Archive for the ‘Manchester City’ Category

Liverpool's Sturridge celebrates with teammates Gerrard and Henderson after scoring a goal during their English Premier League soccer match against Sunderland at Anfield in Liverpool


Devang Desai, Richard Whittall and James Bigg sit down to talk about another Manchester Derby dominated by City, the future of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and Bayern Munich’s latest triumph.

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Arsenal v Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Second Round First Leg

Devang Desai, Richard Whittall and James Bigg sit down to talk about this week’s Champions League action, including red card misery for a pair of Premier League clubs, PSG’s chances of winning it all and Adel Taarabt’s rejuvenation.

You can download the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here. You can also find the RSS Feed here.

Manchester City's owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan waves with chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak ahead of their English Premier League soccer match at the City of Manchester stadium in Manchester

Yesterday Manchester City released their annual financial results, which you can read for yourself here. The takeaway from all this is that City posted losses of £51.6m for the 2012-13 season, down from £97.9m the previous season. The release of course raised questions over City’s ability to meet Financial Fair Play requirements, which require clubs to break even if they want to receive their UEFA license allowing them to participate in European competitions like the Champions League.

Now, I’m not going to lie. Talking about Financial Fair Play is very complicated. If I make a slight error here, please let me know as soon as possible and I’ll clear it up.

Anyway, City contend they are not likely to fall foul of UEFA’s FFP’s provisions, and they may not. There are five main reasons for this.

The first involves UEFA’s ‘acceptable deviation’ rule, which will help grandfather in FFP in order for certain clubs to get their books in order. This allows teams to post aggregate losses over two seasons (switching to 3 for the next reporting period), so long as the owners make equity payments to cover them, which shouldn’t be a big problem for City. The excellent Swiss Ramble blog has a handy chart to illustrate how it works here. Jake Cohen also produced this handy chart to break it down in Euro amounts by season:

The second involves exceptions to FFP’s calculation of club spending, in order to promote “good” investments. Again, Swiss Ramble, whose work I have to once again stress is invaluable in understanding how all this works, explains what those exceptions include:

However, there are two major adjustments that need to be made to a club’s statutory accounts to get to UEFA’s break-even template: (a) remove any exceptional items from [the preceding reporting period], as they should not re-occur (by definition); (b) exclude expenses incurred for “healthy” investment, such as improving the stadium, training facilities or academy, which would lead to losses in the short-term, but will be beneficial for the club in the long-term.

Third, City have also (ingeniously or evilly, depending on your worldview) further reduced their losses through the sale of ‘intellectual property’ to the tune of £42m. The Independent fills in the details on how that amount is broken down:

The first is the sale of the club’s image rights to an external company, which has reaped City £24.5m. The second is the sale of City’s services to the other clubs which it owns – the New York FC franchise which it launched last year, along with the new Melbourne Heart franchise and Manchester City Ladies FC. That “sale of intellectual property to related parties” brought the club another £22.45m and is vital to City getting anywhere near complying with Uefa’s regime.

No doubt UEFA will want to calculate “fair value” based on the market for these sales, but it’s not clear whether City are in the wrong here even though these deals include mutually owned assets. This one is pretty damn murky though.

Fourth, only for this first ever reporting period, UEFA will exclude pre-2010 player wages from the calculation if the clubs are reducing their losses over time. (Daniel Geey explains it all here). This could, according to at least one estimate, reduce expenses for City by a full £80 million in the first FFP reporting period.

Finally, despite all these rules UEFA notes it will make exceptions for clubs that are clearly working to reduce their losses. Despite the creative accounting here, City are clearly working to stay on the very generous ‘safe’ side of FFP.

I know. All this is enough to make anyone skeptical about the efficacy of the break even rules if clubs like City are given such a wide berth to meet them. But some things to keep in mind. First, the acceptable deviation for losses is going to shrink gradually over time, dipping somewhere below £30m by 2018-2019. Perhaps UEFA should set a very low amount now in order to further pressure clubs to reduce their losses.

Second, that pre-2010 wage exclusion thing only applies to the first reporting period, so City can’t do that again next time. So what appears to be a work-around is in fact only a temporary reprieve.

Third, with regard to those sponsorship deals, often involving companies with close ties to club owners (or owned by club owners), FFP lives and dies on the ability of UEFA to make a judgment call on what deals constitute ‘fair value’ based on the market and are free from ‘significant influence,’ which they define as “the power to participate in the financial and operating policy decisions of an entity.” If FFP can’t enforce this rule, than it may as well not exist.

Yet while City’s £400 million (in 2011 pounds) sponsorship deal with Etihad over 10 years may seem astronomically high, Arsenal signed a £150 million deal with Puma through 2019, which so far seems not to have a strong whiff of ‘significant influence.’ The same goes for Nike and Adidas’ competition for a deal with Man United. It’s not always as clear as cynical fans think it is when it comes to clubs exploiting their brand.

My advice therefore when talking about FFP is to think not only of this season and next season and the one after that, but ten seasons from now.


The Lead

David Conn of the Guardian has this morning published a long news column on Human Rights Watch allegations of torture and political suppression in the United Arab Emirates, and HRW’s claim that the regime’s ownership of Manchester City football club is meant to “launder” Abu Dhabi’s image:

Amnesty and HRW have stated that they believe torture is “a systematic practice” in Abu Dhabi and UAE state security jails, and that complaints that these men were tortured, including to extract confessions, have not been investigated. Amnesty said the trial showed “a deeply flawed judicial system” at odds with the “global image the UAE likes to project of itself as an efficient, forward-thinking country, which in many ways it is”.

HRW made specific reference to Manchester City, arguing that ownership of the Premier League club is enabling Abu Dhabi to “construct a public relations image of a progressive, dynamic Gulf state, which deflects attention from what is really going on in the country”.

That the UAE is not a haven for democrats, or that the nation’s government is not even-handed with regard to public opposition, is no great surprise. I personally think this will become more of an issue in the United States should New York City FC and MLS attempt once more to throw around political weight to get a stadium built in Flushing Meadows. The cat, however, is already out of the bag in England.

The issue here is HRW’s specific targeting of Man City as a propaganda vehicle to present a smiling face to the world. Had the Premier League countenanced a fit-and-proper-person’s test that included barring foreign nationals from nations with poor human rights’ records, then this would never have been an issue to begin with (and, there might be many more American owners).

I’m not certain the public is so naive about the power of mobile capital. Most people with on eye on the news are long used to the Real Politik which involves the West making allies with secular authoritarian governments in the Middle East in order to keep their Petrol-run economies moving. I also doubt many Mancunians in blue believe the UAE to be a political paradise because the owners were nice enough to buy David Silva and Yaya Toure. They might, however, choose to Fly Etihad on a good deal once in a while.

No doubt most progressive people don’t like the idea of foreign authoritarian regimes owning prized local institutions, even if that ownership brings with it titles that were once out of reach. But then there is a corollary to this story that must be mentioned: would most Mancunians be aware of, let alone concerned with, human rights abuses in the UAE had members of the regime never purchased a football club there? And has the UAE government not exposed itself to increased scrutiny in their attempt to “launder their brand”?


Jamie Redknapp asks you what you would do if you were Gareth Bale’s mom or dad. Yes. This was written. [Daily Mail].

Speaking of which, do the English press want Bale to leave Spurs? [ESPNFC].

Ticket sales up in the Scottish Premier League [BBC].

Liverpool FC’s list of offensive words they want to watch for at Anfield [the Telegraph].

Columbus Crew’s new owners have plans for the club [].

Neymar begs to get put on against Lechia Gdansk, and then is knocked around a while [Dirty Tackle].

In some ways it’s a shame that Bert Trautmann’s legacy mostly surrounds the game in which he played through a broken neck to help Manchester City on their way to a 1956 FA Cup victory, adding to the not-always-helpful hard man legacy that still lingers in the sport.

Because there is another, far more compelling thread in this career: how a former Luftwaffe radioman and paratrooper was signed by Manchester City not four years after the end of the Second World War. Trautmann was captured by British soldiers shortly after the invasion of Normandy and was eventually transported to a POW camp in Cheshire, and later in Lancashire. After his release in 1948, he declined an offer to repatriate and stayed in England. Meanwhile word spread of his abilities in goal for Liverpool County Combination club. And so, in 1949, he signed for Manchester City.

Trautmann, who died today at the age of 89, was the subject of threatened boycotts from City fans when he first arrived.

He recently spoke about his experience to

“I was accepted by the City players from my first day at the club and though there were some concerns and protests initially when the story broke that I was about to sign, I shall never forget the Manchester Rabbi quietening down the crowds and urging them to give me a chance.

The real challenge came though when City traveled to London to play Fulham at Craven Cottage. London had been heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe, and Trautmann and the club expected the worst from angry supporters. Instead, he performed incredible feats and was applauded off the pitch. “I suppose that played a big part in me being accepted as a player in England and the papers the following day sang my praises, saying it could have been eight or nine instead of the 1-0 it actually was,” explained Trautmann.

From there he became the first German to play in an FA Cup final, including of course the infamous 1956 final against Birmingham City in which he played incredibly with a broken neck.

One can of course look on this cynically, pointing to City’s decision to disregard recent wartime enemies for the sake of getting a good goalie on the cheap. But Trautmann, in some small way, was part of a longer, more difficult peace between Britain and Germany. Trautmann spoke to that too:

“I shall always be grateful for my time in England and my days with City. I was awarded the OBE not so long ago and I was the first ambassador between England and Germany after the War. I’ve been lucky enough to play in front of the most magnificent fans in the world and I’m still flabbergasted at the reception I receive each time and I still think, even today, that I have been a very lucky man.”

Sport is sport: it doesn’t heal the world or any such Blatterian nonsense. But football is often the signature game of domestic normalcy, and Trautmann should not only be remembered as football’s quintessential hard man, but one of its peacemakers, too.

Manchester City v Chelsea

The Lead

Here’s the thing: transfer rumours are total and utter bollocks. Agents make phone calls all the time, clubs pick up those calls, meetings are arranged, lunches are had, ideas proposed, numbers written down. At least that’s how I presume it works; I, like you, have no real idea. The press sometimes catches wind of these things and because we love rumours, it’s perfectly acceptable for everyone (and I mean everyone and anyone) to print this fantasy world of “what if.”

What is fun, at least for mega nerds like the guy writing this post, are final terms on transfer deals that actually happen. Often they don’t come to light, which is a shame. Today we got lucky: we know pretty much exactly how Carlos Tevez moved from Man City to Juventus. Here’s the Guardian:

Although the base fee is €9m for Tevez, this should rise to a minimum of €12m as a clause in the contract awards City an extra €1m a year for three years should Juventus qualify for the Champions League in each of those seasons. A further clause awards City €1m for every season Juventus win either the Champions League or Serie A over the course of Tevez’s contract, meaning the total transfer fee could end as high as €15m.

City will recoup a further total of £17m in saved wages and bonuses, meaning that, if Tevez does agree to the move, they will make a saving of about £27m which they can reinvest in the squad.

As Bobby McMahon pointed out on Twitter the other day, many observers made the mistake in seeing the €9 million figure and dropping their jaws over a generous deal for Juve. The real guts in this deal are the wages that City will no longer be paying out. Coupled with commercial revenue growth, it likely won’t bring City any closer to getting on the right side of UEFA’s FFP provisions, but then again the main thing is to demonstrate to UEFA they’re doing their level best to meet the requirements. Offloading Tevez’s enormous wage packet will certainly help. It’s a very smart deal, for both parties.

It used to be the case that good players had high transfer fee costs and wage demands, and clubs could either meet them or buy someone else. My hunch is even the revenue rich clubs will see the inefficiency of banking enormous percentages of healthy revenues on one or two star players come to an end. Something to keep in mind as Carlo Ancelotti takes the helm at Real Madrid, and Cristiano Ronaldo meets with Man United in the next few days.


Marina Hyde on how Sepp Blatter’ kicked off FIFA’s “Arab spring” [the Guardian].

This should never, ever happen under any circumstances: Posh thinks Beckham would make a good Bond [Daily Mail].

Could Andre Villas-Boas/Jose Mourinho be the Premier League’s newest grudge match? [Unibet].

Malaga CF v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final

Sitting in the dressing room after a game against Cobreandino in 1986, the Universidad de Chile defender Manuel Pellegrini came to a decision. After over a decade with the club and no one else, he felt it was time to hang up his boots and retire from playing. His mind had been made up by Bam Bam no less. Not the club-wielding child with superhuman strength from the Flintstones (that would just be silly). Rather the young striker nicknamed after him, hailed as football’s equivalent. “I decided to stop,” he recalled to La Gazzetta dello Sport’s Filippo Maria Ricci prior to Malaga’s game against Milan last October, “when an 18-year-old kid, who was shorter than me, towered over me and scored a header. He was called Iván Zamorano.”

Bam Bam would go on to become one of the best strikers of his generation anywhere in the world. Pellegrini didn’t know that at the time. How he chose to see it instead was that a kid had just shown him up, making him feel his age. And yet Pellegrini was only 33. Upon reflection it wasn’t that he was past it, more that Zamorano was simply a better jumper. “If I’d been able to look into the future I would have played another year,” Pellegrini admitted to the pink paper.

Alas he didn’t. And so Pellegrini arrived at a crossroads in his life. What was he going to do next? He didn’t lack options. As his sister recalled, growing up, “He was very good at maths and chess.” While playing, Pellegrini attended the Universidad Católica and graduated as a civil engineer at 26. To this day he is often referred to as the ingeniero. His wish, though, was to become an entrenador.

Brought up in a well-educated, well-to-do family, Pellegrini’s late father, who passed away before the second leg of Málaga’s Champions League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund in April, was wary. “He told me I’d die poor,” remembered Pellegrini. Not to be discouraged legend has it, he replied: “One day I’ll coach Real Madrid.” It would take over two decades but he’d do it. In the meantime, he had to start somewhere.

Towards the end of his playing days, Pellegrini travelled to Italy, where his grandfather hailed from, and headed for Coverciano, the country’s elite coaching school. Unable to take the famous super corso, which at the time was only open to Italians, Pellegrini could only observe but, as a formative experience, many of the things he saw there would stay with him.

His first job was back at Universidad de Chile. Things didn’t go as hoped. They were relegated for the first and only time in their history. Pellegrini resigned and started over with Palestino and O’Higgins before landing the post at Universidad Católica where he first tasted success as a coach, winning the Copa Chile. Runners’ up in his first season, Pellegrini was sacked during his second as the team fell nine points behind eventual winners’ Colo Colo.

Another spell at Palestino beckoned before leaving Chile to work abroad. Glory was to be found in Ecuador where Pellegrini claimed the league title with Liga de Quito, and in Argentina at San Lorenzo. There he put together a record breaking run of 13 straight wins and an unprecedented total of 47 points to take the Torneo Clausura. Flamengo, incidentally, were also beaten on penalties in the final of the Copa Mercasur.

On the back of his achievements in Boedo, Pellegrini was appointed by River Plate. He had the difficult job of replacing Ramón Díaz. To say it was a tall order is an understatement. Díaz had led River to every trophy there was to win: the Apertura on three occasions, the Clausura twice and the Copa Libertadores once. Many would have shirked the challenge. But not Pellegrini. He felt ready for it.

And so even with a young team featuring the fledgling Martín Demichelis, who he’d later sign for Málaga, Andrés D’Alessandro, subsequently of Portsmouth, and Fernando Cavenaghi, Pellegrini conjured another Clausura-winning outfit. River were top scorers and finished four points ahead of rivals Boca. Old favourites Marcelo Salas and Marcelo Gallardo were then brought back for the following Apertura and more kids, like Javier Mascherano and Maxí Lopez, came through. But an eighth place finish and a defeat to the relative unknown Cienciano of Peru in the final of the Copa Sudamericana 4-3 on aggregate heralded the end of Pellegrini’s time at the Centenario.

Impressed by what they’d seen and heard about him, Villarreal offered a chance to work in Europe. Promoted to La Liga in 1998 for the first time in the small town’s history, they’d gone straight back down, bounced back, were guided to seventh by Víctor Muñoz and then spent the next two seasons in a dangerous liaison with relegation before rising up to eighth again under Benito Floro.

The team Pellegrini inherited comprised Pepe Reina and of course Juan Román Riquelme. Added to it were Gonzalo Rodríguez, Juan Pablo Sorín and Diego Forlán, who replaced the veteran Sonny Anderson. In Pellegrini’s first season Villarreal won the Intertoto Cup, came third in La Liga and Forlán, who had been thought of as a flop at previous club Manchester United, was named the Pichichi, scoring 25 goals.

They qualified for the Champions League for the first time ever after knocking out Everton, managed by David Moyes, in the third preliminary round, then topped a group including his future club Manchester United, who, after only drawing 0-0 with Villarreal at El Madrigal and Old Trafford, finished bottom and were eliminated. Next Rangers were edged out on away goals in the Round of 16. So too were Inter, coached by Pellegrini’s predecessor at Manchester City Roberto Mancini, in the quarter-final.

It was fairytale stuff. Until, that is, the last minute of their semi-final second leg against Arsenal. Trailing by a goal to nil on aggregate, Gael Clichy, a player Pellegrini will be working with at the Etihad, pushed Jose Marí and gave away a penalty. Riquelme had a chance to level things from the spot. But Jens Lehmann saved his effort and clinched a place in the final for Arsenal.

It wasn’t the end for Villarreal. The miracles didn’t stop there. Those who thought they were worked by Riquelme were wrong. Their success was down to Pellegrini and a club with “the ideal model, an example in every respect,” he’d later tell El País’ Rafael Pineda. So when Riquelme returned late from his holidays, went AWOL, didn’t fancy it in training, complained of “injuries” and tried to pick which games he played, Villarreal backed the manager in dropping him, then got rid and were still successful without him. In 2008 they were runners’ up behind Real Madrid.

When Florentino Perez returned as president for a second term and entrusted his technical director, the great football aesthete Jorge Valdano, with finding a suitable candidate to replace caretaker Juande Ramos, he picked Pellegrini. He might not have been a big name. He still isn’t to some. But in so many respects Pellegrini was the right man for that job.

Valdano saw that. Elegant, polite, dignified, Pellegrini shared, understood and perhaps cared more about respecting and honoring Real’s values and traditions than his successor José Mourinho did. Perez didn’t see it, however. He had apparently wanted Arsene Wenger and had to be persuaded to appoint Pellegrini.

As such, the political support a new manager needs most in the White House wasn’t bequeathed to him, nor did he ever enjoy or attempt to wrestle for himself influence from others like Mourinho would do. Take transfers, for instance.

Since getting the City job one of the criticisms laid at Pellegrini’s door by an element of the English media is that in the year he was at the Bernabeu he spent 254m euro on Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso and several others and yet won nothing. To think he personally spent that money is terribly naive. It was Perez ushering in his second Galacticos era.

Pellegrini presumably wouldn’t have said ‘no’ to any of those players. But even so the one actual demand he did make—namely that Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben remain at the club—went unheeded. Both were sold and would go on to reach the Champions League final with their respective new clubs that season.

Revealing he hadn’t been listened to at the beginning of the campaign didn’t help things with Perez. When the Madrid press attacked Pellegrini, no one came out to defend him. Those attacks became greater in number and ever more disgraceful after Real were hammered 4-0 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie with Alcorcón from Spain’s Second Division B, Group II, then their elimination in the Champions League Round of 16 by Lyon and finally the 2-0 defeat they suffered to Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona at the Bernabeu.

Those results, particularly the first two, were costly exceptions to an otherwise more than decent season. Real finished with a club record 96 points even though they’d had to do without Ronaldo for more than two months and Pepe for six. The only issue was that Barça, and not just any Barça either, but arguably the greatest team of all-time, ended on 99 and Perez, after watching Mourinho knock them out of the Champions League with Inter, threw in his lot with him, a move seen by some to be desperate, a pact with the devil.

Being told where the door is by Real certainly under Perez shouldn’t necessarily reflect badly on a manager as even Mourinho would now like to make us believe now. This, remember, is the same president who fired Vicente del Bosque, a future World Cup and European Championship winner, after he’d delivered two league titles and two Champions League trophies in four years.

Pellegrini more than restored his reputation at Málaga, again taking a club to hitherto unknown heights: fourth place and qualification for the Champions League in his first full season then in spite of financial turmoil and the sale of many of their best players a remarkable run to the quarter-finals of that competition where they were only seconds away from knocking out Dortmund and making the last four.

Pellegrini has consistently overachieved in that tournament with teams around whom there is little or no expectation. He now joins one in City who have underachieved in it. Although expectations are high (and understandably so because of the money they’ve spent), there’s still, you feel, a sense that City are European outsiders, something that wasn’t the case when Pellegrini was with Real who are the establishment and are always among the favourites.

Winning the Champions League—and everything else—is the aim for City and while the pressure to see progress will be on, the trophy seems more of an aspiration and less of an all-consuming obsession to them than landing the 10th is to Real. Contending for such prestigious honors is still something relatively new to the more recent generations of City fans. They’re still grateful for it and are yet to act like spoiled children. While he obviously replaces the popular Mancini, Pellegrini should benefit from that mentality.

The backing of an ambitious but fair-minded rational owner and the presence of Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, directors who have faith in Pellegrini, who share the same vision of how football should be played certainly bodes well. While Pellegrini’s quiet authority might well contrast with City’s noisy neighbour tag, the lowering of the tones foreshadows a heightened competitiveness. It’s hard to think that they won’t be better next season. Pellegrini just might be the man to take the title back from United.