The summer transfer window has seen Manchester City flex its financial muscle in ways reminiscent of the early years of Roman Abramovich's tenure at Chelsea.
This has caused many to draw parallels between the two clubs, and suggest that Manchester City will break into the "Big Four" next season.
This threat is overblown.
There seems to be a general misconception that Abramovich "took the club from nothing" to be world beaters. In fact, Ruud Gullit steered the club to fourth position in '97/'98, Gianluca Vialli finished third in '98/'99, and Chelsea had never finished outside the top six since the '96/'97 season.
Claudio Ranieri even broke into the top four again in '02/'03, the season before Abramovich purchased the club.
Looking at their respective league standings it's hard to argue that City find themselves in a similar position to Chelsea. The main comparison should be between Pre-Abramovich Chelsea and Pre-Abu Dhabi Manchester City.
Though the Citizens are included in the first list purely for interest, and Chelsea in the second list as a means of showing that their wealth provided an incremental boost—rather than a massive step up.
League Standings (Pre-Abramovich Era)
1996/1997—Chelsea (6th), Man City (Not in Prem)
1997/1998—Chelsea (4th), Man City (Not in Prem)
1998/1999—Chelsea (3rd), Man City (Not in Prem)
1999/2000—Chelsea (5th), Man City (Not in Prem)
2000/2001—Chelsea (6th), Man City (17th–Relegated)
2001/2002—Chelsea (6th), Man City (Not in Prem)
2002/2003—Chelsea (4th), Man City (9th)
League Standings (Abramovich Era, Pre-Abu Dhabi Regime)
2003/2004—Chelsea (2nd), Man City (16th)
2004/2005—Chelsea (1st), Man City (8th)
2005/2006—Chelsea (1st), Man City (15th)
2006/2007—Chelsea (2nd), Man City (14th)
2007/2008—Chelsea (2nd), Man City (9th)
2008/2009—Chelsea (3rd), Man City (10th)
Looking at these lists, it would be fair to describe Manchester City as being a mid-table side over the past six seasons. Whereas Chelsea in the Pre-Abramovich era were more like today's Everton—but with a slight edge in quality.
Adding players like Joe Cole, Hernan Crespo, Claude Makalele, Ricardo Carvalho, Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Arjen Robben over the course of a few seasons can make a difference.
Imagine what Everton would be like if you added even a handful of players of this quality, and you see my point.
The questions emerge: Is Emmanuel Adebayor any better than Drogba? Robinho that much better than Arjen Robben? Does Carlos Tevez have the same pedigree as a Crespo? Or an Adrian Mutu?
Can we really say Gareth Barry is better than Claude Makalele? Than Michael Essien? Will Shay Given save City that many more points than Petr Cech when Chelsea first bought him?
If anything, the players that Chelsea bought were of higher quality than those Manchester City have bought, and they still didn't win the league until they brought in a world class manager in Jose Mourinho!
Plus Chelsea already had players like Frank Lampard and John Terry in their side. They had Gianfranco Zola!
Somehow I don't rate Craig Bellamy in the same class.
To be fair, Manchester City have made some very good opportunistic signings in Robinho, Carlos Tevez, and Emmanuel Adebayor. But even these players aren't truly world class, they only have the potential to be.
Players like Cristiano Ronaldo cost £80m because they have proven themselves on the highest stage consistently. Manchester City have bagged themselves a couple of Karim Benzema's and few van der Vaart's and think they are the next Real Madrid.
In all probability Mark Hughes will struggle to get the team to gel in the early stages of the campaign, will be too far off the pace to mount a serious challenge, and will be sacked by Christmas.
Even with a more generous assessment, I don't see how City will compete with an impressive Everton side that will welcome back both Mikel Arteta and Ayegbeni Yakubu from long-term injury next season.
They'll probably finish sixth next season, which wouldn't be too bad considering their current midtable pedigree. But they don't pose a serious threat to the "Big Four."
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