Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Man City - An Apotheosis of Sorts

It's a good thing the emir of Abu Dhabi was born to inherit the wealth attached to one of the earth's richest pool of hydrocarbons. Because he is clearly intent on pissing away hundreds of millions of dollars at Man City.

Just so there's no mistaking my meaning: this is a disaster. There is literally no chance whatsoever that this project is going to work out.

OK, gazumping Chelsea for Robinho's signature was kind of funny. But 32.5M GBP? 160,000 GBP/week? For what amounts to Jermaine Defoe with better footwork? Don't get me wrong, Robinho's a good player. But since moving to Europe he's yet to put together a sustained run of good form for as long as even half a season. We have no idea how well he'll fare in the rough and tumble of the premiership. And, let's face it, chances are he's going to be bored shitless in Manchester and, like most young people in such situations, will end up to no good. Making him the world's best-paid player just seems guaranteed to send him down Ronaldinho Lane inside a few months.

But the Robinho business is small beans compared to the rest of the nonsense about to befall Man City. The Abu Dhabi United (a name which is going to cause all kinds of confusion, I can tell you) Group's frontman, Dr. Sulaiman Al-Fahim (pictured), says he has plans to offer Manchester United 135M GBP for Ronaldo come the winter transfer window. He also says he is interested in bringing Thierry Henry, David Villa, and - dear sweet, merciful God - Ronaldo (the larger one) to Eastlands to complement Robinho.

This is clearly a man whose knowledge of the game has been gleaned from an Xbox. There are no doubt people suffering from river blindness in the furhter reaches of Burkina Faso who might still think of Ronaldo as worthy of a punt as a top division striker, but surely to God no sighted person with an interest in football could say the same. Nor could football fans who have ever heard the words "Real Madrid" and "Barcelona" and have intellects surpassing that of cottage cheese actually think that an attack-heavy galactico strategy is likely to produce returns on the pitch.

And when Dr. al-Fahim casually stated that the team would be bringing in "18 players, minimum" next year, what effect did he think he would have on the morale of the squad for the next nine months? Will Joe Hart be extra-enthused to keep clean sheets so Gianluigi Buffon can play in the Champions League next year? Will Martin Petrov be banging in the goals so he can be replaced by Cristiano Ronaldo?

And for all his bizarre good fortune in escaping the giant financial suckhole that Thaksin Shinwatra came to represent, spare a thought for Mark Hughes. He's a decent manager but not the kind of brand name luxury good his new Arab bosses so clearly adore and is very clearly Tinker-Man Walking.

Now, to be fair, there are worse fates than that about to befall Man City. You could be part of the Toon Army, for instance. Or you could be a Liverpool fan, coming to grips with the fact that maybe, just maybe, Rafa's consistent shiteness might be (correctly) rewarded with something less than fourth place (this, it seems to me, is the principal silver lining for United fans tonight).

But my guess is that City fans secretly kind of liked being an underdog. Jimmy Grimble fit them well. Yes, that image was obviously cracked last year when Shinwatra with his vast fortune and Human Rights Watch charge sheet the length of your arm blew into town. But for the last couple of months the chaos surrounding Thaksin's financial and legal affairs still lent the team the necessary air of incompetence to appear a viable alternative to those who felt the Glazers and their Red Devils needed to be opposed.

No more. The new regime doesn't just have more money than sense; it's obscenely wealthy and agressively stupid. It will be globally hated with a ferocity unparalleled in the history of football. Supporting Man United will cease to be the act of a gloryhunter, and come to seem like an act of football patriotism. Which in turn will make City even more hated.

It's a sad, sad day all around.

TFC Asks Me for an Interest-Free Loan

You'll remember, of course, the general contempt that TFC has shown for travelling fans. Well, now it's showing it to home fans as well.

My season ticket renewal form arrives in my inbox. Apparently included in this year's price is not just my 15 league games, but also an international friendly (I see they've learned their lesson and are now scheduling only one of these atrocities), two Canadian championship matches, and (drumroll please) a premliminary round CONCACAF game.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that would be the CONCACAF round we are not guaranteed to play in (and which, indeed, we did not play in this year due to Cunningham's complete inability to from a range of four feet with only air molecules to beat).

Now, the team is very nice about this. If we don't get to play in this game next August, they say they'll refund me the money.

Hmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

Average ticket price: call it $45. Season ticket holders: 16,000. That's a $720,000 interest-free loan the MLSE boys are asking from us fans for the next eleven months. At prime, that works out to about $33,000, or enough to pay two and a half developmental players' salaries for a year.

I guess the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (owner of MLSE and its aggressively mediocre family of sports teams) didn't get to be the multi-billion dollar behemoth it is withour nickel-and-diming its customers along the way.