Friday, 9 November 2012

The Ghost Of Nigel Looms Large At Eastlands...

A large proportion of City fans have always felt the need to single out one player as a boo boy, and at the same time that same group also have a knack of remembering certain former players in far higher regard than they should have been, this trait is currently in full effect at the Etihad and it isn't helping anyone whatsoever.

On Tuesday night aggrieved supporters were muttering quite loudly about the lack of Dutch destroyer Nigel De Jong, and suggesting that his absence was the reason for our 'poor' start to the season, quite how the Dutch man would have stopped either of the Ajax goals however is quite beyond me, but that is just the tip of the ice burg.  Clearly De Jong was a favourite at City, he was a player who always gave his all and during his stay he won a lot of plaudits.  When he first arrived I was not exactly a fan, but over time his combative displays and no nonsense attitude won over the majority, but it did take a few months for him to learn his trade in the Premier League.  Once he found his feet he never really looked back and played a huge part in the clubs upturn in fortunes over the last few years.

Then things turned slightly sour, and this is where these City fans bemoaning his absence seem to miss the point.  Nigel De Jong chose to leave Manchester City, he may not have publicly said it, but that is the uncomfortable truth.  When he aligned himself with Kia Joorabchian and began taking advice from one of the most despicable men in the game, he burnt a lot of bridges at the football club, he knew that and could easily have secured himself a longer stay with the Champions, but he chose not to.  It is widely known and accepted that a contract extension was on the table, it would have seen a hefty pay rise and a good few years tacked onto his deal, De Jong however decided to play hard ball and after speaking with Joorabchian made demands of his own and asked for wages that were supposedly ridiculous.  Throughout the majority of last season, player and club were at stalemate, ever the professional however, performances never dropped and he continued to give his best, the contract wasn't signed though, despite it being left on the table.

His refusal to sign the lucrative deal gave the club very little choice; he had to be sold this Summer in order to recoup some money as opposed to him leaving for nothing next year.  His decision to not sign on the dotted line (something that Silva, Zabaleta, Kompany, even Adam Johnson have done in recent years) was a clear indication from the player that he wasn't that bothered about the football club, and would move onto pastures new in order to secure the biggest salary that he could.  I don't blame De Jong for this, he was a great servant and played a massive part, but noone is bigger than the club, and he chanced his arm to secure himself a bumper pay day, ultimately he failed and the 2 parties went in there separate directions.

So now it surprises me that so many of our supporters blame Mancini, the club, or whoever they can for his departure, when they did a huge amount to try and keep him.  Even if you put these issues to one side, I do wonder whether he would still be as important as he once was had he stayed.  During the early Mancini days, the Dutchman was vital, we played a tight organised defence and midfield, but as the shackles came off last season the midfielder saw less game time, not to belittle his contribution but he was not the vital part of the team that he once was, his presence however did allow us to unleash Yaya Toure further upfield, something that had a massive impact on us taking the title.

There is now though a further problem, and that is the singling out of new boy Javi Garcia, a player who is getting dogs abuse for quite simply not being Nigel De Jong.  Garcia has come in and admittedly struggled during his first couple of months in Manchester, he has looked off the pace and unsure of his exact role in the team, you could say that his first month or so has been exactly the same as the first month that De Jong spent with us, but clearly that is now forgotten and overlooked.  Nigel was 'our warrior, he was our lynch pin, he was one the most important member of our team, he never struggled and was always our star'....rubbish.  Garcia has all the pedigree and potential to be a far superior player to the 27 year old, and yet there are large swathes of our support that don't want to give him that chance.

I am confident that he will come through the other side, the Spaniard has all the characteristics that the Dutch enforcer had, he is committed, hard working and loves to tackle, he can be a new fans favourite with time.  I think people sometimes overlook the difficulties of moving to a new country, a new team, a new league, it takes time for players to adapt, it took De Jong time to adapt.  On top of that has been the niggling injury that he has suffered since his arrival meaning he has missed out on a large amount of training sessions, something that will obviously hugely hinder a new player.  You only have to look at how much difference a preseason can make to a players performance level to see that Garcia is really up against it when it comes to integrating himself into the side.

Clearly if we had signed him earlier in preseason as opposed to deadline day things would have been better, but that is not the players fault.  Garcia has the chance to be a hugely important player in our side, and ultimately a better one than the player he has replaced due to his improved technical ability, but our supporters have to give him time to adapt to his new club, in the same way that we had to with De Jong.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Rumour Mill: "....You sign Shinji, we sign Hideke Ishige...."

The transfer window is shut, and therefore the rumour mill has been fairly quiet of late,  today though it has lobbed something out in our direction, and no it isn't some bizarre link between us and Nani.

In the Summer our neighbours in Stretford replaced Park with Kagawa, a move that many suggested was all about shirt sales in the lucrative Asian market, claims that to be honest are beyond ridiculous due to the fact that the Japanese international is actually a high quality player who will offer United a lot when he gets upto speed with the Premier League.  Not to be outdone it appears that we are preparing to make a splash into the same market by running the rule over the Asian Young Player of the Year, Hideki Ishige.

The midfielder is currently playing for the wonderfully named Shimizu S-Pulse in the J-League.  The 18 year old is only 13 games into his professional footballing career, but he already has some serious expectations placed on his shoulders, and we all know that doesn't always pan out positively.  There are some reports in Japan suggesting that a formal bid has already been lodged from City, but these claims appear to be someway wide of the mark; it is true however that he has been offered a trial with the English champions, allowing Roberto Mancini and his staff to run the rule over the youngster.

This isn't the first time we've brought a player in on trial, Israeli Nir Biton has spent a couple of spells with us including our preseason training camp this Summer, a bid was never formalised though despite a couple of impressive performances thus highlighting that Ishige will have to show some real signs of quality during this trial period should he want to secure a permanent move to the Etihad.

His current manager at S-Pulse, Afshin Ghotbi, has confirmed interest in the Japan Under 17 international.  Speaking to Japan's Kyodo News he said:

"If you want to build top-class players, you have to give them various experiences and opportunities to see first-hand what the world level is about…And what better experience for Ishige than to train with the first team of Manchester City and have Roberto Mancini see him first hand and train with some of the top players in the world."

That is not to say that we are a shoe in for his signature, clearly whenever a youngster is available there is widespread interest and when there is perceived to be huge amounts of potential involved, this interest is multiplied many times, something confirmed by Ghotbi.

"There is interest in him, not just Man City but many clubs in Europe and he deserves it. He's a real fantastic talent…As far as I'm concerned, he's not for sale and we want him to be a part of S-Pulse for the next few years to come. There has been no offer, City just want to see him and we are doing the same with other players with other clubs."

You would imagine that even with interest from other parties, we must be towards the top of his list should an offer be formalised.  It would be hard to imagine the player wanting to move elsewhere after getting to know the City squad and coaching staff, clearly he may not enjoy his experience at Carrington, but if he does I would imagine we would become favourites for his signature.

Nothing is concrete yet, but should the trial pass successfully it could be an interesting story to watch develop, it certainly fits into our ambition to recruit the best young talent in the game, and with the new additions of Begiristain and Sorrano it is an approach that I expect to see us stick with, after all it worked for them at Barcelona, so why can't it here?