After a week or so of exhilarating fantasy, us Man City fans were brought back to earth on Monday night with a crash. The MCFC delegation in Milan, led by our rather bizarre Executive Chairman Garry Cook, was to come back empty handed. The protests of hundreds of Milan fans had convinced Kaká not to leave, and the deal was off. Naturally all three parties: MCFC, AC Milan and Kaká himself sought to claim credit for calling it off. (Rather than rehash the details, I direct you to this fascinating and well-sourced piece by The Times‘ Oliver Kay).
But regardless of who exactly said what to whom and when, the winners and losers from this were clear. Silvio Berlusconi played his role to perfection – personally calling up Italian television on Monday night to announce that Kaká was staying. Manchester City looked rather silly and rather vulgar – trying to offer an unrefusable sum of money and then still walking away emptyhanded. Kaká himself was elevated to a status shared only by Paolo Maldini with fans of the Rossoneri. Unless, of course, he goes to Real Madrid in the summer.
But, in the last day or so, I’ve started to wonder whether this is so bad for City after all? On reflection, it was such a bold move, such a leap in the dark, that we cannot be too disconsolate. A team with 25 points in 21 games, and no trophies in 32 years, tried to sign one of the world’s greatest footballers for almost double the all-time transfer record. Yes, we got our fingers burnt. But the sheer audacity of it impresses me.
We learnt that while we have some way to go to convince a World Cup, Champions League and Ballon d’Or winner (Robinho has won none of those) to join us, our mountains of cash and chutzpah at least buys us a seat at the table. Our mistake may have been in aiming in slightly too high this time: not only is Kaká genuinely one for the ages – the very best of the very best – but his personal beliefs make him less like to chase Mammon quite as crudely as other footballers.
We may have to settle for Bellamy and Bridge this January, but I am sure we will back in January aiming for more top stars. Kaká, Messi and Torres may be beyond us for some time. But there are plenty of world class players just one level beneath them, for whom a quarter of a million pounds each week may be too much to turn down, protesting fans or none.