Sunday's season opening community shield match between the Premier League's two biggest spenders looks very much like it could be a preview of this year's title race. With the oil money siphoned directly into the chequing accounts of the two Robertos, Di Matteo and Mancini; Chelsea and Manchester City are operating on budgets that even Manchester United cannot match.
The signing of Jack Rodwell will take Manchester City to a net spend of around £400 million pounds over the last five years; over double that of Chelsea's (second highest spenders) £190 million outlay in the same period of time. To put this in context; Manchester United (fifth highest spenders) have spent a mere £36.6m; largely thanks to the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo that netted them £80m. This level of financial superiority has to pay off eventually; and this may be the season.
Chelsea have brought in Marko Marin (£7m), Oscar (£25m) and Eden Hazard (£32m) to bolster their midfield options - not that they lacked for star names in the middle of the park, with Ramires (£20m) Mereiles (£14m) and Mata (£23.5m) all signed in the last two years and competing with established talent such as Lampard (£10m), Mikel (£16m), Essien (£24.5m), and Malouda (£13.5m).
Roberto Mancini has spent the week complaining about not being backed in the transfer market so far this summer - suffering short term memory loss perhaps and forgetting that he was backed to the tune of around £150m in the last two seasons. Rather than midfielders; strikers have been the object du jour for Mancini - Balotelli (£24m) has sparkled in patches and bemused in others; Dzeko (£27m) was a Bundesliga star but has never been trusted with a long enough run in sky blue to make an impact but Aguero (£38m) could probably already claim to have paid back every penny of his transfer fee with his title winning goal against QPR in injury time on the final day of last season.
Many pundits and fans may fawn over the quality of player and football on show; but unfortunately these teams with their bloated wage bills and unlimited spending power leave a sour taste in my mouth, not least because they prize function over flourish despite their abundance of riches. Were it not for individual moments of brilliance from the likes of Aguero last year; Mancini's City may not have shaken off their boring tag; and the Italian's hesitance in big games still let them down badly in Europe, when they sat on leads and were taken apart by Napoli and Bayern Munich in the Champions League, and Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League. Chelsea's Champions league win was predicated on last gasp defence and a powerful spine and epitomised a style of football that has been best used as a foil and comparison to the beautiful pass and move style of Barcelona.
Youth players don't have a chance to make it through the ranks of either side and the protestations that these spending sprees were merely temporary blips to bring them up to speed before UEFA financial fair play rules kick in are ringing increasingly hollow as there appears to be no way that the books will be able to be balanced in time for the restrictions; which can only suggest that both Man City & Chelsea have surmised that the political will to impose Michel Platini's ruling is simply not there at the governing body.
Both clubs have now amassed squad depth that the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool simply cannot match and will have the luxury of resting several first team players over busy periods in favour of replacements who cost tens of millions of pounds. With the quality of talent at their disposal, neither has any excuse for failure this season other than poor management.
If it sounds like sour grapes - then it is. But its borne out of a deep sense of frustration that rather than playing elsewhere and entertaining us with their talents; the chances of seeing much of the likes of Edin Dzeko, Jack Rodwell, Josh McEachran, and Yossi Benayoun is very small as two large teams accumulate talent in such an aggressive and greedy manner without a care in the world for consequences.741463