Manchester City have money to blow. We know that. Constantly, huge figures are thrown about in relation to the price of their squad, players’ wages, sponsorship deals, etc. Sometimes this is done in anger, with people taking a similar stance to when Abramovich helped to fund Chelsea’s success a few years ago. Chelsea were accused of buying the title, as the Russian billionaire’s money was used to pay for the best players around. Rightly or wrongly, it happened.
To be successful you need to win matches. And to win matches you need to score goals. The importance of top quality strikers, therefore, is vital for any team wanting to challenge for the league. Let’s go back to Stamford Bridge for a moment. Chelsea signed Fernando Torres from Liverpool in January for £50 million, a new British transfer record which made the Spaniard the fourth most expensive footballer in history. Torres infamously only managed to score one goal for the Blues before the end of the season. He may not have proved his worth yet, but his overall goalscoring record is there for all to see.
Even the season before Sheikh Mansour bought Manchester City (2007/08), the club’s purchases illustrated the significance of goalscorers. Over £20 million was spent on attackers that summer, with almost a further £10 million used to buy forwards in the January window. Elano was arguably the most notable signing, an £8 million Brazilian from Shakhtar Donetsk, who went on to finish the season as the club’s top scorer. Rolando Bianchi, Valeri Bojinov and Felipe Caicedo eventually found themselves playing elsewhere in Europe, whilst Benjani went on loan to Sunderland, followed by a brief spell with Blackburn.
City’s first summer signing of 2008 was understandably overshadowed by his compatriot who would sign in at the club almost exactly two months later. Brazilian striker João Alves de Assis Silva, more commonly known as Jô, was an £18 million purchase from CSKA Moscow. This was a record transfer fee for Man City at the time, and there was much hope for the young forward who had an impressive ratio of more than a goal every two games in Russia. Unfortunately, after two loan spells with Everton and one in Turkey with Galatasaray, he moved back to Brazil with Internacional, having scored only six goals for the Manchester club.
Following a total summer spending spree of around £40 million in 2007, the revolution at Manchester City would begin in a year’s time, when more than three quarters of that figure was spent on a single player. Immediately following a takeover of the club by Abu Dhabi United Group on 1st September 2008, the final day of the Premier League summer transfer window, Robinho completed a sensational £32.5 million move to Man City from Real Madrid. This was in a summer where City spent roughly twice as much as they had done a year earlier, with the Robinho deal breaking the British transfer record and only being surpassed in January 2011. The Brazilian forward would enjoy a successful debut season with City, finishing as the club’s top goalscorer and the fourth top scorer in the league. However, an injury during his second season in Manchester limited him to only twelve appearances, in which a single goal in the FA Cup was the best he managed to deliver. A loan move soon followed, as the deadline day record-breaker returned to his native Brazil to play for home club Santos. This was effectively the end of Robinho’s career at City, who had stated that he was seeking a move away. Upon his return to England with two medals, having won the Brazilian league and cup, he would move to AC Milan for a fee of less than half of what City had paid for him. No stranger to success, Robinho won the league with Santos twice before leaving the first time, won La Liga with Real Madrid in both 2007 and 2008, as well as playing a huge part in AC Milan regaining the Scudetto from bitter rivals Inter in his first season at the San Siro. That leaves Manchester City with the unwanted statistic of being the only club he has played for where he was unable to win any silverware. In his only full season in the Premier League, City’s biggest achievement was reaching the quarter-final stage of the UEFA Cup; they finished tenth in the league and were knocked out of both domestic cups by losing their first game in each competition. Not exactly what the club’s Arab investment company owners had hoped for.
After a disappointing campaign, new signings were imminent in the build-up to the 2009/10 season. In a complete overhaul of their squad, City spent around £120 million on transfers. In two years their summer spending had trebled, but it was now that success started to seem more likely. This success, however, had little to do with someone who is now Paraguay’s joint all-time leading goalscorer. Roque Santa Cruz signed in at Manchester City from Blackburn Rovers for a fee in the region of £18 million. This makes him the cheapest striker the club have signed since 2009 (excluding free transfers). Yet, somehow, he is still the biggest waste of money. Having made 24 appearances in all competitions for City and scoring only four times, it is no wonder that Santa Cruz does not feature in Roberto Mancini’s plans. The five-time Bundesliga winner saw out the end of last season back at Blackburn, where he failed to score a single goal.
With the club signing two other more expensive strikers in the same month as him, perhaps Santa Cruz wasn’t really given a fair chance at City. A fellow South American, Carlos Tévez was involved in the biggest move of the summer. After a transfer saga revolving around the player’s ownership by Media Sports Investments, Tévez became the first player in ten years to switch from Manchester United to their cross-town rivals, City. He had gone from hero to villain for United fans, as he scored twice to help City defeat the Red Devils in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final. This was followed up by him taunting his former club, much to the joy of the City faithful. After an impressive debut season, Mancini made the Argentinean club captain. Only a few months later, however, Tévez would controversially hand in a written transfer request. The club rejected this and the request was later withdrawn, with Tévez declaring his ‘absolute commitment’ to Manchester City. In 2011 he led a City team out to victory at Wembley in the FA Cup final, whilst finishing the season as the joint winner of the Premier League Golden Boot. His City career has been a massive success, with 52 goals in 81 appearances. Where Carlos Tévez’s future lies, however, is yet to be seen.
Emmanuel Adebayor was the third striker signed by City in July 2009. As well as the £25 million transfer fee, the Togo international was similar to Carlos Tévez in that he too was already well established in the Premier League, having spent the previous three and a half years with Arsenal. His career in Manchester started brightly, as he scored in his first four games for the club. The final goal in the streak came against the Gunners and was certainly the most significant. Adebayor ran almost the full length of the pitch to celebrate in front of his former club’s supporters, a hugely controversial act that infuriated the attending Arsenal fans. As well as a yellow card from the referee, he received a lot of criticism for his blatant incitement of the crowd. Despite avoiding further punishment for his celebration, the Togolese forward would be handed a three-match suspension after being found guilty of violent conduct against former strike partner Robin van Persie. Adebayor’s career at the club gradually began to decline after the incident, as he failed to build on his early signs of promise. Unneeded at City, he somehow found himself on loan at Real Madrid for the final few months of the 2010/2011 season. It was here that he enjoyed his first and currently only taste of silverware, as the Spanish giants won the Copa del Rey.
Mario Balotelli. Where to start? Football fans all around the world know his name. Not bad for somebody who has only just turned 21 years of age? Admittedly, Balotelli is not always in the headlines for the right reasons. But, if you look past the negativity that surrounds him, there are some important facts. Mario Balotelli has won three Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, one Champions League and one FA Cup. His senior career began at the age of fifteen and within a year he was picked up by Inter Milan, initially joining on loan before making a permanent switch from Lumezzane. He made his debut for the Nerazzurri in December 2007, just over three months after his seventeenth birthday. A strained relationship with José Mourinho would follow, who was not impressed by Balotelli’s attitude to training and accused him of showing a lack of effort. So what would the striker do next to prove himself to his manager and the Inter fans? Wearing an AC Milan shirt on national television was seemingly not the solution to his problems and did little to help him regain any support. It was merely a signal that something was not right. The final straw came against Barcelona in the semi-final of the Champions League, where, after being booed by Inter fans during the match, Balotelli threw his shirt to the ground as he left the pitch. This, however, would not dissuade former boss Roberto Mancini from signing him for Manchester City for a fee of around £24 million. Having managed him whilst at Inter, Mancini knew what he was buying. Balotelli just managed double figures in his debut campaign with ten goals, having played only 28 games in all competitions due to injury and suspension. A couple of red cards were low points in the season, particularly against Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League, which ultimately cost City progression to the quarter-final stage of a competition they could have won. However, his flaws were all forgotten by the final whistle of the 2011 FA Cup final (by City fans anyway), as he put in a man of the match display to help the club to victory over Stoke to win their first trophy in 35 years.
City’s big signing of the 2011 January transfer window was Edin Džeko, who avoided much of the spotlight due to a certain Spaniard’s departure from Liverpool that same month. A record of 85 goals in 138 appearances for Wolfsburg was one of the main reasons Man City sought the Bosnian’s services, which they paid £27 million for, almost seven times the amount the German club had bought him for originally. Džeko was unable to establish himself a regular place in the team and finished the season with six goals for City in 21 appearances. Only two of these were in the league; the first was against Blackburn, ensuring his new club would have a chance to play in this season’s Champions League, whilst the second against Bolton helped them snatch third place from Arsenal and send them directly to the group stages of the competition. His other goals included a double in the Europa League, as well as scoring in both FA Cup matches against Notts County on City’s road to Wembley. Although he held hero status temporarily after scoring in the Community Shield against United, the goal lost some significance as City went on to lose the match to their bitter rivals. Ultimately, Džeko needs to prove his worth this season and continue to force his way into the starting eleven.
The latest forward to arrive at Manchester City broke the club’s transfer record, signing from Atlético Madrid for a fee in the region of £35 million. Sergio Agüero was already well established in Spain with over 230 appearances for Los Colchoneros, scoring more than a century of goals for the Madrid club. In fact, the young striker rarely missed a game after he joined from Independiente in 2006. Vital to the success of Atlético, he has scored at least 20 goals a season since 2007/08, as well as consistently racking up an impressive number of assists. He made his debut for the senior Argentinean national team at the age of eighteen, but has so far found it hard to stand out with the emergence of Lionel Messi, who he won the FIFA U-20 World Cup with in 2005. Agüero did gain some media attention in 2009, when he became the son-in-law of Diego Maradona by marrying the youngest daughter of the Argentina legend. Having been a top player in La Liga for a few seasons now, does Agüero have what it takes to cut it in England’s top flight? Premier League debutants Swansea were the first team to come up against him, as the fellow newcomer bagged a brace within 23 minutes of being on the pitch. It’s easy to get carried away with all the hype, especially with there now being so many expectations of City. But this is someone whose performances could shape what promises to be the club’s most exciting season ever.