So you’re in a two-team town. The city’s fan base isn’t exactly split 50-50 either. One team wins trophies; the other, well, it used to. One team is an international brand, while the other is more like Stephen Baldwin’s political opinion, you know, an afterthought.
And no, I’m not talking about the Yankees and the Mets.
I’m talking footie and Manchester United and Manchester City of the English Premier League.
The two squads have been playing against each other since 1881. They’ve met 150 times competitively with United winning 60, City claiming 41 and the other 49 games finishing in ties.
United have won 16 league titles, the most recent coming last year in a season which they also won the Champions League and were crowned victors of all of Europe – legitimately. We’re not talking any of that Napoleon prancing around saying, “I’m emperor” bullshit.
City last won the league title in 1968.
So basically, it hasn’t been much of a rivalry lately.
City has tried to ascend into the EPL’s upper echelon and were off to a good start under former England boss (and current Mexico skipper, how does that work?) Sven-Goran Eriksson. But then the team’s owner, former Thailand prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had his financial assets frozen. Not to mention he was deposed of power in a bloodless coup while he was in NYC checking out the United Nations. His passport was revoked and he was convicted in absentia of abusing his power.
He was accused of corruption, authoritarianism, demagogy, treason, conflicts of interest, acting non-diplomatically, tax evasion, the use of legal loopholes, hostility toward a free press, selling domestic assets to international investors and religious desecration.
Is that all?
Well, Frank (as the City supporters called him. Get it? Frank Sinatra – Shinawatra. It works.), skipped bail in Thailand on tax charges (it’s always the taxes), and as City fans began to get a bit anxious over the team’s new management, Shinawatra decided to sell the team so as not to bring any embarrassment to the club.
So Old Blue Eyes sold off to the Abu Dhabi United Group. You know, the company that pretty much could buy the world if it wanted to. The company is owned by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, or Notorious MBZ to his close confidants. Sheikh Mansour’s personal wealth is estimated at $47 billion and his family’s assets are around $466 billion. So Manchester City married into money. Every Jewish mother’s dream, though these guys ain’t too Jewish.
On the city of Manchester’s tourism site www.visitmanchester.com, it lets you know which soccer teams you can watch. “Manchester City are sometimes called the ‘other Manchester club.’” Ouch.
In actuality, United’s iconic Old Trafford isn’t in Manchester. It’s right outside the city limits in Trafford Borough. Double ouch.
So in efforts to change the culture at City, the Sheikh is dropping some major coin. In the summer, he splashed out $47 million on Real Madrid’s Robinho at the last moment of the transfer window (their trading deadline) breaking the English fee record.
Now, he’s at it again. In international soccer you can only sell and buy players during the summer or the month of January. Everyone knows the best sales are right after Christmas. So it’s January, and City is in 15th place in the league table, just two points above the drop zone (bottom three teams drop down to the second division).
Oh, and your neighbors, United? Their best player (Cristiano Ronaldo) was just named the best player in the world.
Time to spend some of daddy’s money. Hmm. Who is out there? Let’s name some of the biggest names in soccer and see if we can’t convince them to come to Manchester’s “other” team. Ronaldinho? Nope, tried that in the summer. Cristiano Ronaldo? No, he’s going to Real Madrid, so we hear. I know, we’ll get our own footballer of the year. Let’s spend $145 million on Kaka.
I know what you’re thinking: “That’s one expensive piece of shit.”
But Kaka is actually a person and a pretty good soccer player at that.
But see trying to pry loose one of the world’s best players, especially to a place like Manchester City, takes some convincing. And when you mix in the British tabloids, it tends get a little murky.
Here’s a taste of Thursday’s reports in the British media courtesy of the BBC:
Despite reports to the contrary from the Middle East, Manchester City boss Mark Hughes insists the Kaka deal could still go ahead. (Press Association, 1005 GMT)
Manchester City have sensationally withdrawn their bid for Kaka, and will instead unveil another signing from Serie A in the next 48 hours – “not in the Kaka league.” (Arabianbusiness.com, 0915 GMT)
AC Milan star Kaka will only move to Manchester City if he is given a series of get-out clauses as part of a world record 175 million pound deal. (The Sun)
If he joins City, the Brazilian star wants written guarantees in his contract that Sheikh Mansour remains the club’s owner and continues to invest heavily, that City qualify for the Champions League within two years, that Robinho stays at the club and also that he retains control of his image rights. If any of those clauses are broken, Kaka would be allowed to leave for a predetermined transfer fee. (The Sun)
City will offer Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti the chance to take charge at Eastlands in the summer in a bid to improve their chances of signing Kaka. (The Daily Star)
Kaka is committed to the Rossoneri but will listen to City if there is any indication that the Italian club are willing to accept the 100 million pound offer by the Eastlands club. (The Sun)
Milan are willing to sell Kaka but a deal will only be sanctioned if he wishes to leave the San Siro. (Daily Telegraph)
Kaka’s father and closest adviser Bosco Leite is flying in from Brazil to enter the negotiations. (The Sun)
City will present their proposal to Kaka’s representatives before the end of this week but Bosco Leite holds the key to whether the deal will go through. (The Daily Mirror)
Kaka wants to meet Sheikh Mansour before he decides on his future. (Daily Mail)
City will renew their efforts to sign Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon or AC Milan goalkeeper Dida in an attempt to convince Kaka of their ambitions. (Daily Telegraph)
Manchester City used Kaka’s compatriot Robinho, who joined them from Real Madrid for 32.5 million pounds in August, to try to persuade the 26-year old midfielder to swap the San Siro for Eastlands. (The Guardian)
Robinho has been in regular telephone contact with Kaka and has told City boss Mark Hughes that his Brazil team-mate is ready to move to Manchester. (Daily Mail)
The Daily Mirror even went as far as to see what Kaka would look like in a City shirt (thanks by the way).
This stuff is nuts. I won’t even bore you with the contradictory gossip they all printed yesterday. Kaka is good – real good. But is he worth the gross domestic product of the east Caribbean?
And just think, this is the Mets. Not the Yankees. All this noise about the friggin’ Mets?
They have Matthew Broderick and Hank Azaria. The Yankees: Denzel and Billy Crystal. Willie Randolph was good with the Yankees, ass with the Mets. Did anyone besides the rats in right field weep when Shea Stadium was torn down?
But City isn’t a total wasteland. Robinho’s big money move has been a mixed bag. He’s dazzled at times (team-leading 11 goals), but his inclusion hasn’t meant wins (six in 20 games). Less-heralded signings of Vincent Kompany (one of the best young defensive midfielders in Europe) and Wayne Bridge (no more Michael Ball/Javier Garrido tandem) are positive steps for City. Kaka will help, there’s no doubt about that, but no matter what City does this month they won’t qualify for Europe.
And to be honest, I don’t think all of this is going to happen. It’s a moot point. The only Kaka in Manchester is the pile of shit Cristiano Ronaldo slips on every time he’s breathed on in the box. You think he’s going to trade in teammates like Ronaldinho, David Beckham, Andrea Pirlo and Pato for Michael Johnson, Nedum Onuha, Felipe Caicedo and Darius Vassell?
Not likely, but Manchester City is hoping $156 million might do the trick. And to be honest, in this economy, you really shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. So we’ll see…