.
He proved to be crucial in this area, with that being illustrated by the manner in which he got forward to assist a goal for Yaya Toure in a scratchy but vital 1-0 win over Stoke City at the end of February.
You can question Kolarov’s defensive attributes—and indeed many do—but he appears happy to alternate with Clichy in this role, with the Frenchman often being preferred in the matches away to the bigger sides in the division. Clichy started all three games at Old Trafford, the Emirates and Anfield that City faced within 19 days of each other between March and April, with Kolarov failing to get off the bench for any of them.
It was that apparent status as a squad player that led to these pages suggesting that City could look to cash in on the 28-year-old this summer, especially if a younger alternative who can help with the club’s homegrown quota was available—specifically Southampton’s Luke Shaw.
But if Kolarov is happy with his current arrangement and City are too, there is no harm in keeping a very talented player at the club, regardless of whether or not he sees out his contract all the way to 2018.
Take the financial benefits for the player away from this, though, and you suspect that the real winner here is Pellegrini.
Being shunted in and out of the team for pretty much the entire season could have led to unrest in the camp coming from Kolarov’s and indeed from Clichy’s direction, but the City boss seems to be a master of maintaining the harmony and togetherness in his team.
Judging by Kolarov’s comments upon signing the new deal, that has fostered a competitive spirit, too.
The Serbian told the club’s website:
Last season I played a lot and I think I proved to people in the club that they can believe in me and the result was that I was offered a new contract and I was happy to sign.
When we won two trophies last season, I was happy with what we did and I think it’s good for the club and for me that we are here now.
I think we can do a lot more things in the future. We’ve won everything in England and I think we can do a lot more in Europe. So we’ll try to repeat what we did in England and try to win something in Europe. The most important thing in football is the result and I think we can do a lot more in the future.
All very common stuff from a footballer, but the team ethos shines through.
Kolarov will remain part of that team for the foreseeable future, too.
He deserves his new contract and praise from the City fans, who might not view him as a Morrison or a Goater-type cult hero just yet, but at least now he’s got even more time to win them over.