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Page last updated at 13:21 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

City slickers or laughing stock?

By Simon Austin

City will pursue another "marquee" name after missing out on Kaka

The "wind-up merchants" were out in force on Manchester City's section of the BBC 606 message boards on Tuesday.

Nantastic taunted: "Kaka rejects City, Robinho storms out. Oh well, at least you snapped up Craig Bellamy." Another Manchester United fan, Micksametosis, told City's fans "I feel for you", before adding rather unsympathetically " poor, deluded saps".

City's executive chairman, Garry Cook, went on Radio 5 Live to defend the club's pursuit of Kaka but merely fuelled the derision.

He explained that City had tried to lure the Brazilian star to Eastlands by outlining their "humanitarian approach" and emphasising "environmental issues". Sadly "those issues were taking a back seat and the financial demands were coming to the fore" as negotiations progressed, he lamented.

Yet the pursuit of Kaka was hardly a foolish pipedream for City's billionaire owner, Sheikh Mansour. Landing a marquee name has been a central part of the billionaire's strategy from the day he bought the club.

The Sheikh and his advisors see City as a means of promoting Abu Dhabi around the world. As his key aide Simon Pearce explained when the sale went through last September: "For any company, but particularly for a United Arab Emirates' company with global ambition, (Manchester City) presents a great opportunity".

Marcel Desailly
If I had been in Kaka's position, I would have stayed at Milan as well

Marcel Desailly
AC Milan 1993-1998

While elevating City to the top echelons of the Premier League will inevitably take time, signing a superstar will give the club instant exposure and kudos around the world.

"Kaka alone was not going to make City a top-four team, but his signing would have taken the club to a whole new level in terms of media exposure," Nigel Currie, director of sports marketing agency Rapport, told BBC Sport.

The problem is that City may need to win a Champions League spot before they can land players of the calibre of Kaka.

Currie, who counts the Barclays Premier League among his clients, believes the failed pursuit of Kaka will still benefit City, however.

"The whole episode has raised the club's profile and status and put a marker down," he says. "Everyone knows they are now serious players in English football."

The club's owners now know that money alone is not enough to land a player of Kaka's stature though.


Marcel Desailly, who played for AC Milan from 1993 to 1998, told BBC Sport: "If I had been in Kaka's position, I would have stayed in Milan as well, and I sincerely mean that. Money is obviously important, but Kaka already has a very large salary.

"You have to have played for Milan to understand what the club is all about. It is a family, they really look after you.

"There is such a heritage there, the facilities are the best and a winning mentality influences everything that goes on. It is so difficult to leave a club like that."

Desailly left the San Siro in 1998, when he swapped Serie A for Chelsea and the English Premier League at the age of 30.

The World Cup winner argues that the Blues were a more attractive proposition then than City are now.

"Chelsea are in London and they had at least achieved something in the six or seven years before Roman Abramovich arrived," the Frenchman explains.

Last summer Cesc Fabregas said moving to City would be "suicidal" for his career, while Dutch forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar spoke of a "second-rate club" wanting to make him "very rich" on transfer-deadline day.

Despite the failure to land Kaka, the news has not been all bleak for City during the January transfer window. While the media's attention has been focussed on Kaka, City have been quietly finalising a deal to bring one of Europe's most coveted midfielders, Nigel de Jong, to Eastlands.

Nigel de Jong
City are set to beat Real Madrid to the signature of Nigel de Jong

The player's manager at Hamburg, former Spurs boss Martin Jol, describes the 24-year-old as a diminutive version of Michael Carrick, who will "thrive in the Premier League".

While not a galactico, De Jong is the kind of hungry, young player who can help City fight for the Champions League spot which might attract the likes of Kaka.

And while Bellamy may be widely derided, Hughes undoubtedly managed to get the best out of the Welsh striker at Blackburn, where he scored 13 goals in 22 games.

City are likely to continue to pursue a dual transfer strategy. Hughes will go after proven Premier League performers like Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz, while Cook will continue to chase the superstar player he and Sheikh Mansour so crave.

Cook, a former Nike executive who has said he wants City to become a "global empire" and "bigger than Manchester United", insists he has not been chastened by the Kaka experience or the failure to sign Ronaldinho last summer.

"It certainly doesn't put us off," he says. "We're extremely proud of the fact that we actually had a seat at the table to discuss bringing Kaka to this football club."

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see also
Robinho explains Man City absence
20 Jan 09 |  Man City
AC Milan 'bottled Kaka transfer'
20 Jan 09 |  Man City
Man City close in on De Jong deal
19 Jan 09 |  Man City
Arabian might at Eastlands
02 Sep 08 |  Man City
Arab group agrees Man City deal
01 Sep 08 |  Man City

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