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Messi magic comes from nothing

Messi magic comes from nothing


It is fair to say Manchester City have undergone quite a transformation over the last 10 years. From having a reputation for blundering about making historical muddles of their own business, the club has been recreated as a shining paradigm of a modern, streamlined and flourishing enterprise. It is a club visited by others to see what they can copy. It is a club that now occupies the upper echelons once cordoned off for the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.

 

As transformational change goes this has been pretty much the full makeover. Unrecognisable from its ugly duckling forebears, present day Manchester City also have undergone other important changes. From occupying many fans' place as favourite second team, harmless, gormless and utterly hopeless in everything they did, City are now revered as one of the elite. From being a safe three points, they are now a sure-fire write-off when visitors map where their season's points haul will come from.

 

The players have changed, too. From the days when millions were squandered on the likes of Steve Daley and Danny Mills, the stands reverberate to lusty applause for Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, David Silva and a host of A-grade world football stars.

 

They are not only revered, of course. With success and superpower status comes jealousy and loathing.

 

Once known as Typical City (a quirky moniker adopted to represent the inevitability of failure), City became the Noisy Neighbours (Sir Alex Ferguson), those classless upstarts who suddenly eat in the oyster bar but ask for a side portion of chips and gravy to accompany their sea urchin.

 

From being clumsy failures, they were suddenly involved in what Arsene Wenger named "financial doping." The tables had been turned, the earth had shifted, and the new boys on the block were not much appreciated for knocking the status quo. That plump, comfy Champions League place that United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea would settle into on a yearly basis like a favourite armchair, suddenly had a hairy, flea-bitten dog rolled up in it snoring loudly after eating all their superpower crunkles.

 

First Liverpool lost their place on the Champions League gravy train, then United. City even survived year after year of tough Champions League groups to settle into a coefficient that now affords them kinder draws. They are here, it would seem, for the long haul.

 

The club has achieved this by astute management, huge financial input and the purchase of better and better players. If the eyes were wide the day Roberto Mancini uncovered David Silva, Aleksandar Kolarov, Yaya Toure and Jerome Boateng all on the same day, they have got successively wider as the likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva have joined the ranks.

 

These sumptuous players have brought unheard of success to the club and yet one thing has stayed exactly the same as it ever was.

 

The wonderfully skilled players are regularly ignored when it comes to handing out individual and team awards. The managers are, too: Mancini was beaten to the manager of the year title after the thrilling once-in-a-million climax in 2012 by Alan Pardew of Newcastle. Manuel Pellegrini was pushed out of the way by the talented Tony Pulis of Crystal Palace when he repeated the feat in 2014. These are the only two occasions that the title-winning manager has been overlooked for an also-ran.

 

The players have fared similarly badly. Silva and Aguero, two of the gems of the Premier League, have never won an individual award in England. Neither has Yaya Toure, perhaps the most influential of the lot. In fact a Manchester City player has never won the PFA Player of the Year award since its inauguration in 1973-74.

 

Of the 77 possible team places from 2009-10 to last season, City players have been chosen nine times in the Team of the Year.

 

Lack of recognition has become a way of life at the Etihad.

 

Which is why the FIFPRO list of the 55 best players in the world today should not really raise too many eyebrows. Voted for by some "25,000 professional footballers worldwide," the list makes interesting reading. Antonio Valencia is there, as is Samuel Umtiti and the retired Philipp Lahm. If the award includes last season, Lahm's gentle descent into retirement makes a tiny bit more sense, but Romelu Lukaku "of Manchester United" certainly does not. He surely cannot be there for his efforts at Everton last season? And if he is, why is the word "Everton" entirely missing?

 

Needless to say, Manchester City have no representation. Perhaps the most star-studded team to grace the Premier League , certainly one of the most talented, is completely absent from the list. Manchester United, to put things into perspective, have six. Silva and De Bruyne will be heartened to find out that their fellow professionals rate the efforts of Mesut Ozil, Casemiro, Philippe Coutinho and Nemanja Matic of "Chelsea/Manchester United" higher.

 

Pep Guardiola, it would seem, is working even bigger miracles with his squad of nobodies than even City fans give him credit for.