x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Manchester City's scout policy set to reap reward

The sheer number, 32 in total, 18 of them full-time, illustrate the scale of the operation. The ambition is grander still.

Khaldoon al Mubarak, the Manchester City chairman, left, and Roberto Mancini, the manager, have a scouting network at their disposal that numbers 32.
Khaldoon al Mubarak, the Manchester City chairman, left, and Roberto Mancini, the manager, have a scouting network at their disposal that numbers 32.

On the eve of the club's first trophy success in three and a half decades, Manchester City brought together a group of scouts who have become the most eagerly received visitors in world football. The sheer number, 32 in total, 18 of them full-time, illustrate the scale of the operation. The ambition is grander still.

What Mike Rigg, City's technical director, has sold to the Abu Dhabi ownership and the club chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak is a plan to compile information on every potential Eastlands recruit from age six to Champions League level.

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Rigg's team creates digital dossiers of up to 30 pages, monitoring an individual's performances, personality, health and contract status.

Contrast that to four summers ago when the club employed just two scouts and a single agent recommended the majority of their signings in the wake of Thaksin Shinawatra's takeover.

Add this new thoroughness of observation to the depth of Abu Dhabi's financial backing from Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed and onlookers have a partial explanation of the kaleidoscope of reported transfer targets.

Rigg and staff make inquiries about players for the sake of information and preparation. Joe Hart should be City's goalkeeper for a decade and beyond, yet were something to happen to Hart tomorrow their job is to know who could replace him.

Although City have spent over £250 million (Dh1.49 billion) on transfer fees alone in the past two summers, the strategy for the window ahead of their first Champions League season will be governed by Uefa's incoming Financial Fair Play regulations, which aim to restrict losses to an aggregate of €45 million (Dh235.3m) over the next three seasons.

From 2015/16 the target will be average losses of €10m per campaign, with a punishment of exclusion from European competition for failing to adhere.

City's accounts for last season reported losses of £121m, with wages 106 per cent of club turnover. While revenue has improved this season, further spending on transfers, improved player contracts and club infrastructure will magnify this season's deficit. One result is a transfer policy intended to fund new signings purely from player sales.

The wild card is Carlos Tevez, who withdrew a mid-season transfer request on the promise that City would permit a summer sale. City's leading scorer and best-paid player has told friends that he will be joining Inter Milan, but his current employers hope that the forward's salary in combination with the sizeable transfer fee they could place on his head will deter any Tevez suitor.

"People said he wasn't worth the money [City paid for him] - now he's probably worth double that," said Micah Richards, the defender.

In an Italian newspaper interview last week, Roberto Mancini said: "In December, Tevez told us that he wanted to go to Italy. If he'd change his mind and stay I'd be happy."

Should Tevez leave, City say they will resist the temptation to replace him with an established figure such as Samuel Eto'o or Diego Milito, both thirtysomethings with no resale value and hugely expensive in terms of salary.

Instead, al Mubarak, with the chief executive Garry Cook and the football administrator Brian Marwood, are likely to follow last summer's smarter strategy of concentrating recruitment on individuals in their early to mid-20s with a hunger to win major trophies at club level.

David Silva, who was signed last summer from Valencia at the age of 24, is the prime example here. Alexis Sanchez, 22, the Udinese forward, could therefore come into consideration this summer.

Elsewhere, the intention is to raise transfer cash and free up wages by selling fringe players and those who have spent this season on loan.

A full team's worth of individuals could be sold or released.

Real Madrid are unlikely to take up a €16m option to make permanent the loan of Emmanuel Adebayor, and City are ready to listen to offers for the striker from Togo. Craig Bellamy, Felipe Caicedo, Roque Santa Cruz and Jo are expected to be available. Wayne Bridge, Nedum Onuoha, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Michael Johnson also are surplus to requirements.

A frustrated back-up keeper, Shay Given, will probably be allowed to leave. Patrick Vieira is out of contract, while Dedryck Boyata and Alex Nimely may be loaned out to gain experience.

If enough space can be created in what has been a top-heavy squad, City could bring in up to five new players.

With Kolo Toure facing a long-term suspension for doping, two centre-backs could be recruited. Jan Vertonghen, Ajax's Belgium international, is said to be a target.

As is a manager's wont, Mancini is already pushing for more storied names. AC Milan are disenchanted with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but he would be welcomed at Eastlands by the man who coached him at Inter Milan.

And then there is the player Mancini and Abu Dhabi might agree ticks all the boxes.

Said Mancini: "The player who would make us champions? [Cesc] Fabregas."

 

sports@thenational.ae