Manchester City and The Beauty Of The Beautiful Game

Andre BarrinhaContributor ISeptember 14, 2008

The recent acquisition of Manchester City has attracted the headlines for the amount of money the new owners are willing to invest in the club.

For the City fans this goes even beyond fiction. Used to live with small victories, always under the shadow of the big neighbour, City fans are now hopeful of a Golden Era, of a squad full of international superstars, able to defeat any side on the face of the earth.

Robinho seems to be the first of many. Maybe in January or next season at the latest, we might see Man City with the likes of Torres, Ronaldo, and Villa, who knows? 

If football was a science, we just had to put the best players in the world on the same team that results would come. After all, if they were the best...

The problem is, football is not a science and I can think of at least three reasons to actually think that many famous players don't produce a great team.

The Galacticos legacy. It was probably the most ambitious attempt in the history of football to bring together a team full of superstars.

When Florentino Pérez won the elections at Real Madrid and became president of the club, he initiated the Zidanes y Pavones policy in which the team should, from then on, be composed of great international stars (the Zidanes), with the addition of home-grown talent (the Pavones).

On paper this looked a great idea, as it would simultaneously bring famous players to Madrid while at same time continuing to produce world-class local players. The first one to arrive was Figo, followed by Zidane, Ronaldo, Beckham, and Michael Owen, among others.

It all went well at the beginning, with a limited number of galacticos (Figo, Zidane and Ronaldo) and a local manager, Vicente Del Bosque, which was able to balance the stars with the rest of the squad.

After 2003, though it all went wrong, with the increasing number of Zidanes and a decreasing number of Pavones. By 2006, Pérez would resign after failing to materialise the financial success of such policy into concrete results. 

Football is a hierarchical team game. For all the Maradonas, Pelés, and Zidanes of this world, you will always need a team that is good enough to support the individual efforts.

Football teams are divided between those that work and those that entertain and score. Stars might do some of the working too, but that's not what they're really paid for. They are there to shine, but if everybody else is there for the same reason, nobody will shine, and nobody will do the 'dirty' work either. A lose-lose situation that you can usually confirm by the score at the end.

Football is not a fair game. In rugby, cricket, basketball, American football, and many other sports, you usually translate your higher quality into points and wins. Not in football.

A good defensive system can guarantee a draw, even if your striker has only one leg. A team can have ball possession for 80% of the time during a match, just concede one shot and still lose 1-0. It is quite common for teams with much low budgets to finish in a good league position or to win a trophy against a much stronger side. 

All of this to conclude that in football there can be something as weird as situations of 'over-investment'.

There is only so much that an owner can invest in order to make the team win. The rest is up to how the players adapt to each other, how the manager handles the team, how the other teams react to your own team, and yes, it is also about luck, about that ball that hits the bar and bounces in, about the shot that is deflected and shaves the post, about the goalkeeper that has a bad day.

That is why football is the beautiful game.  

So, if I was a City fan, I would certainly be happy to see some international stars playing for the team, but hopefully not too many.