When the Vedran Corluka story broke on Thursday, it seemed nothing more than transfer speculation hitting the news wires, stoked by the usual rumour mongers and agents, desperately trying to earn a bit of corn for themselves, pushing a transfer through. Manchester City denied it, Tottenham didn’t mention it and Mark Hughes came out and said that he had no interest in selling any of his first choice players. Another statement was released last night to the same effect.
Later on Friday, Hughes once again had to came out and said that the owner, Thaksin Shinawatra, had no interest in selling the club and was committed to Manchester City in the long term. Don’t forget it’s only 6 weeks ago they signed Jo for a club record fee of £19 million pounds, adding Ben Haim to the squad on the 1st August for a further £5million as well as chasing Ronaldinho most of the summer too. Surely Manchester City can’t really be facing financial meltdown?
Yet, on further investigation things began to unravel on Friday evening. Corluka was to join Tottenham for the exact amount that City had paid for him a year earlier and on Saturday afternoon, Corluka travelled to London to complete his transfer to Spurs. To all intents and purposes, Corluka is now a Tottenham player but the deal has yet to be announced to the stock market. Corluka’s agent has also confirmed the deal has been completed but City are refusing to release the players registration. Spurs are apparently considering legal action to force the release of the player.
Prior to the Saturdays match, rumours then broke regarding Stephen Ireland, who was nowhere to be seen in the build up to the friendly against AC Milan, was concluding a transfer to Sunderland. This was obviously against the wishes of Hughes who had only found out when he arrived at the ground that Ireland had been sent to Sunderland to discuss contract terms. He quickly called him back to Eastlands to discuss the situation further.
Sunday then saw stories circulating that Shinawatra was not going to return to Thailand to stand trial in the court case against him for corruption charges but nothing was concrete or official until Monday morning. Shinawatra has indeed released a statement stating that “He and his wife would be staying in the UK where democracy is more important”. The Thailand Supreme Court has now issued an arrest warrant for him, making him an international fugitive, which now causes issues with the Premiership’s fit and proper person test. The British Home Office has yet to receive an application for political asylum at present.
Add to this fact that all City’s new arrivals are being paid for in installments and payments have now begun to bounce, the club don’t own the Eastlands ground, so can’t use that as collateral to raise funds and the £200 million loan that Shinawatra borrowed on the proviso that his frozen assets would be released is also due for payment and the worries begin to grow for this great club. Any new buyer would have to pay at least £200 million immediately to clear Shinawatra’s debt’s and make the club secure and the current financial climate doesn’t make an immediate rescue package seem too viable.
How will Mark Hughes feel in this situation is anyone’s guess, but you have to feel sorry for him if this scenario is as real as some people are making out. He came to Manchester City to improve his standing as a manager and push himself on to a different level, this could force him into reconsidering his position as manager. Being in charge of an owner’s firesale didn’t appear on the application form.
Whilst this could all be a massive misunderstanding, under the surface, things do not sound good. In fact, things seem to be taking a similar route to that which befell Leeds United several years ago but Leeds had tangible assets to try and raise some funds. Other than the playing staff, some of whom they still don’t own, City don’t have anything to sell. With 5 days left to go until the start of the season, it seems bad things are afoot at Manchester City and I have heard that some people feel the club has two weeks left as a football club. Let’s hope that this isn’t true and City can hold on to what they have in these difficult times.