Man City change in transfer stance on selling to rivals explained – Simon Bajkowski
Manchester City have followed some very obvious principles on their way to becoming the dominant force in English football: avoid strengthening a rival whenever possible, and weaken a rival whenever the opportunity presents itself. The last time the club sold a player to a rival was Emmanuel Adebayor to Tottenham back in 2012, while in the meantime they have pinched Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna and Samir Nasri from Arsenal, Frank Lampard from Chelsea, Raheem Sterling from Liverpool and Kyle Walker from Spurs.
Minimising the damage when you sell a player is smart business, and helps explain why City were relaxed about selling Leroy Sane to Bayern Munich rather than an English team and incredibly relieved when Dortmund came in for wantaway prospect Jadon Sancho in 2017; the Blues knew they had to sell but were finding it hard to stomach accepting a bid from the interested English sides because of the greater potential for it to show them up on a more regular basis.
Why then, is Txiki Begiristain happy to countenance the sale of Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal this summer and Sterling to Chelsea? What has changed to mean City are prepared to give their rivals a helping hand (in exchange for the right price)?
Part of that can be explained by the economic climate. The revenues received and generated by English clubs were already dwarfing those on the continent before the pandemic – to the extent that in 2018 a report found that 17 of the top 20 earners across Europe from broadcasting revenues were English clubs.
With everyone feeling the pinch of the global health crisis over the last two years, there are even fewer clubs who are able to afford the transfer fees and wages that are commonplace among the top teams in the Premier League. If players want to leave the Etihad, their best chance of securing a deal away is to find another club in the same division.
There is something else at play though, namely the increased confidence within the walls of the City Football Academy that they will be strong enough to hold off rivals because of the rest of the transfer business they have done and are doing. While bids from Liverpool have yet to be put to that test, there is no aversion to working with and helping Arsenal or Chelsea this summer.
Such a shift in feeling could be seen two years ago at academy level, when City agreed a £750,000 fee for teenage striker Charlie McNeill to join United rather than taking the decision to a tribunal. The Blues felt that there was enough talent across the rest of the academy that having one of them run his contract down was not the end of the world – particularly when they could pick up a six-figure fee that could rise to £1.35m.
McNeill has progressed at United and was one of their FA Youth Cup winners this season, but the fact that City have won the league at Under-18 and Under-23 level in each of the two years since the transfer would back up their feeling at the time. United’s gain hasn’t necessarily been City’s loss.
That is the same situation now with Jesus and Sterling. The two players will both see their game time further threatened by new arrivals Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez, with Haaland in particular expected to command a starting place in most games and in particular the most important ones.
Jesus and Sterling could both hurt City’s chances of winning the league next season if they sign for rival clubs, and each success they had against their former club would place more scrutiny on whether the Blues were right to countenance the sale. However, Begiristain and Pep Guardiola share the confidence that the squad they have put together will be good enough not to be derailed by players they have been happy to sell.