Tuesday, February 3, 2009

City Untempted By Insanity

Intelligence, not desperation, ultimately prevailed in January for Manchester City and their rich owners, despite failing to pry Kaka from AC Milan.

The pursuit of the pricey Brazilian was mostly maligned by players and cynics, positing Doomsday theories for the Premier League and shaming City's almost superfluous bid.

Kaka chose to stay, which was probably the right decision for him, but it doesn't mean City were wrong to attempt.

While their audacious delegation to Italy failed, City succeeded to legitimize their status as an emerging top flight club. It was widely reported that Milan had accepted the bid, only for the player to decline the offer. As AC Milan took them quite seriously, Premier League teams may soon need to.

Instead of solely focusing on the Kaka saga with the rest of the world, the Sky Blues of Manchester finally addressed a defense that needed shoring for some time.

Nigel De Jong, the touted holding midfielder from Hamburg, was a rare prize in the European market. At 24, the Dutchman international has two qualities often not paired: steel and youth. His two performances for City confirmed his potential; his 30 caps for the Netherlands were also an indicator.

Finding a young midfielder, with experience, who can get stuck in, distribute the ball, and won't be overawed is a high prize and a rarity around the league, especially as 4-5-1 formations ring out among teams struggling to cope with the five or six premier clubs in the top flight.

City added a consistent performer to their defense when they signed the underused Wayne Bridge from Chelsea.

The 28-year-old Englishman suffered the last four years playing behind the more fashionable Ashley Cole. Now in Manchester, Bridge will provide some natural width to a seriously lacking defense. He should resume his contention for the national team with regular playing time, which benefits the club's stature and brings pride to English fans.

The arrival of Craig Bellamy is something many fans have had to cope with. The forward once described by Newcastle legend Bobby Robson as "a man who could start a fight in an empty room" is therefore a very well-travelled man, in fact, now at his eighth professional club.

But, City really only need him the 29-year old this season—while he's in form, and before he gets injured—to reach the UEFA Cup spot they so desperately require to attract top-class talent in the summer. Such talent would then replace Bellamy.

Their final move of the window was quite a coup in itself, when City signed want-away Shay Given from the dysfunction of Newcastle. Given was a stalwart for the Magpies over the last decade, one of the few solids at an ever-changing club, during which time only Brad Friedal could claim to have enjoyed more consistently dominant form at the goalkeeper than the Irishman.

Entoto, City's moves during the window were much more pragmatic than most people suspected and some cynics hoped.

Being so ostentatiously rich meant other clubs saw them coming from miles away in their transfer pursuits. But, City weren't held hostage, and didn't pay especially exorbitant kitties, even though the wealth and willingness of the new owners was well-advertised.

City look certain to continue their quest to bolster ranks in the summer, where big-money deals are more viable as players consider the contrast in green of grasses on different pitches across Europe. Of course, the field at City of Manchester Stadium is rooted in boundless Arab cash, giving it a unique tint with a certain, added allure.

But in order to truly land the world's elite talent, City cannot waste time in proving prove their sincerity on the pitch, where, for 90 minutes, money has no bearing.

And with the sensible additions of the goalkeeper Given, the tackling midfielder De Jong, an in-form Bellamy, and an experienced left-back in Bridge, Manchester City are the most improved side in the England top flight during the January window.

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