10 ways that football has changed completely in the last 14 days

City awash with cash, Chelsea struggling for players, and England play well. It seems an age since the last Premier League round and in many ways it is. Welcome to a new era
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1 The biggest club in world football is now Manchester City...

Because, in the wake of the Premier League sheikh-up of 12 days ago, billionaire owners have suddenly become so last year. Forget the £2.8bn net worth of Tottenham's Joe Lewis or even Roman Abramovich's £11bn, Sheikh Mansour will be ploughing in the Abu Dhabi royalty's cash – not his country's oil billions, as some seem to think – but that still means £550bn of loose change. Of course, richest owner doesn't necessarily mean biggest club – City's value, based on what the sheikh's forking out is £210m; the old adversaries from Old Trafford are worth an estimated £900m and Real Madrid £646m. But we can be sure there'll be ambition. City's dynamic executive chairman Garry Cook wants the Arabs to make City the Virgin brand of Asia. Will the City global brand catch on? Yes, if they make quick work of becoming a global footballing force. No pressure there then, Sparky.

2 The most powerful person in world football is now a woman...

Her name is Amanda Staveley, and she's the most well-spoken girl to have come out of Doncaster in many a year. Thaksin Shinawatra employed the 34-year-old to help sell him City because he knew of her connections with several royal families in the Gulf. It worked. She had received offers from several Gulf states before Sheikh Mansour's front man, Sulaiman Al-Fahim came in and impressed her with his intellect and his willingness to move fast. One of Staveley's most impressive attributes is her ability to glide between Middle East corporate culture and the British football scene. She was certainly at home at the bar during the Football Writers' Association awards dinner at the Lancaster Gate hotel in May. Staveley is also still advising Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Mansour's son-in-law, on the Anfield takeover he yearns for. With a mass anti-American protest by Liverpool fans expected today, don't expect the City deal to be her last in British football.

3 ...and the most important place in world football is now Doha

The Qatari capital has always been the city where the economists decamp for the annual world trade talks – about as lively as Wigan v Bolton on a wet Tuesday night – but it's suddenly become the place which might just prove the salvation for Newcastle, Everton and any other clubs who aspire to bestride the European stage. The City revolution underlines the fact that the American buy-up of Premier League football is over. The Americans thought they could make profits from the game (buying into United, Liverpool, Everton, Aston Villa and Arsenal) but, United and possibly Arsenal apart, can't make the financial model work. With the Russian oligarchs looking increasingly to their own nation, the Arabs are the future. Enter Qatar – an oil state eagerly looking for new sources of revenue. Five international art museums are in the pipeline and British opportunities appeal as much to its people as they do to the Abu Dhabis. They have shares in Barclays Bank, and the Qatar Investment Authority also holds a 27 percent share in Sainsbury's. With Everton's Bill Kenwright among those yearning for a billionaire to rescue him, the Premier League looks like its next supermarket sweep.

4 Robinho is the most valuable player in Britain

Well his Manchester City salary – £160,000 a week, which makes poor old JT and Lamps look like mere paupers – tells us that he is, and the Spanish newspaper headline from the day after his spectacular Real Madrid debut – 'And God created Robinho' – certainly adds a little something.

Pele – who, modestly enough, once called Robinho "the next Pele" – says agent avarice motivated his £32.6m move to City and that he will be trouble. But Mark Hughes believes he's signed a new Cantona in the form of the £32.6m Brazilian, who is expected to be on the bench for Chelsea's arrival at Eastlands. Hughes' claim looks a tad extravagant, but it's based on his belief that footballing genius is to be found in its simplicity.

"He made the right decisions more often than not, which is the mark of a top player," Hughes said yesterday, describing the attributes Cantona and Robinho share. "In any situation, he will make the right decisions more times than a lesser player would. That's why they are great players."

Hughes, who lobbied his old Barcelona team-mate Bernd Schuster, now Real's coach, to prize the Brazilian from Chelsea's clutches, sees the 24-year-old raising the overall level at City.

"When you get a player as talented as Robinho coming into a group of players, the level of the other rises automatically," he said. "That's always happened and it's a football thing. With a player of his quality around, it raises the bar for everybody else. It makes my job easier because every player has an ego and wants to judge themselves against the best players in the squad and around the country. That happens on a daily basis, so with Robinho coming into the club. Mark my words, the training will be of the highest quality simply because of the players I have brought in."

This is a big ask of a player who is two years younger than Cantona was when he arrived in Manchester and looks light years away from him as a leader of men. Robinho is the individual who escaped training via a ground-floor window to avoid meeting the Spanish press; who didn't look like a talisman when he declared at a bizarre press conference before leaving Real, that Schuster, his coach, was "not his dad" and could not tell him what to do. Hughes says he doesn't know whether he will need to nurture Robinho, as Ferguson did Cantona and will do Dimitar Berbatov. "We'll see," he said. "It's very early days in my relationship with the boy, but his talent can't be denied." Hughes doesn't really know him at all. Their time together before yesterday was an hour in a Heathrow meeting room.

The doubters say he never recaptured the form he delivered on that Real debut, on a sultry August night in Cadiz in 2005. But here's a point. Before injury last January, when his form matched anyone in La Liga's, the boy from São Vicente would summon up frequent pieces of brilliance on difficult away trips to edge narrow victories for Real Madrid. It sounds like the perfect attribute for cold Saturdays in Stoke and Hull and hardly what Cristiano Ronaldo – most analysts' most valuable player – is known for. Robinho's single, breathtaking lay-off for his new City strike partner Jo, for Brazil in Chile on Monday night, told us what might be in store for La Liga's erstwhile king of bicicletas (that's step-overs to you and me).

Though his time on the pitch might be limited, he made it quite clear to Hughes how fired up he was for a sparkling debut against opponents whose £26m bid for him came to nothing. "His first thoughts to me were that he couldn't wait to face Chelsea," Hughes said. Move over Ronaldo.

5 Chelsea are short in midfield

Once upon a time Chelsea had more midfielders than they knew what to do with. So Luiz Felipe Scolari sold Makelele, Sidwell and Wright-Phillips. Then, with the window shut and Ballack crocked, Essien suffers a cruciate injury putting him out for five months.

6 Managers don't buy players anymore

Kevin Keegan and Alan Curbishley both left their clubs citing a lack of control of transfer policy as pivotal in their decisions. Meanwhile, Manchester City's brash new owners believe they know more about player recruitment than the man who has to create the team. But if the results turn sour, guess who gets the sack?

7 Manchester United may have signed the new Cantona

"Football is like art and I am sometimes trying to do a masterpiece." Sound familiar? No, it's not the old Diable Rouge, King Cantona, but the words of the man who joined United in the early hours of 2 September, and delivers to Old Trafford the kind of brooding, black dog temperament which the place has not seen since Cantona walked out, 11 years ago. Some think he might even play like the old King too.

8 The Russians are coming

Never mind our transfer window. What was going on in Europe? For all the Special One's huffing and puffing, Ricardo Quaresma's £14m move from Porto was his only eye-catching deal. Peanuts compared with the transfer in which Zenit St Petersburg, the new European high rollers, broke the Russian record to sign another Portuguese international, Danny, for £24m. Their ambition has also seen them hold onto Andrei Arshavin. Drawn with Real Madrid and Juventus in the Champions League, Zenit demand respect. They beat Fergie's boys in the European Super Cup and look like legitimate members of the new football world order.

9 The strangest deal of the whole summer involved a Belgian

Remember the old gag? Name five famous Belgians. Well now there's another one (maybe): Marouane Fellaini. The 20-year-old joined Everton on deadline day. The price? An eye-watering £15m. For a defensive midfielder. With all the shenanigans over Robinho and Berbatov few people noticed, but it looks like a panic buy. Everton had failed to sign anyone until a week before the deadline after David Moyes spent the summer chasing Joao Moutinho. Moroccan-born Felliani may develop into a star, but the fee was more than twice that Manchester City paid for his more highly regarded compatriot, Vincent Kompany.

10 England weren't embarrassing

In fact they were positively uplifting and it is many, many months since that was the case. We may all be turning our minds back to domestic football this weekend but it will be a long time before the warm glow of Theo Walcott's hat-trick in Zagreb fades. Maybe the foreigners are not ruining English football, maybe young players are coming through, maybe World Cup 2010 will be not be another miserable disappointment. Maybe we're just getting a bit carried away. Let's see what happens against Belarus next month before we put the champers on ice.

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