If it's not broken, don't fix it

Posted by David Mooney

BREAKING NEWS: Manchester City will not be held to ransom by other football clubs during transfers anymore. That could be the strapline of a rolling sports news channel were it not for the inane focus on drama or hype surrounding some people signing some bits of paper. Sorry -- I must have missed the memo about how crucial transfer deadline day is.

Bizarrely, January has been a very good transfer window for the Blues, despite there being very little activity in or out… Well, there’s been absolutely nothing incoming -- with late approaches for the Porto pair Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando falling through. Outgoing, meanwhile, the club has sent John Guidetti, Albert Rusnak and Emyr Huws on loan, while releasing Abdi Ibrahim and Harry Bunn. Altogether not too exciting, then.

However, one thing has become clear: Manuel Pellegrini brought with him a new philosophy when he arrived in the summer. How much involvement he has with who joins the club is still up for debate, with his main role more likely concerned with managing the squad, while director of football Txiki Begiristain dots the Is and crosses the Ts on the deals. But since the club opted to bring in the Chilean over former boss Roberto Mancini, they’ve also refused to pay over the odds for players they were seeking the services of.

Think back to the preseason of 2013, when reports linked Edinson Cavani to City, but the Blues refused to pay the 53 million pounds Napoli wanted to meet his buyout clause in his contract. That policy continued to Jan. 31, when Porto reportedly put up the combined asking price for Mangala and Fernando to over 40 million quid.

Despite the rumours floating around the internet and the newspaper live-blogs about private jets heading for Manchester Airport from Portugal -- before they were quashed by reports that the flights had been delayed -- it seems likely that the club were testing the water for potential signatures. That they didn’t panic and splash the cash shows the team responsible for assembling the squad are happy with its current set-up and any improvements that may need to be made can wait until the summer.

In the past, the Blues may well have paid, but now they’re walking away -- and to be fair to the club, having recently gone to the top of the Premier League and, still in all of the competitions they’ve entered this season, there’s a very strong case of ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’ While rivals Chelsea and Arsenal have both sought to strengthen during the winter window, City have opted to remain settled instead of paying over the odds.

It’s been a problem faced by Manchester City managers since Sheikh Mansour invested in the club in September 2008. It’s a very easy case, for example, to argue that Mark Hughes wasted tens of millions of pounds by paying inflated fees for the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor or Craig Bellamy or Kolo Toure, but they were the sorts of player the club needed to move to the next level.

That’s not to say his transfer policy was perfect, with his bizarre and consistent pursuit of a perpetually injured Roque Santa Cruz a good example of some poor management.

In 2008-09, the Blues were a solid mid-table side; Hughes couldn’t simply sign a few cheques and grab the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva or Sergio Aguero to propel the club to being title contenders. There had to be stepping stones, and while the Welshman didn’t manage the group of players he bought in 2009-10 as such, they were capable of challenging for a place in the Champions League -- missing out on the penultimate game of the season.

There was a clear rise in the club’s progress year on year, so while the fees were extortionate at times, the players were (more often than not) good for the club.

That doesn’t mean, mind you, that January transfers have always been good. In days gone by, you could be forgiven for thinking that that maxim of ‘it it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ was in actual fact ‘if it’s not broken, break it.’

January transfers and Manchester City don’t always mix very well. For every good move made in the past, there’s a bad one to balance it out. For every David James (2004), there’s a Wayne Bridge (2009); for every Patrick Vieira (2010), there’s a Georgios Samaras (2006); or every Nigel de Jong (2009), there’s a Djamel Abdoun (2007). And that’s not including the year the club panicked and threw millions at Portsmouth for Mwaruwari Benjani, who was, at the time of the bid, napping at the airport.

With the activity in 2014 barely worth reporting, it makes a refreshing change from sitting up and watching the Ceefax list of transfers flick over to see if Mido would be the answer to the club’s striking problems; then realising that you’d missed the page and would have to sit and wait for it to flick around again; then realising that the club had signed nobody but a youngster on loan and wondering where exactly the goals would come from.

Whether or not the Blues have missed a trick in refusing to add anybody to the squad this January remains to be seen, but the signs are good, given the performances of the side so far this season. The biggest victory, however, is that any future deals might begin to suffer less from the selling club hiking up the fee -- because City are now developing a history of walking away when they feel the asking price is too high.

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