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A personal shopper for Sheikh and Sparky
NOT a good start to the week for Sheikh Mansour, then.
Kaka finally saw sense rather than pound signs and said “thanks but no thanks”, while as one expensive brat (Robinho) stormed out of Manchester City in a strop, another (Craig Bellamy) arrived on the doorstep.
So much for global domination.
It was obvious from the start the Sheikh was getting ideas above his station - the club has a lot of foundations to lay before the world’s most coveted stars come flocking to Middle Eastlands.
But have no fear, Sheikh and Sparky, your personal shopper is here.
In the wake of the failed Kaka coup, we have scoured Europe to put together an ambitious, money-no-object starting eleven for City - although these players, for various reasons, are slightly more plausible targets.
GK: Jussi Jääskeläinen - One of the Premier League’s unsung heroes. Agile and commanding, his role in Bolton’s top flight progress over the years is criminally overlooked, so much so that the stopper has never quite got the big move he deserves.
RB: Darijo Srna - The Shakhtar Donetsk and Croatia full-back has been courted by many of Europe’s big hitters. He gave a sparkling performance in his side’s shock 3-2 Champions League win in the Nou Camp against a slightly weakened Barcelona in December.
LB: Phillip Lahm - Attacking and adventurous full backs are pivotal to any modern outfit aiming to bring style to the table. There are few better than Bayern Munich’s Lahm. Despite a shaky Euro 2008, the German is still highly regarded and with the Bundesliga currently far less lucrative than the top flights of England and Spain, he could present City with a golden opportunity for a ‘marquee’ signing.
CB: Kolo Toure - Sorry Arsenal fans, but Arsene Wenger’s unwillingness to bolster his young side with players of the stature of the Gunners’ rivals, it’s hard to see many major honours coming to the Emirates any time soon. The likes of Vieira, Henry, Flamini and Hleb recognised this and who is to say Arsenal’s remaining stalwarts might see their ambitions lying elsewhere?
CB: Christian Chivu - The experienced and versatile Romanian has been a bit-part player since Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Inter but could still walk into a lot of teams in the Champions League or UEFA Cup. Surely a nice wad of cash could tempt him to be the bedrock of an Eastlands revolution?
CM: Diego - Another player who has been sitting on a big move for some time - and we know how Man City love their Brazilians. For a midfielder, he has an impeccable goalscoring record, hitting the net 34 times in 74 appearances for Werder Bremen. He’s not bad in the air either, as he showed with his equaliser for Brazil against England in 2007’s 1-1 draw.
CM: Gennaro Gattuso - Why not? His current employers Milan have plenty of midfield options, and the recent courting of Marcos Senna suggests City are desperate for a man to break things up in the middle. The fiery Italian may be approaching his twilight years, but how about a final fling in the Premier League, snapping at the heels of Ronaldo, Torres, Drogba and co? The fact that Gattusso’s wife is Scottish also may make a move to Britain attractive.
CM: Yoann Gourcuff - With opportunities limited at his parent club Milan, the youngster is back in his home and simply tearing up the French league during a loan spell with Bordeaux. His skill, invention and body movement have seen him inevitably hailed as the new Zidane. The secret is slowly coming out.
FWL: Arjen Robben - When fully fit, the former Chelsea man is up there with the finest forwards in the world. He possesses priceless versatility, playing on either flank, in the middle of the park or as a second striker. Injuries haven’t been kind to Robben since he moved to Real Madrid and with Les Meringues being constantly linked with new wingers, there is every chance the Dutch international could leave the Santiago Bernabeu.
FWC: Diego Milito - A consistent performer and a real predator in Spain over the last couple of seasons, Milito came to the end of the line at Real Zaragoza when the club suffered a shock relegation to the Segunda. Moving on to pastures new in Italy, he has notched up 12 goals for Genoa in Serie A so far this season. The question is, are Genoa a big enough club, to match his ambitions or abilities?
FWR: David Silva - Valencia are enjoying a lofty position in La Liga, but noises coming from the board room at the Mestalla aren’t so encouraging. They have admitted offers for top players may have to be considered, and Euro 2008 winner Silva is sure to be one of those attracting attention. He is versatile, skilful and his work rate is refreshing.
....and a few in reserve - Of course, whoever the Sheikh buys he can only pick 11 at a time. There are plenty of others though who are capable of becoming class acts in any successful side. At international level Daniele De Rossi has lived in the shadow of Pirlo and Gattuso, but at Roma he has shown his brilliance as a ball playing midfielder. Tricky Argentinian Pablo Aimar is currently plying his trade at Benfica having been overlooked for so long by some of Europe’s premier clubs. And, let’s not forget Andrei Arshavin, who is angling for a move away from Zenit St Petersburg, having lit up last season’s UEFA Cup and European Championship.