22nd May 2011
Courtesy of goals from Joleon Lescott and Edin Dzeko, Manchester were to secure their first top four finish in the Premier League era. As a result, the Blues had gained access to the following season’s Champions League; Europe’s biggest and most reputable club competition. It was the first time that City had qualified for the tournament since it’s rejig in 1992. This of course meant that the scope for new transfers could be widened somewhat, with the club a more attractive prospective move for foreign players who felt the desire to compete at Europe’s top level.
You could easily argue that City already had access to some of Europe’s elite players; Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure and David Silva had already enjoyed some success at the club. On 14 May 2011, City won the FA Cup on what was an emotional day for everybody involved. Lots of supporters were seeing their beloved club win its first major trophy in their lifetime. For others, the wait stretched back as far as 1976, with Dennis Tueart’s famous League Cup winning bicycle kick against Newcastle United. The tide was indeed turning in Manchester, but more importantly in England on the whole. City were a force again, but the job was not complete.
Finishing in 3rd that year was a fantastic achievement for Mancini’s men, European football at the Etihad. Without any doubt, it’s what Sheikh Mansour and the rest of the hierarchy had been shooting for every since taking over the club in 2008, but how could the club jump to the next level? Granted, there were already top-class talents playing in sky blue, but their were still elements missing that would allow City to make that jump from contenders to Champions.
That very summer, City embarked on signing a couple of high-profile names that would not only bolster the talent within the ranks, but would also change the way in which the club was perceived by the footballing world. It might seem hard to believe, but the likes of Yaya Toure and David Silva weren’t universally accepted as being world-class additions to the squad when the arrived in the summer of 2010. The jury was out on both, with Toure described as a limited defensive midfielder and Silva touted as a lightweight Spanish softie. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but at the time they weren’t signings that made the world stand up and acknowledge City. In 2009, Carlos Tevez had made the short journey across Manchester to join City; it was a move that not everybody was convinced would be a success, pundits and fans alike. In honesty, Tevez hadn’t been world-class during his time at United and the feel good factor from City fans might not have been quite so bubbly had he not essentially told our rivals where to go.
Again, I must mention hindsight. We all know that Tevez, Silva and Toure alike turned out to be fantastic, successful icons at the club. Nobody is disputing that. However, the summer of 2011 was a time where City stood up and were counted, deciding to splash the cash on a player that would prove to be one of the country’s finest for years to come. That wasn’t all, the addition of two Frenchmen who would prove to play a pivotal role in City’s future success were also acquired – all in preparation for a season where anything less than top spot would’ve been a failure.
It would be easy to overlook the acquisition of Gael Clichy that summer, but it represented a time where City were starting to target the stronger players from rival clubs. Clichy wasn’t (and still isn’t) a spectacular full-back, but was identified as a player who could improve the side defensively, as well as offering a competent role going forward. The previous summer, City had prised Emmanuel Adebayor away from the Gunners, and with the arrival of Clichy and a certain other Frenchman, a pattern was forming.
That certain Frenchman was none other than Samir Nasri. A man that even now polarises opinion, was subject to probably the most lengthy of transfer sagas that summer. Nasri was on the back of a fantastic season with Arsenal. If City were able to secure his signature, it would represent the attainment of not only a young, exciting player; but further diminish an up and coming Arsenal side. After a lot of back and forth, Samir signed on the dotted line, and remains with the Blues to this day. City were beginning to pinch all of Arsenal’s assets, a tactic that other top sides in Europe, notably Bayern Munich, have employed. Look around the league, take the best players from your closest challengers and reap the rewards. It’s a transfer strategy that hasn’t continued for us in recent years, but at the time worked effectively as a method for improving our side whilst simultaneously weakening a rival.
The final high-profile signing that summer came in the shape of Sergio Aguero. A move that excited everybody, it was clear from minute one that Sergio was destined for big things. Whatever the transfer fee was, it was a move that screamed ‘ambition’. City had identified a world-class target, paid the cash and instantly saw the product they had purchased. After half an hour against Swansea, the rest of the Premier League seemed to understand what City had obtained. Aguero went on to score 30 goals in all competitions and has since scored over 100 goals for the club in his five seasons in total.
These three signings were important for different reasons, be it the tremendous ability that the players were signed for, or the way in which City were setting about their business – it was clear that the Blues were going all out for a first league title in 44 years. Ultimately, that is exactly what the club was presented with in May, with one of those players providing the most unbelievable and unforgettable moment in the club’s history. Intelligent transfer activity has at times been barren since the summer of 2011, but this summer in particular could prove to rival some of the excitement and unpredictability of that very window. Will the Blues secure another Aguero? Will they go back to abstracting the league’s best players? Who knows, but if it’s anything like 2011, we could be in for a treat come May.