New Jack City
Manchester City’s transfer policy in recent years has set many a pulse racing. The big money captures of the likes of Yaya Touré, Sergio Aguero and David Silva have whet fans’ appetites for the superstar signing and expectations were high for the summer after that crazy season-ending day back in May. So when Jack Rodwell was revealed as the club’s first summer purchase, the general reaction was one of bemusement.
This was no Javi Martinez, Eden Hazard or Edinson Cavani. This transfer came completely out of the blue without so much as a whisper from the ‘in the know’ brigade. The immediate response on Twitter and various message boards was largely negative – from City and opposition fans alike. Why were we buying a player who had been hampered by injury and stagnated noticeably in the past 12 months?
Well, this particular blogger is reserving judgement for the time being. Roberto Mancini’s business in the transfer market at City has been largely successful, and various sources at the club will have you believe that the manager has admired Rodwell for some time. So what is it that persuaded Mancini to chuck an initial £12 million at the youngster?
The fact that he is a youngster – a mere pup still at the age of 21 – means that Rodwell has the full stretch of his career ahead of him. Even at this tender age he has impressed at both domestic, and briefly at international, level and Mancini has clearly seen enough to convince him that he can play a part in the club’s imminent push for global domination.
But the full force of Rodwell’s impact at City is likely to be less immediate. Looking at the City midfield – and what it achieved last year – it’s difficult to see where he will fit in. The likes of Gareth Barry, Silva, Samir Nasri and Touré had seasons far and away above what Rodwell achieved at Everton last year so it seems clear then that he has been signed with strengthening the squad in mind, at least in the short term. City looked light when the big Ivorian went to play for his country, and with another Africa Cup of Nations looming in January, Mancini won’t want another difficult New Year.
Furthermore, Nigel de Jong’s future at City looks increasingly insecure too, with his contract ticking down and a resolution to talks not yet on the horizon. Whilst Rodwell is a very different player to de Jong, much of the Dutchman’s recent success has come from changing his game and introducing an attacking element instead of just relying on his defensive, erm, robustness. With David Pizarro having ended his loan spell and Gareth Barry no spring chicken, Roberto Mancini has clearly identified the middle of the park as an area for reinforcements.
And therein lies much of Rodwell’s appeal. Phil Neville was complimentary of his former team-mate on completion of the transfer, and it is Rodwell’s versatility (a jack of all trades, if you will…) that could prove the key to his success at City. At present Rodwell has clearly been marked down for a squad role, but his ability to switch between defensive and attacking midfield roles could invoke sentiments of (whisper it) Yaya Touré. Well, they’re both big lads at the very least.
But is £12 million a reasonable figure for Jack Rodwell? Well, let’s have a quick look what that sort of figure gets you these days. It could get you a Shinji Kagawa and change, though those sorts of deals don’t appear every day. It could buy you a Joe Allen, three quarters of a Stewart Downing or the best part of a Steven Fletcher, if such a thing exists. In the context of the current transfer market then, £12 million on Rodwell looks like a good bit of business for both City and Everton.
In truth, only time will tell. Rodwell is far from a sure thing and his injury record will raise a concern or two. City must be confident that the frustrations that have blighted his Everton career recently can be overcome and his true potential realised. If Rodwell can stay injury-free and learn a thing or two from the likes of Touré and Silva then he could blossom into a City and England mainstay for years to come. Both Jack Rodwell himself, and the Manchester City fans must be patient however – he will not become a world-beater overnight. In five years time though? We shall see…