Given Manchester City’s ever-increasing status among football’s European elite manager Roberto Mancini will spend a lot of his time with the media answering questions about his transfer targets.
This week the Italian confirmed a slight interest in Dortmund’s leading striker Robert Lewandowski.
“He’s young but still a player that scores a lot of goals in Germany,” said Mancini. “Currently, however, we have four strikers”.
The 24-year old Polish front man scored 22 goals as the German club clinched the Bundesliga title last season, seven points ahead of Bayern Munich. After losing Shinji Kagawa in the summer to City’s rivals Manchester United, it is unlikely that Dortmund’s officials would contemplate selling Lewandowski, but would Mancini even be handed the amount of money he has grown accustomed to land him?
Mancini grew frustrated over the summer as City’s owners failed to secure the signatures of his main transfer targets – reportedly Danielle De Rossi and Stevan Jovetic. While there is no question that the Abu Dhabi ruling family cannot afford to spend lavishly, they are increasingly changing their business strategy.
Firstly, they must satisfy those at UEFA after the implementation of the Financial Fair Play rules which states European clubs can must balance their outlays against whatever money the club makes, essentially allowing City to only spend what they makes.
However, given their criticism after several years of heavily-inflated transfer fees, the family are looking at establishing profitable businesses away from their region’s dominance in the oil industry. Oil is a diminishing resource, the value of the English Premier League and the Champions League is becoming ever more lucrative. They have propelled City, spending millions along the way, into the bourgeoisie of European football clubs, a category featuring the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid, but now things are changing.
Instead of signing Danielle De Rossi from a Roma club that would have demanded well in excess of £30m, Mancini had to make do with Everton’s Jack Rodwell for £12m. One wish granted to Mancini was the capture of Maicon, who arrived at Eastlands, but on a free transfer.
It is a curious case with Mancini’s other Italy-based target Jovetic. He, like Lewandowski, is a striker – or would fit into the attacking three behind the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1, Mancini’s favoured system – yet Mancini declares himself happy with his four attacking options: Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzecko. One suspects his comments were to protect against a potential backlash from England’s most easily disrupted attacking quartet.
Mancini has not had a problem with Aguero, but he has had well documented run-ins with the other three. Dzecko wants to play regular football, Tevez is rarely settled, and Balotelli, whom Mancini managed at Inter Milan, suffers from his unpredictable attitude.
The furious and hugely unsettling debacle with Tevez during City’s away defeat to Bayern Munich during the Champions League group stages was allowed to spiral out of control. Tevez left England for a period of time, but amazingly returned to reconcile with his manager. His exploits during the latter stages of last season’s Premier League campaign were hugely influential in City’s sensational title victory. Tevez, for now, seems happy and is playing well.
At present, Mancini has restricted Balotelli’s playing time one start, coming in the Capital One Cup 3rd round defeat against Aston Villa. The controversial Italian has yet to start a Premier League game, although he has frequently been used as a substitute.
Media reports about his lifestyle are common and so Mancini may be tempted to sell the inconsistent player. That would make room for Lewandowski, and may also tempt the City officials to hand over the resulting fee – which, should Balotelli have suitors, likely to be back in Italy, would be significant for a player of undoubted potential – to Mancini.