It’s all about the money
Emmanuel Adebayor (pictured) looks likely to join Carlos Tevez at Manchester City this week, becoming another member of that exclusive group of players seeking a fresh challenge at the City of Manchester Stadium. And that challenge is: how can they spend all that money?
It is easy to be cynical about Mark Hughes’s summer recruitment drive. But that shouldn’t necessarily stop us. Here are two players well established at Champions League clubs joining an outfit whose access to Europe this coming season will be confined to the occasional booze cruise. At Eastlands they will meet up with Gareth Barry, a man who last summer said he needed to leave Aston Villa for Liverpool because playing regularly in the Champions League was his “best way of solidifying” his England place, only to head for a club not even in the Europa League 12 months later.
And the three of them may well be joined soon by John Terry, who is being tempted northwards by a wad reckoned to be in excess of £200,000 a week. Hughes claimed that the decision Terry has to make about moving from Chelsea is about “reigniting his career”. It is most definitely “not about money”. Which must rank as the most disingenuous statement of this most disingenuous of transfer seasons. “Not about money”? Sure, just as Andrew Strauss’s dispatch of the physio to treat a clearly fully fit and functioning James Anderson during the last session of Sunday’s extraordinary Ashes test was “not about time-wasting”.
It is all about money. But then it always is. When Antonio Valencia joined Manchester United from Wigan it was accepted by most fans that he was doing so, as he said, to further his ambition. He was arriving at the Premier League champions, he would be playing in the Champions League, alongside some of the country’s most accomplished professionals. But we can all agree the chances of him taking a pay cut in order to do so are minimal. The fact is, Valencia’s salary will have gone up in direct correlation to his ambition.
And yet we fans seem not to see that. Distraught Wigan followers apart, we accept Valencia’s need for self-improvement while at the same time mocking Adebayor and Tevez’s talk of leading the City revolution as little more than a flimsy cover for their greed. You imagine that Barry’s return to Villa Park with City on October 5 will be soundtracked by something a little more pointed than a happy acknowledgment that his career needed the impetus of the move.
But think of it this way. If – for instance – we accept that the only legitimate transfer for a decent player is to go to a Champions League club, because that is the only way we can be sure he is achieving his aim of self-improvement, then the cosy quartet at the top of the Premier League are safe; they will be the only clubs able to hoover up the talent. How else can a club like City expect to break into that cartel except by attracting the best players? And when they have nothing to offer except money in order to do so, what else can they do but to proffer it in huge quantities? As Vito Corleone demonstrated, you can go a long way by making an offer they can’t refuse.
As it happens, I think it takes more than that and that Mark Hughes is playing a blinder this summer. Despite what we bitter and impoverished cynics might think, attracting players capable of playing anywhere in the world is not easy when all you have to sell is an increase to their bank balance, if for no other reason than because all of them are capable of increasing their money wherever they head. Hughes is clearly a good salesman as well as a good buyer. With his squad now boasting five serious forwards (though the rumour is one of them – Craig Bellamy – may already be on his way to Sunderland), a couple of good midfielders and a solid keeper, should he add Terry to his defence, he will have some team.
There is every chance, if his recruitment drive continues along this path, that next season will belong to City. The summer is already theirs.