Manchester City: Why It's Already Going Wrong

Ricky O'NealAnalyst ISeptember 3, 2008

Dr Sulaiman Al Fahim has become the new face of Manchester City's inevitable revolution, following the takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group (ABUG).

The consortium owner has made several statements to the rest of world football in the past few days, not least with the signing of Robinho and attempt to sign other big name players.

The future looks bright for the Blues. The reality, however, is quite the opposite.

Unfortunately, many are yet to see it.

Al Fahim is a very different owner to Abramovich. He has already stated his intentions to finish in the top four this season, and the pressure that puts on the current squad is immense.

Billionaire investors in the Premiership have proven so far to have an inability to be realistic, coupled with a blinding desire for instant success—and Fahim appears to be no exception.

Mark Hughes not being in charge next season is practically a given.

A relatively experienced and proven manager like Hughes has already shown that, with time, he is capable of making calculated and effective additions to a squad. But Fahim will demand the best in the world instantly, and this is where they would clash.

He will also demand results instantly and even with City's latest additions, breaking the top four this season is still a long way off. Even a fifth place finish wouldn't guarantee Sparky his job.

And just how realistic are Manchester City's footballing ambitions?

Many have likened the current situation with what happened at Chelsea, but it's far from similar in many aspects. What happened to the London club happened at the start of the transfer window not the end of it.

Chelsea had time to build a squad to challenge for the title that season.

Simply put, the buying of Manchester City and the "Arab revolution" has happened at the worst time possible.

Any world class additions to the squad are unlikely to happen in January. After all, it is a month when a player would rather see out their contract, or thrash out a few more months at their club until the end of the season. A month where clubs and managers are reluctant to sell.

Manchester City simply haven't got a squad capable of reaching the top four this season, nor have they got the time to build one.

The new owner's representative has also gone on record to state that Mark Hughes will be responsible for determining which players come to City and then money will be provided, but this is clearly not the case.

It's almost certain the likes of Robinho, Berbatov, Villa and Ruud Van Nistelrooy were not Hughes' targets, whilst other extremely over-ambitious potential targets were clearly engineered by Al Fahim and company, not their bemused manager.

Fahim has stated his intentions to attract the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres and Cristiano Ronaldo to the club. Hardly targets an experienced British manager like Mark Hughes would have picked out.

Even in the face of what has happened recently, those players joining City is in the highest category of unlikely.

More shockingly, this shows a total disregard for the current squad who almost certainly won't be playing together next season. Expect a massive exodus of members of the first team, reserves and academy talent to other clubs during what will be the most sensational summer of spending in next year's transfer window.

I expect (at most) four of the current City squad to still be in the first team at the start of next season.

Money will not be an obstacle at City, and that's one of their biggest problems. Fans are already claiming they will be one of the richest clubs in the world, capable of competing with the big boys of Europe, but at what expense to the club?

Inflated wages and transfer fees are a guarantee, if £4m a year wages for Robinho and a supposed £134m future bid for Cristiano Ronaldo is anything to go by.

This, coupled with the lack of financial infrastructure at the club—even considering what the Abu Dhabi group plan to pump in—can only mean one thing for the club.


More debt than Chelsea and Man Utd, and as a club independent from the Dhabi Group, City would be totally unsustainable as a business.

There would be absolutely no possibility of making a profit on anything from shirt sales to season tickets, for as long as the club sees it as ideal and realistic to bid over £100m for one player.

Unfortunately, City's new owners will learn the hard way that football just doesn't work the way they imagine. Experiencing a change of manager, before the club even get its feet off the ground, and not finishing in the top four this season will be part of this learning curve.

Expect the fans to protest and turn on the board when it happens, much like events in the aftermath of Thaksin Shinawatra sacking Sven-Goran Eriksson. And expect new Arab sponsors and even Arabic players at the club.

I've watched City fans celebrating over the past couple of days, blinded by the fact that their club is already losing its true identity.

The red lights clearly aren't flashing for the Blues faithful, and things will get a lot worse before they start to get better.


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