James Lawton: City's flawed ambition can only drive the game mad

 

Nigel De Jong, Manchester City's Dutch midfielder, has let it be known that he is "frustrated," in his negotiations with his club over the terms of his future employment.

This may not rank highly on any chart of human suffering but some may see his point partly because, in almost the same breath as giving his new team-mate Sergio Aguero a guarantee of more than £50m wages over the next five years, City say the best they can do for him is a mere £80,000 a week, which of course is barely £4m a year.

The main reason, though, is that football has become, essentially and at times, almost exquisitely mad.

So separated has it become from the experience of most normal people, it has almost lost the power to outrage or astound. Most people just juggle the figures and shake their heads.

It has become a place where players even as resolutely functional as De Jong, who, for all his professional qualities, could no more light up a football stadium than double as lead violinist for the Hallé Orchestra, seem to spend much of their time agonising over quite how well they are keeping up with football inflation.

Now that City have become such a byword for the phenomenon, manager Roberto Mancini can only groan at the news that not only De Jong is upset but also Vincent Kompany, who is also being offered a slave-rate £80,000-a-week, and Micah Richards, for whom there is only the scrapings of £65,000, out of which, when you think about it, he could buy no more than four bog-standard Porsches a month.

These rumblings do not fit so easily into the image of mature, upward mobility that City had some cause to be projecting at the end of the season. Winners of their first significant trophy in 35 years when the FA Cup was gathered in at the expense of Manchester United, higher placed than Arsenal in the final roll-call for Europe, City had finally started to play some fully integrated, grown-up football.

However, right on the cue of a new season we have the rumblings of the disaffected, the ritual promises of the latest expensive hero and the increasingly plaintive cries of Carlos Tevez over the family tragedy of his not being able to share with his daughters a perfectly agreeable existence in somewhere like Madrid or Milan.

It is necessary to remind ourselves all over again about the essentially flawed ambition of Manchester City. They have created in their dressing room something that increasingly resembles a culture of ever-rising envy. De Jong, no doubt, is a forceful and effective professional but his own estimation of his worth is unlikely to be shared by most of those who remember him mostly by what appeared to be an attempt to decapitate Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso in the World Cup final.

Kompany is a fine, consistent defender and Richards is still young enough to be regarded as promising, but for the moment such virtues are once again overshadowed by one of the older truths of football.

It is that you cannot buy success simply at any price. You cannot throw masses of money at players of disparate skill and personality and expect some smooth and seamlessly competitive result.

In the Manchester City executive suite, the belief, clearly, is that Sergio Aguero is worth at least twice as much as any of De Jong or Kompany or Richards. This is an entirely reasonable calculation, but at the moment it seems to offer only one guarantee. It is that City, for all their recent progress, will for some time continue to define the difference between building success and buying insanity.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
books
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot