Despite being renowned as one of Italian football’s most ardent anglophiles, even Roberto Mancini has admitted he was unprepared for the unique challenge that faced him in English football.
Mancini’s appointment as Manchester City manager in place of Mark Hughes placed the Italian under enormous pressure, with the richest club in the world appearing ambitious to force their way into the Champions League spots for the season.
Such pressure was only heightened by the Italian, who in his first press conference as City manager said: “My target is City in top four, next season we want to win [the] Premier [League]."
Thus when City were pipped to the Champions League post by Tottenham Hotspur, things looked understandably precarious for the Italian.
Not that his position was helped by the sheer speculation that surrounded him, a natural consequence of arriving at a club with money to burn.
Rumours of discontent among players such as Carlos Tevez about his training methods and continued talk of Jose Mourinho—then on his way out of Inter Milan—being tempted by the lure of City’s wealth, didn’t help.
Yet rather than panic about missing out on the Champions League, City’s owners opted to support their manager despite the mounting pressure.
Following the club’s 1-0 defeat to Tottenham last season chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak said: "I think he has done an excellent job, coming in midseason and organising the team.
“I'm very happy with Roberto and [the owner] Sheikh Mansour is delighted with the way he has organised the team.
"I believe that, with a good preseason to prepare the team, Roberto is going to do a wonderful job for many years. He is driven, committed, and he has a winning mentality. He has the interests of the club at heart and he is definitely the right manager for this club for many years."
This was an important statement from the chairman, indicating they would be patient with the Italian and reiterating their view that he remained the right choice, thus releasing much of pressure on the Italian who was free to build as he wished over the summer.
Now with the start of the season merely weeks away, City fans will not be disappointed with the plans that Mancini has set in place.
Despite few Premier League sides loosening the purse strings, City have embarked on a productive spree with the signings of Jerome Boateng, Yaya Toure, David Silva, and Lazio left-back Aleksander Kolarov.
With the likes of Mario Balotelli, James Milner, and possibly David Luiz all still believed to be featuring heavily in City’s thinking ahead of the season, this summer could yet get even better for City fans.
The key this summer for City has been the number of quality players who have been signed from outside the Premier League. In this regard, City have chosen well in signing players who, though they are not wholly established, world-class talents, have the capability to continue to improve.
Indeed it would not be unkind to suggest they are reaping the benefits of Mancini’s sizeable reputation on the continent, a distinct advantage he boasts over his predecessor Hughes.
Last summer City brought in some of the finest players in the Premier League utilising the expertise of Hughes. But rarely, if ever, did they get real value for money—as shown in the potential loss in value on the likes of Roque Santa Cruz and Joleon Lescott.
Plus, limiting your horizons purely to the Premier League ultimately narrows both the range and quality of players available to you.
But whereas Hughes, though a capable manager in English football, had little reputation or expertise in European football, Mancini has been utilising his to tempt some of Europe’s brighter stars to Manchester.
It is marked contrast from the previous regime, and has ultimately proved rewarding for City—as this summer's dealings have proved, it would be easy to underplay the role that Mancini has played in both identifying and convincing these players to sign.
Sure the huge money on offer has helped grease the wheels of these deals, but so too has the message that Mancini has managed to deliver to these player.
After signing for the club, Jerome Boateng admitted: "I spoke at length with Roberto Mancini and he impressed me with his plans for the team in the coming seasons.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Kolarov who said: “When I spoke with Mr Mancini, my choice was Manchester City.”
Clearly Mancini’s position as both messenger and manager for City’s plans has been an influential one during the summer.
Such is the confidence that Mancini has gained from this summer's transfer dealings; that he told reporters on the club’s preseason tour, other Premier League clubs were “scared” by City next season.
However he stressed the importance of patience to City’s chances next season.
“I don't know if winning the league is possible,” he said.
“I want to wait to make that judgment until the market has closed and the Premier League has started. I think you have to be patient.”
Given the resources that have been invested by his team so far this summer, such a plea for patience is likely to fall on deaf ears, something Mancini will more than be aware of.
Though, as this summer has shown, being patient with Mancini can ultimately yield real rewards for Manchester City.
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