Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini comes across as an intelligent man but even he admits that the Financial Fair Play rules which have hamstrung the club so much leave him baffled.
Until last season, today’s game at home to Chelsea would have been billed as the clash between Britain’s two biggest-spending clubs. These days the restrictions of FFP has limited the transfer muscle of both.
While the Chelsea chief executive, Ron Gourlay, admitted that the club that financed its summer spending by selling David Luiz, Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku for £115million now has to “chase the penny”, Pellegrini confessed to being bewildered by the spending restrictions.
“I really do not understand what Financial Fair Play is,” said the Manchester City manager. “For me it is impossible. This is a club that does not have a pound of debt to anyone. I understand that, if you have a big debt you don’t pay, you have to be punished but I do not understand exactly what is Financial Fair Play.”
Pellegrini may not understand it but has to deal with the implications of a ruling that links spending to turnover and has restricted the Premier League champions’ net outlay to £49m this summer.
Some would find it extraordinary that a club that has been hamstrung in the transfer market would spend £32m on a defender and then not play him. That is, however, what City have done with their marquee signing, Eliaquim Mangala, who has not played a competitive match since finishing his season at Porto in May.
The 23-year-old, second only to Luiz in the list of the world’s most expensive defenders, could probably feature at the Etihad Stadium this afternoon but Pellegrini wants him bedded into the squad.
He also sees no reason to drop Martin Demichelis, whom he has known and trusted since their days at Malaga together. Vincent Kompany is probably undroppable even if he were not the club captain. At the Etihad, the director of football, Txiki Begiristain, has the final say on signings.
“We thought we needed a good defender but not necessarily in the month of August or September,” said Pellegrini by way of explanation.
“We needed a young defender and we thought Mangala was the correct player. We will see when he starts playing.
“He will play but he does not have to play immediately. It is four months without him playing a game but why must we start him immediately when we have two good defenders?”
The meeting of Manchester City and Chelsea is not just one between the two clubs most likely to win the Premier League next May but the two sides with the oldest teams.
At more than 28, City’s is the most mature in the division and not only will the resale value of many of their players fall, they have a limited window to seal their hold on the Premier League and make a real impact in the Champions League.
After their defeat at Bayern Munich on Wednesday and the dropped points against Stoke and Arsenal, City badly require a win against a side that overcame them home and away last season.
When asked if he had learned any lessons from Chelsea’s tactically brilliant 1-0 victory at the Etihad in February, Pellegrini suggested that Branislav Ivanovic, who struck the winner then, was unlikely to repeat the feat and pointed out that 12 days later City knocked Chelsea out of the FA Cup on the same ground.
Partly because of FFP, which hastened the sale of an injured Alvaro Negredo, and injuries to Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko, Pellegrini will face Jose Mourinho, a man he has little time for, with just one fit striker.
It will be a relief that the striker is Sergio Aguero. But for Diego Costa’s seven goals this season, the three scored by the Argentine would be worthy of note.
“You saw the best of him in the first four months of last season,” said Pellegrini. “But after that he had so many injuries it was impossible for him to maintain that. But he is 26 years old and at that age you keep improving.”Reuse content