Has City’s transfer window been good? Part I – A Week in the City

Transfer Deadline Day is the two greatest days of the year. It’s literally never a letdown. Not once. We all remember the fateful 2008 summer deadline day, during which Manchester United signed Dimitar Berbatov and Manchester City heralded the beginning of the Sheikh Mansour era by signing Robinho from Real Madrid. 

We all remember the 2011 January deadline day, during which the scousers robbed Chelsea of £50m so that they could offload the ailing Fernando Torres, only to be caught out mid-triumphant celebration when Mike Ashley quickly robbed them right back and took £35m off them, dropping Andy Carroll off at Melwood in the process.

Those were just the small and unimportant deadline days. Lest we forget Summer 2015, when Michael Hector moved from Reading to Chelsea for £4 million. We all remember waiting up until 1:30am to find out that Manchester United had signed a downward-trajectory Falcao on loan in 2014. 

And, of course, who could forget the momentous occasion in 2012 when Charlie Adam lit up the eyes of the dozens of dildo-waving teenagers stood behind the lucky Sky Sports News reporter outside the Britannia Stadium when he finalised a deal to join the Potters. Chants of “we sign who we want” rang out through the streets of Stoke well into the night.

Alright, so maybe sometimes it’s a letdown. Back before the days of social media, when Sky Sports News had the monopoly on Deadline Day news, it was legitimately interesting. They could pull any rumour out of their arse and keep you hooked for hours on end because you had absolutely no way to disprove it. 

Nowadays, if they try to claim that Jadon Sancho is in Manchester for a medical, you can check Twitter and see that Sancho is actually breaking lockdown rules at a surprise party for Tammy Abraham in London, not Manchester.

Manchester City’s Deadline Day this time round was nipped in the bud at around midday when it became evident that absolutely nothing was going to happen, despite there still being potential for deals to be done. With the passing of Deadline Day comes the passing of the transfer window. An important one for the club, as they often are, after a season of frustration and clear squad issues which have needed addressing. So have they addressed these issues? Are we stronger post-window than pre?

The Ins

20-year-old Ferran Torres was the first of the first-team signings to make his way through the door and, at only £20m, looks an absolute bargain. City capitalised on the opportunity in the market (something Khaldoon alluded to in his following end-of-season interview) and saw a young prospect with a year left on his contract which ordinarily came with a €100 million release clause. They pounced and secured their Leroy Sané replacement for less than half of the fee that the German left for Munich for.

I don’t think there’s any way you can say that’s not good business, especially with the reputation and hype that surrounds Torres from those who watch La Liga with regularity. In fact, it’s unbelievable how seemingly under the radar this transfer has generally gone. 

Whether it’s because we got the deal done early enough for everybody to have forgotten about it or because it’s not quite as blockbuster as spending £72 million on Kai Havertz, nobody really seems to be talking about how good a deal this has been. Whilst the signing of Thiago for £30 million (who completed the most passes in 45 minutes by a player wearing red against a team wearing blue that had 10 men in the month of September) has been hailed as a piece of transfer genius, the signing of a player regarded as one of Spain’s top attacking prospects, courted by the likes of Madrid and Barcelona, for only £20 million should be receiving far more attention than it has done.

ferran-wide

Following Torres was Nathan Aké – fresh off the back of Bournemouth’s relegation. Nathan Aké is a player that I’ve wanted City to sign for a couple of years now and, during our pursuit of Slabhead Maguire last season, I was utterly confused as to why we hadn’t seemingly looked at Aké as an alternative prior to this summer. 

Still, we got there in the end and have finally secured a solid rotation option for the centre-back position. Despite his height, Aké is deceptively good in the air (quite similarly to Otamendi, who he’s effectively replaced) and his versatility as a potential left-back option will be a god-send when Mendy’s inevitable annual breakdown takes place.

Our centre-back options have been sketchy at best since 2017/18, when Stones and Otamendi each found both their best and most consistent form which has since never been replicated from either of them. 

We were reliant on Kompany’s fitness as we enjoyed our 14 game win-streak at the end of the 2018/19 season and then, when Megamind decided it was time to return to his home planet of Belgium, we decided it was either Slabhead or nobody and have been paying the price ever since. So to add some legitimate quality in the form of Aké to Laporte and Stones with another centre-back on the way, it was comforting to see that the club were attacking this issue hard.

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Then, after Aké, followed a long, boring month of pursuing a “big” centre-back. I already wrote something recently about just how painful this was and how we flipped and flopped from centre-back to centre-back before finally finding our man – Ruben Dias. 

A £55 million signing with Otamendi going the other way which absolutely triggered Sky Sports and the footballing media at large, who each spent the next few days frantically finding the highest possible rumoured figure of each of City’s defensive transfers and using them to claim that Pep Guardiola had spent £1 billion on defenders since joining the club.

There’s been a lot of conversations about Dias’ qualities (or lack thereof) since his signing, especially with such a big fee being tabled for his services. Benfica fans absolutely love him and, with them being the ones who actually watch him week after week, I’m more inclined to take their opinions seriously. 

A natural leader and somebody who’s not afraid to shout at his fellow defenders to make sure they fall into line, you need only look at his first club interview to see just how serious he is. I’m quite sure he only smiles when he’s either scored a goal or winning trophies as he spends the rest of his life looking very serious as he contemplates how he can best go about scoring another goal or winning another trophy.

There are obviously the concerns that come with signing a centre-back from Portugal. The obvious stand-out examples are Mangala – a man who was great whenever he played against Ibrahimovic or Diego Costa but otherwise was bad at best, and Lindelof, who is currently part of the shambles that is Manchester United’s back four. Dias is young, however, and fits the mould of a Pep Guardiola centre-back much more than Mangala fit the mould of our passing play or Lindelof fit the mould of a Jose Mourinho combative centre-back.

He made his debut against Leeds after apparently only having two training sessions with the team and, for the brief time we saw him, looked perfectly at home. With two top-quality centre-backs and with Aké and Stones (fitness permitting) waiting in the wings as back-ups, the centre-back position finally looks like it’s in a good place after what has felt like a very long couple of years.

City Xtra Defence DIAS

The Outs

The most high-profile, and thankfully the earliest, of the departures was the sale of Leroy Sané to Bayern Munich. After basically a year out of football with an ACL injury picked up in the previous summer’s Community Shield against Liverpool, the club had their backs against the wall as Karl-Hainz Rumenigge and co. rolled up into town in their Panzer tanks with their bags of cash. 

We eventually managed to get around £50 million, rising to £55 million with some very achievable bonuses, which, for a player who was desperate to leave and was also coming off the back of a year-long injury which gives no guarantees when it comes to his long-term recovery, is ridiculously good business in my opinion. It also meant that the impending signings of Torres and Aké were only costing us around £10-15 million, for those NET spend nerds out there.

In terms of Leroy Sané himself, I wasn’t desperately sad to see him go. Maybe that’s because we’d not had him for a year so it already felt like he was basically gone, or maybe it’s because I’d grown so sick of the Bayern Munich transfer offensive, in which basically half of the squad, Niko Kovac and virtually everybody on the board of directors at the club had spend the last 18 months grooming him that I just wanted him gone to make it stop. 

The man took the coward’s way out, in my opinion. Going to Bayern Munich is the equivalent of going to PSG or Celtic. You’re not looking for a challenging career, you’re not looking to work particularly hard, you just want it easy. That’s his prerogative, of course, but I think he’s a coward.

Ultimately I, along with every other City fan who’d watched him, acknowledge that he has undoubted world-class ability. It’s his consistency and his work rate that I have my doubts over, particularly the latter. 

It was funny to see that, in one of his first interviews at the club, Leroy talked about how Bayern’s intense pressing and tracking back was “a natural part of his game”, only for Hansi Flick to talk about how Sané’s work off the ball needs “readjustment” within a week of the Bundesliga’s return. Exactly the problem that Pep Guardiola had with him. Ryan Corless wrote a good piece explaining just how replaceable Leroy Sané is, and I don’t really disagree.

Next to go was Angelino. Straight off the back of a Champions League semi-final and the sale of Timo Werner for £50+ million to Chelsea, RB Leipzig had the audacity to cry covid and claim that they were strapped for cash – opting not to activate the £25 million buyout clause they had in the left-back’s loan from the 2019/20 season. To me, this seemed like a huge cop-out from Leipzig and a blatant attempt to lower our demands for the defender, which was a bold move given that he plays in a position which we’re well-documented to have issues in.

So within a couple of weeks of the Champions League campaign drawing to a close, you can imagine my surprise when Angelino was in fact loaned back to Leipzig, only this time with a lower transfer fee involved at the end of the season, though this time obligatory (provided certain benchmarks are met). 

This was very difficult to get my head around, as a future transfer fee was clearly agreed at the start of the previous season and, whilst Covid no doubt had a part to play in the financial situation of the German club come the season’s end, they did also have the huge cash injection that comes with a player sale and the latter stages of the Champions League to help balance that.

However, rather than hold them to their original agreement or the club’s original valuation, which would be perfectly justified given the fact that he was a mainstay in a Leipzig squad which got to the semi-finals of the Champions League, or better yet actually keep him in and around the squad given just how much he thrived under the not-incomparable Nagelsmann system and the fact that we’ve only got one player who actually calls himself a left-back first and foremost, we instead agreed a new deal with Leipzig in which they would actually pay less for Angleino than originally agreed.

But it didn’t end there. City’s Deadline Day wasn’t entirely quiet, as it saw the sale of long-serving academy graduate, Tosin Adarabioyo, to newly-promoted Fulham. Adarabioyo enjoyed a strong Championship campaign for Blackburn last season, one which earned him plenty of plaudits from Blackburn fans and general Championship fans alike. Coming off such a season, combined with his relatively young age and the fact that he’s a home-grown player, it was therefore only natural that his transfer was a whopping £2 million.

That’s not a typo. That’s not an error. Well, it is on the club’s part. £2 million. Tosin, in the club’s defence, did have only a year remaining on a contract extension he signed a few years ago and it was quite well-known that he wanted to leave the club, so we did not have the upper-hand when it came to this transfer. However, to sell a player of this profile, one year left or not, to a Premier League team for an amount as pathetically low as this is hilariously bad business. 

Fulham are a club which have struggled massively in the defensive side of things since coming up to the top division, and their Director of Football has basically told anybody who’ll listen that Fulham have been searching for the defensive upgrades required to compete in this division, particularly at centre-back. Even though Adarabioyo is unproven at this level, it’s impossible to look at the circumstances surrounding the deal and come up with £2 million as a reasonable fee.

Adarabioyo has been at the club since he was eight years old and I imagine that his logic is that if he’s not getting first team football now, he never will. Not an unfair assessment and his reasons for leaving, along with the club’s agreement to sell him, are perfectly understandable. However, when the club seemingly valued him at around £15 million only a few weeks back, it’s unthinkable how how there could be such a disparity between what the club wanted and what the club got. 

The only logical conclusion to draw is that City were doing an academy graduate a favour, which would be all well and good were this not somewhat comparable to a similar deadline day transfer saga which did not end the same way.

I wish Tosin all the best, as I’m pretty sure every City fan does. It would have been nice to see him get some chances with the first team this year in the cups but hopefully Fulham can see him kick-start his career somewhere that he’ll actually be able to play at with some security over his future.

Oh also Otamendi joined Benfica as part of the Ruben Dias deal. Thanks for 2017/18, I suppose, although his debut against Farense for the Portuguese club, in which he basically fell over the ball and gave the opposition a goal, demonstrates why I’m not at all sad to see him go.

And that’s all we have for Part I! Next time, I’ll be taking a look at the transfers that almost happened but, for one reason or another, didn’t make it over the line, as well as the transfers that I generally wish we’d made. Spoiler alert – Eric Garcia is mentioned.

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You can follow the author on Twitter here: @joebutters

You can follow us for live Man City updates here: @City_Xtra

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