The inevitable happened on Saturday as Mark Hughes was sacked as manager of Manchester City and the Italian Roberto Mancini was immediately brought in to replace the Welshman. Hughes suffered from the weight of expectation that comes when a football club is owned by billionaires and although his team looked good on paper, ultimately his players didn’t perform on the pitch regularly enough. Looking back, how did Hughes fare in the transfer market in his time at City and did his indifferent signings cost him his job?
Hughes did bring plenty of good players to Eastlands in his time at City, and his transfer record cannot be regarded as a complete failure by any means. Firstly, he signed Shay Given, arguably the best goalkeeper in England and named in The Telegraph as the best Premier League ‘keeper of the noughties. Picked up on the cheap from Newcastle, Given represents one of Hughes’ best bits of business and the solid ‘keeper has hardly put a foot wrong. Another relative City bargain was Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry, as the England international cost just £12 million. Leaving Liverpool fans feeling envious, Barry is a consistent performer and should go on to become a City great.
Then there are two players that showed passion and commitment for Hughes and City at all times, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Craig Bellamy. SWP returned from Chelsea and picked up where he left off, proving to be a constant threat down the right hand side and quickly putting his Stamford Bridge nightmare behind him to guarantee himself a place in City fans’ hearts. Bellamy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but no-one can deny the hard yards he puts in during games. His pace and enthusiasm meant he was a certain starter despite the quality of players around him, and Hughes must wish he had a few more Bellamy’s in his squad.
I think it is generally thought that Robinho was brought to City over the head of Hughes, but the Welshman wasn’t exactly going to complain was he. However, the Brazilian shows a distinct lack of interest at times and his future at Eastlands remains uncertain. In Carlos Tevez, City have a player who will run and run all day and in recent weeks he has been their best player. I think the question still remains as to whether he is a top four striker, but the Argentinean has definitely worn his heart on his sleeve. Then there is Nigel de Jong, a solid purchase and to be fair to the Dutch international, not much criticism can be thrown his way.
Despite the best efforts of the players mentioned above, many of Hughes’ purchases can be seen as massive clangers. In my opinion the worst by far is Joleon Lescott, as to pay over £20 million for a player of his ability is ludicrous. Whilst Lescott is a decent defender and City needed a centre half, the money spent on the former Everton defender cannot be justified. Alongside Kolo Toure, another player who has failed to live up to his potential, the central defensive positions turned out to be Hughes’ major downfalls. When you add Wayne Bridge to a mix, a left back who seems to go missing far too often, you can see why City’s defence has been all at sea at times this season.
Then there is the £40 million strike force formed of Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz. Adebayor must be one of Hughes’ most frustrating signings, as the Togo international has the ability but he goes missing like he did at Tottenham and just doesn’t seem to be interested. If his work ethic matched his talent, Adebayor would be a world-class striker, but as it is he is just a forward who can put in world-class performances on his day. He was dropped against Sunderland and Roque Santa Cruz was brought in instead, but the former Blackburn striker has had trouble shaking off injuries this season. The Paraguayan may yet prove to be a good signing and convince City fans he has what it takes, but despite scoring twice on Saturday, can he go on to become the goal machine that City fans crave?
So as a whole, Hughes’ transfer record hasn’t exactly been great and that’s without mentioning Jo, Tal Ben-Haim, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta. His underperforming purchases have ultimately cost the Welshman his job at Manchester City and it will be interesting to see if Mancini can do any better in January. But do you think Hughes should take the blame for players who might look good on paper, but just don’t perform on the pitch on a consistent basis?
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