Man City: Could Yaya, Silva Or Nasri Fill Negredo's Boots?
In a record breaking transfer window full of marquee signings from all over as teams try to catch up with last season's Champions, Manchester City kept one eye on FFP regulations whilst doing their business early, shrewdly, and avoiding last minute hyperinflation.
Aside from the strengthening of a sometimes shaky defence, arguably, City's best business was to tie down the squad's spine on longer and more cost effective deals. A club whose fans would often stay up late on deadline day, terrified that Dunne, Distin or God forbid, Shaun Wright-Phillips would leave are no longer a selling club. One by one Silva, Kompany, Kolarov, Dzeko and Aguero all signed long term contracts with the Champions, keeping their star turns at the club until their twilight days and beyond.
Bacary Sagna was the first arrival, a solid and reliable alternative to Zabaleta with the same attacking mindset, a signing which allows Zabaleta to avoid burnout after playing 3079 minutes last term, more than any other City player. The right-back void would have been filled by club hero Micah Richards were he not plagued by a series of injury problems. You'll do well to find a blue not sad to see him leave having made his début in 2005. He will forever be remembered for that header away to Aston Villa, his derby day heroics on several occasions, and that he was the last of the old guard, the only remaining pre-Sheikh Mansour player.
Next in was Brazilian midfield mountain Fernando – the Octopus – a nickname picked up after his performance against Manchester United in the Champions League. In pre season some may have found it hard to pinpoint exactly what his role is, but, that's his biggest attribute. Like Gareth Barry, who often went unnoticed, but he is everywhere and perhaps unlike Barry, Fernando has a very deceptive turn of foot. Sitting in front of the back four he will complement the attacking instincts of Yaya Toure, crunch like de Jong but with a significantly better range of passing and at £12m is easily one of the biggest bargains of the summer.
Fernando replaces the now departed Jack Rodwell, who will hopefully do very well at Sunderland and Javi Garcia, berated by many for some indifferent performances but a man who was key to City's title run in – see his spectacularly solid performance away to Hull under difficult circumstances.
Willy Caballero followed his former manager over to Manchester replacing the gigantic Costel Pantilimon. The experienced Spaniard brings some real competition for Joe Hart, a kick up the back side for England's number one, despite his mistake in the Community Shield. An astute improvement on the Romanian giant and more than just a last resort back up keeper.
City's biggest and most expensive signing of the summer was French centre half Eliaquim Mangala, who can become Vincent Kompany's full time defensive partner. A fee of £32m puts a lot of pressure on the 23 year old to perform but should make the step up into the shoes of Martin Demichelis after an amazing run of performances in the last few months of last season, often carrying Kompany through games.
And then came Frank Lampard. The Champions League winner and England legend can help bring more much needed experience and guile to those tough European away games. He may not play much but his presence alone makes his loan unquestionable. Again, not spectacular, but very smart.
As for departures, here's where things became rather strange.
Negredo's return to La Liga is the biggest shock in that there was no replacement. Following a stunning start and 23 goals last time out, his season tailed off after the New Year, overrun by injuries. This may then pave the way for youth coming through up top, but, with Marcos Lopes on loan at Lille and Guidetti well off the pace, it is unlikely that even the Nigerian wonder-kid Kelechi Iheanacho will fill Negredo's size 11s. It is more likely that one of David Silva, Samir Nasri or Yaya Toure will slot into the number 10 role in behind a lone striker.
The not so obvious yet equally frustrating departure is that of Emyr Huws, the 20 year old Welsh midfielder who really looked the part, originally loaned to Wigan, he was signed permanently, late on deadline day. This may be down to the arrival of Argentinian Bruno Zuculini who is on loan to Valencia, a revelation in pre-season who may well have even more potential than Huws.
Unlike the disastrous Summer following Mancini's title win, Pellegrini bought early, and bought well, building on the Champions' already powerful squad, as well as tying down his biggest stars. It's important now that the team retain their title and push on in Europe, a job not helped by yet another tough group.