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Roberto Mancini Matters, Not the Millions of Manchester City

They say you can buy a team of champions, but not a championship team. The consensus is that Manchester City, currently two points clear of their rivals Manchester United, is that if they do claim the Premier League, they would have “bought” it.

That’s far from a fair comment. There’s no questioning that spending power helps in modern football; merely look at the success of Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea over the last few years. Spending millions on players doesn’t guarantee success though. So it doesn’t matter if City decides to spend another $50 million on Kaka, Pastore or Ibrahimovic and so forth, it won’t mean that they’ll stroll and take the League championship.

To do that, you’ll need that special individual to make it all work: the manager. How important is Roberto Mancini to City? History tells us that without a top-class manager, regardless of the millions, teams won’t go anywhere.

It all started with Real Madrid’s Galaticos. During Florentino Perez’s first reign, he brought in superstars Luis Figo, Zidane and Ronaldo. The first couple of years, they dominated the game, winning two La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies. Their success though was attributed to manager Vincente Del Bosque. However, that faithful day came: Del Bosque left and Madrid went through five managers in three seasons, resulting in no trophies, before Perez left.

Now in his second spell at the club, Perez brought in the successful Mourinho who has crafted a superb team in two seasons. Would Madrid be this good without him? Manuel Pellegrini couldn’t do it in his first season but Mourinho has made the team gel together, tactically and mentality. They are sure to reclaim La Liga this year.

Mourinho was part of another revolution at Chelsea. In his first two seasons with the club, Abramovich happily spent £70million on players. Would they have won without Mourinho at the helm? Seems unlikely. Chelsea has had five managers since and none of them have been able to control a team littered with stars.

Roberto Mancini deserves all the credit if Manchester City takes the title. Since his arrival, he’s built a squad in his own image: hard working, defensively strong and a desire to win at all costs. He arrived with a squad dismally created under Mark Hughes. Hughes seemed to want to create a team based around playing an English brand of football. Mancini though knew what was needed: a team build around a disciplined, steel-like defence. Critics were on him like vultures saying he was too “pragmatic.” And at times he was, but he was doing it for the long term, knowing it would be the backbone to success.

Now during this second full season, his team know what it is expected of them. The players know that their defensive efforts come first. One can notice the change in James Milner. In and out of the team in his first season, he’s now considered a regular. Milner isn’t a super player and doesn’t offer much in terms of creativity or spark, but he does offer a determination and hard running. Mancini has moulded his players in this fashion. Milner pointed out that new summer signing Gael Clichy was shocked when he first arrived at City because he was surprised that the players were tackling a lot in training because Arsenal didn’t do that too much. After the 6-1 thrashing of United at Old Trafford, keeper Joe Hart said “I was annoyed. You can get carried away with the result, but we let in a goal. It kills me to let one in, it kills all of us.”

People argue that Mancini still has used large sums of money to get the quality players and build a fabulous team. No one is arguing that. Yet with so many high profile players, Mancini has managed to keep them all happy and more importantly playing for the team. When trouble has arisen through the season, Mancini has sorted it the same way he has sorted out his team: Through discipline. Everyone already knows the case of Carlos Tevez: His banishment and now his return. Everyone knows about Mario Balotelli’s antics and how this season, he’s been less (to an extent) of a troublemaker.

A lesser manager would have crumbled underneath all this pressure of player revolts, big name stars and media criticism. Mancini though is just like the player he was has taken it in his stride: A determined, disciplined individual with a winning passion. The Italian has created a team worthy of winning the Premier League, and if they do overcome their great rivals and take the crown, it’s not the money that everyone should be praising, it’s Mancini.

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  1. Sam

    March 11, 2012 at 3:16 am

    Mancini is important but to say that other top managers wouldn’t have done the same or more is crazy. Imagine mourinho, wenger, sir alex, hiddink etc. with the squad mancini had when he arrived and then the money mancini spent.
    They have the best squad in the league by far and possibly the best squad in europe (notice i didn’t say first eleven but squad).
    While I agree that say mark hughes wouldn’t have done as well this season with city, others would have. Rotating 20-30 million players is a luxury that only he has in this league.

    I think mancini will lead city to the league this year and i expect them to do better in europe next year. Real question is how he can keep the squad happy when big money players dont play much and want to leave etc.

  2. Taylor

    March 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    It’s the combination of both. Mancini won titles at Inter but Inter is also a rich club.

    Actually the main reason Madrid failed to retain their trophies was they lost their midfield engine, Claude Makalele. When Beckham moved to Madrid and Madrid sold Makalele, Zidane said “Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?”

    I don’t agree that the squad was created dismally by Mark Hughes. Vincent Kompany (the current captain) and Pablo Zabaleta were Hughes’ first signings. Nigel de Jong, Kolo Toure and Gareth Barry were also his signings. Shay Givens was an excellent goalkeeper before Hart took over. Mancini is probably a better manager than Hughes but Hughes left several good players too. You can add that Adebayor and Bellamy could be useful if they stayed with City.

  3. David

    March 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Mourinho won a Uefa Cup and Champions League with Porto, a team has a policy of buying cheap and selling high. In my opinion he is the greatest manager ever but Mancini is probably the only manager that can keep Ballotelli in check, Mourinho had problems with him and jsut basically kept him on the bench because of it.

  4. FCAsheville

    March 7, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Still, it’s the money….the money for the players and the money to buy one of the 3-4 managers in the world who can handle such a squad.

    • jack

      March 7, 2012 at 11:35 pm

      Yeah, like when Mancini managed a bankrupt Lazio and a bankrupt Fiorentina to both cup successes and record league finishes.

  5. Mark

    March 7, 2012 at 11:05 am

    ♫Money, money, money, mooooonay, money….♫

  6. KT

    March 7, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Credit: 90% money (which equals players), 10% mancini.

  7. Guy

    March 7, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Nice write-up. I think too often we get blinded by the money aspect of things and don’t give proper credit to a manager who has taken disparate parts and molded them together into a well oiled machine.

    Does anyone actually think Man Utd would have been who they are without SAF?

    • old33

      March 7, 2012 at 11:51 am

      Absolutely agree with that point. All the talent in the world doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t do anything with it. The manager develops and maintains it and it is his job to ensure it is realized, or developed even further.

  8. raok

    March 7, 2012 at 10:47 am

    He’s a fine manager, sure, no doubt about it but it doesn’t mean that he has built a team, he bought it, spending obscene amounts of money.

    • Why?

      March 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      raok, You do know that Wenger has bought near enough every single one of the players (18) that were in the squad against Newcastle don’t you and you do know they weren’t exactly cheap? Is it OK if it’s your team is it then called ‘building’? As the way you tell people ‘it doesn’t mean that he has built a team, he bought it, spending obscene amounts of money.’ looks like your insinuating Wenger took players as 10 year olds from housing estates all round the World lol, well news flash he didn’t! Talk about getting on your high horse!
      How many City fans were on blogs spewing bitterness like you and your pals do day after day? I’ll tell you not a single one. Funny how massive spending Clubs (yes Arsenal were and still are one!) fans hate it if others spend more. Why are they so full of what can only be jealousy? £16m for a 16 year old in 2006 (is that not obscene enough for you?) while City were spending £2.4m on their whole transfer budget in fact they sold over £3m worth that year! So did you think Arsenal’s vastly more expensive team was obscene?

  9. jtm371

    March 7, 2012 at 10:22 am

    lets see how great he is after the 11 matches left.he has done well up till now.disappointed in the tevez deal if someone calls me a liar i don’t think he is on the team it is called respect.oh well it will be fun to watch

  10. jack

    March 7, 2012 at 10:21 am

    He was proven an elite manager in Italy…not England.


  11. David G

    March 7, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Pretty sure it’s the money everyone should be praising

  12. dbm

    March 7, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I think Mancini has proven himself to be an elite manager this year regardless if City win the league or not this year. Just being able to handle this squad is enough of a task, but to be able to do with the calm Mancini shows week in and out is impressive. Wearing the sky blue scarf from the very beginning was a nice touch of class also.

  13. evan

    March 7, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Great article giving Mancini the praise he deserves.

    I can’t think of any other manager that would do a better job at City than Mancini is currently doing. He handles everything with class off the pitch and usually gets everything right on the pitch.

    There have been many people waiting for a meltdown at City for the past two years. They thought it was impossible for a club to win with “so many egos”.

    Mancini has completely disproved them and even if City don’t win the title, it will be depressing for us city fans, but we can still look back at a record breaking season where we have only been off top spot 2 or 3 times all season.

    I’m just glad Chelsea didn’t take Mancini. They probably would have fired him though.

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