How fair is Financial Fair Play – CDZ002

A supped Edin Dzeko was enough for City to win the Asia Trophy in a rain sodden Hong Kong
A supped Edin Dzeko was enough for City to win the Asia Trophy in a rain sodden Hong Kong

Happy July everybody, albeit belated. The seasons not even kicked off and we have a trophy in the bag following today’s 1-0 over Sunderland in Hong Kong. For those of you in pre-season, I’m sure you’ll testify it’s been tough given the equatorial temperatures we’ve been experiencing since, well, time began it seems.

Welcome to our second edition of Corazon De Zaba. The Heart of Zabaleta, your monthly Manchester City blog. With City taking their summer spending spree well in excess of £50m already, we discuss the impact this could have on financial fair play, whilst Manuel Pellegrini has been gradually reducing the wage bill alongside Txiki Berigistan and Ferran Soriano.

The summer’s big transfer story, at least the one we are having to endure is Cesc Fabregas to United. City have conducted business in an almost covert way, and it’s the transfer activity that we turn our attention to first.

Ins & Outs, Sheiking It All About
It’s hard to think that City have landed four recognised players from across Europe already, with such ample time to spare before we switch on the TV on the 31st August to see lads from your stand outside the ground on Sky Sports News, draped in tea towels. But the strategy has been different to windows gone by, as have the calibre of the targets.

Naturally Manuel Pellegrini was always going to have funds at his disposal but not in the same bottomless way that predecessors Mark Hughes and Roberto Mancini had enjoyed. Casting our mind back to the Hughes ‘era’ (if we can even call it that) City landed players that went on to do exceedingly well for the club in fairness; Vincent Kompany is now in the elevated position of captain. Carlos Tevez divided opinion two years ago but few can question his ability, work rate and overall record. Add Joleon Lescott and Gareth Barry, and to a certain extent Nigel De Jong City clearly meant business in the market.

But that was very much a scatter-gun approach, or rather a Premier League cannibalisation project. As Hughes first January window neared Craig Bellamy and Shay Given were the league’s form players – and in they came. The signatures of Tevez, Lescott as well as Emmanual Adebayor and Kolo Toure served not just to strengthen the City squad, but weaken the domestic competitions’. It was killing two birds with one stone, but it wouldn’t have been sustainable. At one stage City were looking at taking Wilson Palacios from Wigan for £16m to avoid him joining Tottenham. Palacios was released by Stoke last season as a free agent. From Stoke!

This approach had its fair share of flops too. Robhino for instance resulted in being nothing more than backfired PR. Consider for a moment Roque Santa Cruz, Jo, Tel Ben Haim and the list goes on.

The Brazialian brings Champions League experience after reaching the knockout stages with Shaktar on several occasions
The Brazialian brings Champions League experience after reaching the knockout stages with Shaktar on several occasions

Roberto Mancini was brought in to turn that squad in to winners, and that is exactly what he did. He signed a few winners too such as Sergio Aguero and David Silva, moulded Kompany and Zabaleta in to a much finer defenders and even beat Fergie at mind games.
The newly adopted transfer policy to resemble the Hughes’ days, only on a continental level. Fernandinho was the first addition to the City squad at a fee believed to be £34m. Here we have a player with plenty of domestic success six Ukraine titles in the last eight years but with few international caps, 5 in total. Since Luiz Felipe Scolari’s reinstatement as Brazil’s manager, Fernandhino is yet to be selected. However this is a World Cup year and this will be playing on the mind of the 28 year old. Fernandinho proved goal scoring prowess whilst in Ukraine, averaging a goal every six games. He seems to be the T2 version of Nigel De Jong, putting out fires but striving to get forward – and if the ball’s back at his feet he’s not averse to testing the keeper.

In the press recently Jack Rodwell said the manager had been encouraging the team to play high up the pitch, keep it short and simple, and assess the situation in the final third. Rodwell claims the manager has been “drip feeding” them so how City create chances isn’t so clear at the moment but the other additions paint a picture.

What blue eyes you have. World Cup winner Navas joins City from Seville for a fee around £15m
What blue eyes you have. World Cup winner Navas joins City from Seville for a fee around £15m

Jesus Navas arrived on the international scene at the German World Cup in 2006. Pace he had in abundance, but that and his piercing blue eyes alone weren’t enough to have a huge impact or earn him a move to any of the larger Spanish clubs. Navas for a time was a Spanish Walcott, although a superior model. But at £15m in comparison to the price tags of Stewart Downing and Matt Jarvis for example, this is a steal for a player who created the most chances in La Liga last year. David Silva, look out. Making goal scoring opportunities for Sergio Aguero should boost any midfielders stats. Edin Dzeko looks set to stay put, for the time being, owing in part to the offloading of Carlos Tevez and in part to Navas’ arrival. The days of playing wingers on opposite sides are far from over in the modern game but it’s encouraging to see City will have alternative approaches, rather than trying to walk the ball in every time. Arsenal have tried to stay true to that philosophy, and they’ve not won a trophy for eight years. Teams need to evolve.

Alvaro Negredo has also joined City, from another Spanish outfit – Seville. @OurCityViews posted some interesting stats recently on Negredo, Aguero and Dzeko recently. The Spaniard was disposed less and scored more than both had more shots than Aguero and won more aerially than Dzeko. But as for the City front line this was a season littered with underperformance (as the urgency to sign frontmen indicates). Reports suggest Negredo plays on the last man, back to goal and involves the midfielders, almost touch and go in his style of play. For our attacking midfielders, it will be good see them play the ball in to feet, rather than relying on Aguero to serge 40 yards alone with the ball at his feet, or have no options other than the full backs to provide width. The question will be, can the midfield get past the last man and in to the box. Last year the City midfield (Yaya Toure, Javi Garcia, James Milner, Samir Nasri, Scott Sinclair, Gareth Barry and Silva) muster up 30 goals between them. That’s around 4 per man, and across 38 league games not even one a game from any of the six of them. This for me is Pellegrini’s biggest challenge; getting the midfield in amongst the goals more often and he believes Negredo is the link man to resolve this problem.

Stevan Jovetic has also signed for City, from Fiorentina. The Montenegrin has been a long term target for City and has addition has had Pellegrini claiming City have the best front line in England. Few will disagree.

In the meantime, it’s been a busy window in terms of departures also. Kolo Toure was the first to exit on a free transfer to Liverpool. Carlos Tevez will look to settle with Juventus if he can. Being away from the Old Lady really was too hard to face. He’s moved to Turin for a fee believed to be £9m after several offers of garlic bread, followed by two garlic breads and finally a pizza with toppings of choice and €20 were rebuffed by City.

The future looked bleak for Joleon Lescott, but he may well stay at City now. His future still remains a damn sight brighter than Scott Sinclair’s though, failing to impress in pre-season thus far and City would be prepared to let him go on the cheap, considering he cost £6m. Aleks Kolorov has been the subject of failed bids galore all though the summer but most fans won’t lose sleep over his eventual departure.
With Wayne Bridge, Santa Cruz and Maicon also off the books, it’s understood City have reduced the wage bill by more than £32m per annum.

With the season approaching, City’s transfer business may well be far from done, as Pepe remainst strongly linked with a move to Manchester, but one thing’s for certain; papers, pundits and other teams fans are waxing lyrical about City’s business.

Main Feature: Financial Fair Play

AC Milan Chairman Silvio Berlusconi, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, UEFA Presdient Michel Platini
AC Milan Chairman Silvio Berlusconi, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, UEFA Presdient Michel Platini

Financial Fair Play has been lurking on the footballing horizon for some years now. Upon its birth, we never dreamt of being better than what we were. Petromillionaires didn’t buy clubs like Manchester City and it just seemed like regulation to avoid clubs going in to administration or from the pinnacle of the game to the third tier of football in the case of Leeds United for example.

Then it became relevant. Than it actually applied to City and fans started to peel back the many layers to FFP. Pause before we continue and consider what other financial measures exist in other sports, and you can see why many are against FFP in terms of both competition and also financial equality and fairness.

FFP will permit teams to lose €45m over a rolling three year period, with the coming season the first to be taken in to account. Sanctions range from fines (that’s right, have the clubs lose more money) to expulsion from European competition.

In 2010-11, City lost £197.5m but the following year (when we won the league title) these losses were halved to less than £100m. In that same season City brought in Sergio Aguero (£38m), Samir Nasri (£20m). In 2013 City have finished runners up in the league, received the same amount of European prize money, and spent less in the transfer market. City are heading in the right direction in any case.

But what about other sports? In Rugby League exists a salary cap, as it does to a certain extent in League (sub Premier League) football here in England. In the States, NFL in particular when a shirt is sold outside of the state it originates from, the proceeds are filtered in to a pot and shared amongst the league. In other words, the most popular team recognises that without the weaker teams, there is no league.

In England it is Arsenal who leads the playground mob in favour of FFP, followed by several other clubs including Manchester United. Even Roman Abromavich is a supporter, perhaps too afraid to stop himself spending. For a club whose revenue in 2011 was £205m, you can afford to lose a lot of money. In fact they did, £71m to be precise.

In recent years we’ve witnessed high profile clubs in the UK such as aforementioned Leeds, Portsmouth and Coventry City come in to worrying financial difficulty. North of the border Hearts and Rangers have suffered, but not due to the financial muscle of a rival but for the product on offer in Scotland, where these two clubs, combined with bad management have fallen foul.

After the Portsmouth debacle, extra measures have been introduced to conduct due diligence on potential owners of football clubs. And all will agree, this is certainly a step in the right direction.

How does a Scottish team attract more viewers, more television without “financial doping” to buy better players? Buyouts take place in all sorts of businesses across the world and they usually come with debt leveraged against the club. On a Saturday or Sunday morning the average football fan will reach for the centre pages of a tabloid, perhaps in some cases a broadsheet, but certainly not the Financial Times.

Buyouts happen, debt gets leveraged on the balance sheet. The circle continues and the share price plummets. Investors turn their backs on businesses, fans don’t. This is football and it’s how we feel about our teams. The Glazers takeover of Manchester United may not wholly have affected them competing in top flight football (there’s a case to say it has hindered them in the transfer market) but it’s not what should be happening in the game.

Do the Glazer’s care about trophies? Probably. Does Stan Kroenke or Ivan Gazidis? A thick layer of dust in Arsenal’s new, more commercially fitted stadium trophy cabinet perhaps suggests not.

Before we move on consider this. If your company received investment to develop its product, buy better equipment, employ more and better staff to result in a better company, maybe one to rival the top firm in your sector, would you be against it? There’s no silly metaphor’s here, just ask yourself that question.

Let’s just be clear here, FFP brings its benefits. Under section 17 it discussed youth development and section 49 clubs can’t have any overdues to other clubs, players, the taxman, staff and on it goes. Clubs who may have a poor financial year because of investment in infrastructure will see such expenditure omitted under section 46 (for instance City, and the Etihad Campus).

The Premier League has been in existence now for 21 years formed initially by 20 clubs recognising the popularity of the competition amongst them. Around 90% of television money in the UK finds its way on to those clubs profit and loss statements. FFP will only serve to protect the financial elite from now on in.

The Premier League has had just five different winners. Ourselves, United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Blackurn. Under the FFP rules, Jack Walker’s takeover over Rovers would’ve been given the green light, but his investment restricted, and their Championship remaining a pipedream. On the flip side, Venky’s takeover would still be considered legitimate by UEFA.

Below is a letter from Arsenal Football Club. You can make your mind up which is authentic and which is doctored for self-explanatory humorous purposes.

Arsenal FFP Letters

Footballers are a depreciating product, so where does the money come from to invest in new players or youth facilities? Well, largely it is television money and sponsorship which is driven by the success of a club. So how does a newly promoted side to the Premier League with revenue of £50m attract such unprecedented success? Well of course they need new players, to improve the side, their standing and attractiveness to fans and better players alike. If they don’t gain this extra revenue, what’s the answer then? Of course, sell your best players to the top four clubs.

Financial fair play will serve to stifle competition, so much so that Michel Platini almost admits it, in his interview with Martin Samuel a few months back. Samuel, a West Ham fan, is firmly against FFP, fundamentally due to it allowing the strongest to get stronger. The interview, a link provided below, is compelling. Samuel is well prepared and well educated in Financial Fair Play (and it’s actually refreshing to see a journalist so well researched).

At the risk of being dubbed a bitter I’ve avoided commenting too much on Manchester United, but Samuel references a previous conversation with David Gill (Ed Woodward’s successor as United’s chief executive). Financial Fair Play is going to hand Manchester United the title every year. Gill, at the time, nor Platini could come up with an argumenta against.  Reading the UEFA President’s comments, he genuinely embraces that there is an inherent issue with how clubs run their books, mentioning Rangers and Portsmouth as I have earlier on, and eventually accepts Samuel’s argument about the detriment to competition.

But it takes some time to reach this point. Samuel cites Abramovich as a perpetrator that UEFA and FFP were looking to control, but the very fact he has ended up in favour of FFP suggests that it’s not right and it won’t work.

Abramovich knows with these rules coming in to force, and the vast revenues Chelsea has, he’ll be left to fight out the league title almost year in year out in a three horsed race.

Sheikh Mansour recently sold his Barclays bank stake for no less than £2bn. Are City really in any danger of going under?

It’s a double edged sword. When City win trophies, it’s bought. When we don’t it’s that money doesn’t bring success, and we won’t be able to buy it soon either! Regulation is needed, certainly, but UEFA must now be careful it doesn’t come at the expense of competition.

What’s more is who is regulating this? David Gill is heavily involved, having lobbied UEFA’s proposals to the Premier League, before taking up a role within UEFA to finish off the job. Jean Luc-Dehaene is in charge of the regulatory body. His previous role was with Dexia, as Chairman. Before his departure they required a £3.45bn bailout from the Belgian government.  If you were looking for a European Lehman Bros, it’s Dexia.

If you’ve been fed up of Manchester United winning the title year after year, then Financial Fair Play isn’t the answer. Consider the restrictions on your club. As a City fan, we’re blessed. I take none of the investment for granted. But I have had many fans of other clubs tell me how good it has been for the established order to be shaken up. With FFP, you’ll never see that again.

Those links to the Martin Samuel pieces for you:–read-FULL-transcript-interview-UEFA-president.html–THE-DEBATE-Platini-Manchester-United-Chelsea-financial-fair-play.html

Obituary: Bert’s Story

Bert Trautmann OBE, was born in Germany some 89 years ago. Trautmann has won affection throughout the football world. He was a mischievous character, once giving Stanley Matthews name when the referee wanted to book him, it is still hard to ever believe he was a member of the Hitler Youth programme in his native Germany. He later joined the army as a paratrooper, and went on to fight on the Western Front where he was captured and held in Ashton-in-Makerfield. The war ended and he refused repatriation and began working life in England, first as part of a bomb disposal team in Liverpool, later on a farm in St. Helens. He joined the town team, and married the club secretary’s daughter, Mary. From thereon in, there was no looking back.

Trautmann helped St. Helens draw large crowds, and as his following grew, so did his reputation. He was signed by Manchester City in 1949, and over 20,000 protested at Maine Road over the acquisition. A former soldier of Nazi Germany, the move was highly controversial across Manchester, a city with a large Jewish community.

His displays of agility and courage won affection, and slowly he won over the City faithful. Club captain Eric Westwood was a significant help in easing tensions “there is no war in this dressing room” declared the Normandy veteran. His first season was arguably his worst, or at least the clubs worst in his time. City were relegated, and Trautmann was humiliated by a baying crowd at Craven Cottage on his first trip to London. The Luftwaffe had destroyed the capital, and Trautmann became a hate figure for a mob of fans and journalists.

City were struggling and it was expected they would suffer heavy defeat. Fulham won 1-0 after a string of fine saves from Trautmann kept City in it, and he received a standing ovation from both sets of fans for his fine display between the sticks. However the team were relegated, but bounced back at the first time of asking, and it was onwards and upwards.

The ever famous event of Tratmann’s time is of course the 1956 FA Cup Final. Returning to Wembley after suffering comfortable defeat to Newcastle the year before, City were seeking Silverware at Birmingham’s expense. Joe Haynes opened the scoring for City, and Birmingham were level soon after. Jack Dyson, who also bowled for Lancashire in the summer and Bobby Johnstone extended our lead to 3-1. In 1956 there were no substitutes and with complete disregard in the 75th minute, Trautmann set about narrowing the angles for the oncoming Peter Murphy. The two collided and Murphy struck Trautmann in the neck.

With one hand on the trophy, City weren’t taking any risks and Trautmann completed the game in agonising pain. When he collecting his medal it was clear to see his neck was somewhat crooked. Three days later he was X-rayed, and Trautmann had broken his neck!

He didn’t return to City the same keeper, but still a cut above the rest. In the end Trautmann notched up 545 appearances for Manchester City, and is arguably the best keeper City had, alongside Frank Swift. His talent certainly deserved acclaim on the global stage, but given the logistical and political factors surrounding his playing in England, Trautmann was never selected to play for his country who won the World Cup without him in 1954. He is probably the best goal keeper ever, to have never represented his country.

Trautmann had a brief spell in management, and some ambassadorial roles for Germany, but his heart never left Maine Road. City will remain still his club, and England in part his home, along with the twilight years he spent in Spain. He openly admitted to cheer on the Three Lions, even against Germany. What a legend!

Bert Trautmann is recongnised as one of the finest goalkeepers the game has seen, and for eternity will remain so. His passing is a sad loss to Manchester City, following a period where the club has parted ways with Neil Young, Mike Doyle and Norah Mercer.

Bert, rest in peace.

The former City goalkeeper passed away this month at his home in Spain.
The former City goalkeeper passed away this month at his home in Spain.

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