Manchester pair set to splurge

Monaco's French forward Kylian Mbappe's value has soared to an estimated £112 million (S$202 million), with Manchester City and Real Madrid leading the race to sign the 18-year-old.
Monaco's French forward Kylian Mbappe's value has soared to an estimated £112 million (S$202 million), with Manchester City and Real Madrid leading the race to sign the 18-year-old.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

They may spend combined $722m to pursue Chelsea, who will themselves invest heavily

LONDON • Summer transfer spending is expected to reach record levels by English clubs.

The two Manchester outfits alone are likely to splash out at least £400 million (S$722.4 million) on new players, as they try to close the gap on Chelsea and mount serious challenges in the Champions League - should United beat Ajax in the Europa League final on Wednesday.

There is a theory in football that transfers and wage bills determine almost everything when it comes to on-field success. Sometimes it feels like the Premier League is a determined attempt to prove that theory wrong.

Last summer, Premier League clubs committed themselves to more than £1 billion (S$1.8 billion) of spending on transfer fees, easily outstripping LaLiga and Serie A combined.

The return on investment in the Champions League? Just one quarter-final slot in a competition England's assorted profligate representatives have now won only once in nine editions.

On two measures of transfer fee expenditure - total spend last summer and total spend since 2010 - Manchester City surpassed every club on the planet.

On two other measures - Paul Pogba's record purchase price and the total transfer-fee cost of squad at the end of the summer window - United topped the global pile.

City will finish without a trophy this season while United have dropped one spot to sixth in the Premier League. The Manchester magnates' response to past mistakes? To double down and spend again.

Such are the shopping lists of the two clubs that it will be no surprise if each commits more than £200 million to new players during the summer, and it is not impossible that they will get through over half a billion between them.

A goalkeeper, At least two full-backs, a central defender, a central midfielder, wingers and a striker - the length of City's recruitment list reflects the extent of their unique investment in manager Pep Guardiola.

The Abu Dhabi-owned club spent years persuading the Catalan, reshaping themselves from executive level down to the academy in order to first seduce the coach, then have him prosper.

With no silverware to show for a season in which Guardiola first ruled his team out of the title race in January, City are acting on the manager's complaints about the age, pace and tactical adaptability of his squad.

"We speak every day about what we do to improve the quality of the players we have, and will have in the future," said Guardiola.

"I remember Sir Alex Ferguson would win titles and titles - but every season would change players. You have to do that."

They are ready to go head-to-head with Real Madrid for the signature of the most beguiling talent on this summer's market, Kylian Mbappe, regardless of the price for Monaco's teenage striker shooting north of £112 million.

Guardiola's desire for full-backs is such that Luke Shaw can expect to be relieved of the millstone of being the game's most expensive one. And Sergio Aguero has been placed on the market because City's manager believes that his leading scorer restricts his options and converts too few chances.

A few months into his first Old Trafford campaign, Jose Mourinho realised this summer's window would be vital in returning United's playing staff to a level where they could compete for both Premier and Champions League.

In defence he wants a partner for Eric Bailly, who exceeded all expectations, plus a starting left-back. A dominant holding midfielder and a replacement for striker Wayne Rooney are also essential.

With the £86 million Antoine Griezmann targeted as United's second striker, the recruitment list was already an expensive proposition before two further complications came into play.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's double cruciate rupture forced Mourinho to add a powerful centre-forward, while Real's renewed pursuit of David de Gea means a goalkeeper may also be required.

At Chelsea, Antonio Conte must persuade owner Roman Abramovich his squad requires significant investment if there is to be a serious assault on the Champions League.

The Italian wants to win Europe's premier club competition and is demanding major money be spent on defenders, midfielders and strikers.

Chelsea hope to extract £129 million from China for Diego Costa -a sum that could fund much of the manager's requested rebuilding.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'Manchester pair set to splurge'. Print Edition | Subscribe