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Second-class Citizens no more

By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - A club like Manchester United - with its 10 Premiership titles in 16 years as well as a myriad of other trophies - has a tendency to cast a rather long shadow, and no club in England knows that better than Manchester City.

For years City has been the "other" team in Manchester, toiling in relative anonymity while United is out chasing silverware on a yearly basis and soaking up all the headlines.

However, that all changed on Monday when the club announced a takeover by United Arab Emirates business group Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment (ADUG), ending the brief ownership of the club by former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The group is led by Sulaiman al-Fahim, and he wasted no time in raising expectations around Eastlands by stealing Real Madrid striker Robinho out from under Chelsea, and right before the close of the transfer window, with a $60 million bid.

Not only is the addition of the Brazilian striker significant, but it also represents a monumental shift in terms of the power clubs in England.

When Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich purchased Chelsea in 2003, he instantly transformed the club into title contenders by using his deep pockets to bring in a wealth of talent.

Robinho comes to Manchester City after a successful stint with Real Madrid.
Since his arrival, the Blues have twice won the Premiership title, hoisted the FA Cup once and made it to the final of the Champions League.

Now, Al-Fahim believes that his group's takeover can have a similar impact on City, which has not won a trophy since the 1976 League Cup.

In a statement released on Monday, Al-Fahim said that an appearance in the 2009-10 Champions League is the club's goal, which would mean a top-four finish in the EPL this season.

ADUG wants City to be in contention for all the major titles, and they have certainly done their part to get things started.

Robinho had stated his intention to join Chelsea for the past month, claiming he wanted to play for Brazilian manager Luiz Felipe Scolari. However, the 24- year-old striker changed his mind quickly when the City offer was made on Monday.

"I knew that Manchester City is a very big club, there's a great team there already and this is an exciting project," Robinho told City's official website. "I liked the project, and when City made the offer to Real Madrid, I decided to come here. I liked the plans that Manchester City have and I want to succeed with them."

Robinho is not the only one excited by the sudden change at City, with fans lining up to buy tickets and jerseys in stunning numbers.

It's hard to blame the City faithful for such a swell in enthusiasm, especially after the summer the club had and the promise of more to come.

In addition to Robinho, City shelled out nearly $38 million to recruit Brazilian striker Jo from CSKA Moscow as well as a hefty sum to shore up the back line, luring defenders Tal Ben Haim, Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany to the team.

City also brought back midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips, who has languished on the Chelsea bench for the past few years. He paid immediate dividends on Sunday in his debut with two goals in a 3-0 win over Sunderland, giving City two wins in its first three games.

While the team is much improved from last year's squad, which finished in ninth place, there is still work to be done, but the club will have four months to determine any needs and to line up some more big-name signings in January.

Already, there are reports of City making a run at United's Cristiano Ronaldo as well as Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and a host of other star-caliber players.

There is no doubt that City stole the show in the summer transfer market, but with an estimated $894 million dollars spent by English teams alone over the summer, there are a few other sides who will be happy about their haul as well.

Here is a list of some other transfer market winners and losers:

WINNERS

AC MILAN

After a fifth-place finish in Serie A last season, no team was in need of a makeover like the Rossoneri. The club made a big splash with Brazilian midfielder Ronaldinho, luring him away from Barcelona for $33 million, while Mathieu Flamini, Andriy Shevchenko, Philippe Senderos and Gianluca Zambrotta were also brought to the San Siro. Many questioned Ronaldinho's desire after a less-than-impressive showing for Barca last season, which was followed up by a poor performance in the Olympics last month. However, Ronaldinho showed flashes of the old magician in the team's opening match, and could be revitalized by a change of scenery. Shevchenko did not look as good in his return to the team, but the additions of both Flamini and Senderos from Arsenal will have a positive impact. Flamini joins an already talented midfield that includes Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini. Senderos will help an aging back line, as will the addition of Zambrotta from Barcelona.

MANCHESTER UNITED

It took the entire summer for Sir Alex Ferguson and United to get their man, but the deal finally got done right before the window closed on Monday as the Red Devils added Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov for $55 million. After winning both the Premiership and Champions League titles last season, it is hard to blame Ferguson for not making more changes, but he was busy fighting off Real Madrid to retain the services of Ronaldo. The Portuguese winger had flirted with the idea of going to Madrid all summer, but in the end remained at Old Trafford and will return from injury at the end of the month to give the attack a much-needed boost. Berbatov's arrival will also be a significant upgrade, as he will serve as a target man up top, allowing fellow strikers Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez to drop further into the midfield, a role that both players are more comfortable in.

BARCELONA

This is a classic case of addition by subtraction, with the club unloading six players and bringing in four significant additions. Gone are star midfielders Ronaldinho and Deco, as well as Giovani Dos Santos, Edmilson and defenders Oleguer and Zambrotta. The problem last season was that the midfield was too crowded, and that the team could only play with one ball at a time. The departure of both Ronaldinho and Deco should allow Argentine playmaker Lionel Messi more room to create, while the addition of Alexander Hleb and Seydou Keita gives the midfield a different dynamic. Defender Gerard Pique returned from Manchester United and should do well in the center of defense, while the team's best signing came in the form of Sevilla defender Daniel Alves, who cost the team $46 million and has been one of La Liga's best defenders over the past couple of years.

LIVERPOOL

The Reds instantly upgraded their attack with the addition of Tottenham striker Robbie Keane. The Irish international cost the club nearly $36 million but he will team with last year's big-money signing, Fernando Torres, to give Rafael Benitez one of the top strike tandems in Europe. The duo has gotten off to a slow start this season, and now with Torres out three weeks because of an injury, it will take a little longer than expected, but this duo will eventually click and score plenty of goals. Andrea Dossena was signed from Udinese to bolster the defense, while the additions of PSG striker Davis N'Gog and midfielder Albert Riera from Espanyol will help offensively.

LOSERS

CHELSEA

The Blues have gotten good returns on both Deco and Jose Bosingwa so far this season, but it was the team's failure to sign Robinho that is cause for concern around Stamford Bridge. Chelsea was the clear favorite to land the Brazilian, but their refusal to cough up a few extra million dollars allowed City to sneak in and steal him, which will not sit well with the team's supporters. Chelsea is still a loaded team that should contend for a number of trophies, but the balance of power could be starting to shift in England.

ARSENAL

It seems that manager Arsene Wenger is just not comfortable bringing in established stars. He prefers to buy younger players with star potential, and while he has done well to land one such player in winger Samir Nasri, it has not offset the number of losses the team suffered. Gone are Flamini, Hleb, Senderos and Gilberto, while Mikael Silvestre and teenage midfielder Aaron Ramsey came back along with Nasri. Silvestre was brought in to provide experience, while Ramsey is still a year or two away from seriously contributing. Nasri looks to be a very good signing from Marseille, but losing both Flamini and Gilberto has robbed the team of its grit in midfield. Arsenal has loads of talent but Wenger's failure to pull the trigger on an established player, despite the fact that the team reportedly has the money, could haunt them.

FC PORTO

This comes down to simple economics. The Portuguese league routinely gets robbed of its top talent by bigger, wealthier leagues. Inasmuch, Porto was hit hard this summer as the team lost three of its top players and failed to adequately replace any of them. Bosingwa's departure to Chelsea as well as midfielder Ricardo Quaresma leaving for Inter Milan are both not surprising, but the team also lost striker Helder Postiga to Portuguese side Sporting. Porto still has enough talent to win a fourth straight league title, but their impact in Europe will be damaged by the losses.

TOTTENHAM

It was a very busy summer at White Hart Lane for Spurs boss Juande Ramos. He brought in a wealth of young talent that includes David Bentley, Fraizer Campbell, Giovani Dos Santos, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Luka Modric, but it could be a few years before they all come together to make Spurs a legitimate threat in the EPL. The biggest concern for Tottenham fans right now is the fact that the team's top two strikers, Keane and Berbatov, are both playing for other Premiership sides. The duo combined to score 30 goals in league play last season, and their departures mean that the team will be counting on Darren Bent, who is merely an average striker, and the inconsistent Pavlyuchenko. The future at Tottenham holds plenty of promise, but it probably won't be fulfilled this season.



Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com

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