Manchester City normally make the best decisions. We’ve seen world class talents like Sergio Agüero, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, just to name a few, grace the Etihad surface. But we don’t always get it right, and here’s five players the club should not have sold.
#1 – Jadon Sancho:
With five goals and five assists at the U17 European Championship in 2017, Jadon Sancho cemented his status as one of England’s brightest youth prospects. The winger, who signed for Manchester City as a fourteen-year-old from Watford, was frustrated at not thereafter being part of Pep Guardiola’s pre-season squad that travelled to the United States.
After refusing to report for training, Sancho departed for Borussia Dortmund for a £10 million fee. Among City fans, there was apprehension that this may come back to haunt us. However, few would have predicted just how quickly this would transpire to be the case. Sancho has firmly established himself at the Westfalenstadion as one of the world’s best young players.
He recorded 12 goals and a league-high 14 assists in the Bundesliga last season. He has already won 11 international caps, scoring twice for England. Sancho’s development shows no signs of slowing and he has already scored or assisted more than a third of Dortmund’s 24 league goals so far.
Sancho is blessed with pace, dazzling feet, vision and an end product that suggests a maturity beyond his years. It is no wonder that Guardiola has been compelled to defend the player’s sale. Pep claimed that the decision was Sancho’s, and accused him of shirking the ‘challenge’ to ‘discover‘ if he was able to break into City’s first team. It is true that Sancho’s reluctance to sign a new contract explained his exclusion from the pre-season U.S. tour.
Given the significant development of Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane, Sancho’s absence has not been felt as acutely as it otherwise may have been. Nevertheless, the thought of Sancho in a City shirt, gathering a De Bruyne pass and breezing past defenders, inspires a sense of melancholy at what could have been. £10m may have seemed like a good price for a kid with no first team experience, but his value has risen at least tenfold since then.
City do have a deal that entitles them to match any offer deemed acceptable by Dortmund. Sancho could, albeit with the smashing of a few piggy banks in Abu Dhabi, still end up fulfilling his potential at the Etihad. Regardless, the whole saga surrounding his exit is probably the club’s greatest transfer blunder of the past decade.
#2 – Jerome Boateng:
I can’t be the only City fan who is guilty of sometimes forgetting that Boateng ever played for our club? Although, I imagine Boateng must himself sometimes forget that he was ever in Manchester, such was his meagre contribution. Boateng was highly rated prior to his arrival, and there was a sense of expectation surrounding his arrival from Hamburg in 2010.
However, he never seemed especially motivated in his time in England. This was encapsulated by his failure to endear himself to the match-going fans. Often deployed out of position at right back, he was rarely poor but never great. In his sixteen league appearances, Boateng was mediocre. His performances contrasted sharply with those of his fellow summer arrivals David Silva and Yaya Toure. Resultantly, most City fans were thankful simply to make a small profit when he left for Bayern Munich shortly after.
Seven Bundesliga titles, one Champions League and one World Cup later, it’s fair to say that Boateng has silenced the critics. The German blossomed into an athletic, robust and composed centre-back. A strong tackler with a keen eye for a pass, under Guardiola’s tutelage he won the German Footballer of the Year in 2016. Had City had more patience, and had Boateng displayed more enthusiasm, perhaps a formidable partnership could have emerged with Kompany.
Nevertheless, Boateng’s career will be memorialised not for the trophies but for that time when Lionel Messi decided to take his soul. Poor Jerome has never been the same since…
#3 – Stefan Savic:
Let us be clear here. It was painful to see Savic play for City. His performances were akin to watching a man try and swim in custard. His game against Liverpool at Anfield in the 2012 League Cup semi-final was possibly the worst performance I’ve ever seen in a City shirt. Roberto Mancini was compelled to take mercy and sub him at half-time.
Arriving for £6m in 2011 from Partizan Belgrade, few people had heard of the defender and he arrived free of burdensome expectations. Even so, his erratic performances rapidly killed any optimism some supporters may have had. Although there were some bright moments, such as a goal against Blackburn Rovers and a goal-line clearance versus Everton, it was clear that a change of scenery was best for club and player alike.
A swap deal with Fiorentina, entailing Matija Nastastic’s arrival at the Etihad, heralded more promise for the Montenegrin. In Italy, Savic helped Fiorentina to achieve three consecutive top four finishes and a Europa League semi-final appearance. This was enough to earn a move to Atletico Madrid. In spite of injury troubles, Savic has matured into a formidable and reliable defender; and there is no fiercer judge than Diego Simeone.
It has been a remarkable transformation from the footballing equivalent of Donald Trump trying to explain nuclear physics to a stalwart figure at the heart of Simeone’s uber-defensive Champions League finalists. Savic’s panicked displays at City did not inspire confidence, and the club can be forgiven for overlooking his potential. Yet, in hindsight, Savic deserved more time to prove himself in Manchester.
#4 – Kieran Trippier:
A member of City’s academy since the age of nine and part of the side that won the FA Youth Cup in 2008, Trippier struggled to find a route into the first team in spite of his potential. Admittedly, his path was barred by Jaap Stam’s bogeyman Pablo Zabaleta and fellow academy graduate Micah Richards. Following a loan spell with Barnsley, Trippier left permanently in search of first-team football for Burnley in 2012.
Three years of increasingly impressive performances at Turf Moor earned him a move to Tottenham. Although forced to be Kyle Walker’s understudy for the most part, his level ultimately reached its apex under Mauricio Pochettino’s management as he helped Spurs to reach the Champions League final. He achieved a notable career highlight courtesy of a stunning free-kick in the World Cup semi-final for England against Croatia that sent beer flying throughout every pub in the country.
It is testament to the substantial improvement Tripper has demonstrated since leaving City that Diego Simeone opted to bring him to Atletico Madrid for £20m in the summer. Had Trippier still been at the club when Guardiola arrived, who knows what would have become of him? With Zabaleta past his expiry date and Sagna’s solid but uninspiring efforts, there’s every chance that Trippier could have established himself as a regular. He may not be the most reliable defender but going forward his crossing always poses a threat.
The problem of City’s decrepit full-backs that Guardiola inherited has been reflected in the exorbitant outlay on the likes of Mendy, Walker, Danilo and Cancelo. With Pep’s coaching, Tripper could have freed up some funds for elsewhere.
#5: Edin Dzeko:
When Dzeko departed for Roma in August 2015, there was a general consensus that it was an appropriate moment to end his time with City. With 72 goals in 189 appearances, Dzeko had grown to become a fan favourite at the Etihad Stadium. From having to negotiate the minefields of war-torn Sarajevo as a small boy to heading the fateful equaliser against QPR, it is little wonder that Dzeko ingratiated himself so closely with the City faithful.
Dzeko initially struggled at City in spite of an impressive debut against Wolves in January 2011. It took until 25 April for him to notch his first Premier League goal, as he helped to secure the club’s first top-four finish with the only goal against Blackburn Rovers. Yet, it was his astonishing four-goal salvo at White Hart Lane at the beginning of the 2011/12 season that truly signalled a new epoch in Dzeko’s City career.
The Bosnian, not uncommonly finding himself on the bench under Mancini, became a specialist in netting important and often late goals: none more so than when he nodded past Paddy Kenny in injury-time on that historic day of 13 May 2012. Afterwards, in Manuel Pellegrini’s inaugural season, at the height of Aguero’s injury proneness, Dzeko stepped up. He was a crucial player in the league title success, achieving his best return in a City shirt of 26 goals in all competitions.
Unfortunately, this was followed by a notable decline. In the 2014/15 season, the Bosnian managed only 6 goals. His loan move to Roma the following summer did not, therefore, rouse many dissenting voices. Yet, a surprising rebirth was to occur. In the 2016/17 season, Dzeko managed a career-high 39 goals in all competitions. That was six more than Aguero’s tally that season. Encapsulating City’s shyness in front of goal, Raheem Sterling earned second place in City’s leading scorers with just 10 goals.
While the suitability of the languid Bosnian for Guardiola’s demanding system is up for dispute, it is hard to argue that his prowess in front of goal that year would not have been welcomed in an underperforming City side.
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