Rich Mens Missions and Tenuous Positions
Manchester City have are now widely regarded as the richest football club in the World. And going by the astronomical amounts of money they are spending, and willing to spend, on players it would be very difficult to suggest otherwise. The only frustrating thing for City this Summer has been the fact that Real Madrid have once again gone hand out to a Spanish bank and secured a ‘loan’ (and I use the term loosely) that has funded the transfer of players who otherwise would be at the top of the City hit list. But, this will be of little concern to City fans who are currently experiencing the kind of joy they never thought would be possible and the club have stuck up gigantic billboards in the city to stir up the Citizens and wind up Manchester United fans at the same time. Sounds ideal, and for the fans it is, because they don’t care who signs the checks or even manages the team, as long as the can see success in the not too distant future. The only man who should be concerned about this revolution is the manager – Mark Hughes.
For any of you out there who have infuriated loved ones by spending hour upon precious hour playing Championship/Football Manager on your computer, maybe when you should have been studying for A-Levels or overseeing the construction of a hydro-electric dam, you will know that by fixing the amount of money your team starts with at the beginning to a gargantuan figure you can enjoy infinite success with any team you choose – even Newcastle. On this occasion, in this fictional yet highly immersive world, money can and, more often than not, will buy you success.
But this is a fictional world. And the one thing which the game does not simulate is ‘marquee-manager sydrome’. This is where a new owner decides that the man orchestrating things from the dugout should be as recognisable a figure as any of the players on the pitch. When Hughes left Blackburn Rovers for Eastlands it was simply to manage a bigger club – bigger stadium, bigger fanbase and more money. This was seen as a natural progression for Hughes after doing a commendable job at Ewood Park, but if we were to be honest, if those who are in charge of City now were in charge then, he would not even have got an interview. There would have been instant speculation surrounding the job and who would take up this immense project (as they like to call it now for some reason). All you would see on the back pages is Mourinho this and Lippi that.
Mark Hughes has signed a lot of players for a lot of money and if they do not gel instantly his job will certainly be on the line by Christmas. As we all know the outstanding example of this was with Chelsea, Abromovich and Ranieri. Many people, myself being one, believe that if was not sacked that he would have won the Premiership anyway a year later. But, as we have seen, Mr Abramovich is not a patient man and he quickly swooped for the young, charismatic, European Champion Jose Mourinho. The outcome of that decision was instant domestic success, constant back page coverage for Chelsea and their manager and the profile of the club itself raised immeasurably worldwide. Then Abramovich got tired at the lack of European success and dismissed Mourinho. Chelsea have struggled ever since whilst Mourinho continues to collect league titles in Italy with Internazionale – there may be a lesson there somewhere.
The fate of Ranieri at Chelsea seemed to be already decided but the fate of Hughes is still in the balance. It is clear that City’s owners, much like Abramovich, will not be patient when it comes to success. Jose Mourinho has already tipped City to win the Premiership this year and this could be an attempt on his part to say “If I was there, I would win it” and in turn throw his hat into the ring once P.45’s have been handed down at the Blue Camp.
For Mark Hughes the expectation is simple. Either challenge for the top slots in the Premiership or win a major trophy. The belief of whether Hughes will be in charge at Eastlands in August 2010 has a direct correlation to how well you believe City will do this season.
What do you think? Will they challenge or choke?